Karen Dawe and her partner Matt learn from Alex Olivares on a live Zoom meeting.

After a time of grief and shock, Pacific Ballroom Dance’s program leaders have adapted to a new reality, embraced a growth mindset, and committed to finding creative solutions to operate during shelter-in-place restrictions. All teams and classes for kids and adults are now being held online. Adult instructor Alex Olivares (pictured left) taught his first online class on Wednesday. He demonstrated cha-cha steps from his carpeted living room to adults across the community. “I’m excited to be able to help our students from the comfort of their own homes,” said Alex. “Any physical movement that can be done under these circumstances is a great way to deal with stress and uncertainty during these trying times.”

Even the youngest dancers, the three-year-old Shooting Stars, hold classes with their teacher Raney Welch. Raney is creating video lessons each week for her dancers to follow which include dance steps and values-based lessons. “Excellence is doing what I can with what I have, where I am, as I am,” Raney taught her students this week, including the youngest girl named Kinnley Anderson who sat and stretched along with her teacher, wearing her dance shoes and leggings at home. “I liked seeing Miss Raney on TV,” said Kinnley, “and doing my noodles and straws at home!” “Noodles” means energetic wiggle dances and “straws” means standing up straight and very still.

Four year old Kinnley Anderson learned from home during the COVID-19 “shelter-in-place.”

One of the great difficulties for arts organizations is the cancellation of spring performances. Artistic Director Katie Mecham is making plans for a groundbreaking ballroom dance concert this spring held virtually. “Art is the ultimate vehicle of expression and together we can create something meaningful, beautiful, and relevant,” said Katie. She believes that this moment in time in which communities unite to fight the spread of COVID-19 provides a unique opportunity for impacting audiences and students in new, powerful ways. “We have an opportunity to help our students process this experience in the midst of great uncertainty,” said Artistic Director Katie Mecham. “Our ability as a staff to show grit and determination can provide an example for the students in their lives. We can teach them how to work through their sadness, fear, and isolation and transform it into the seeds of artistic expression.

“The “stay-at-home” directive and “social distancing” will mean a difficult time ahead for ballroom dance, but PBD’s Board of Directors is committed to keeping staff employed and programs running, despite the closed doors of the studio. Communications and Development Specialist Anne Eugenio said, “Pacific Ballroom Dance will have many challenges in the months to come and will need support at the city, state, and national level to ensure a healthy arts organization is ready to receive the community when the dangers of COVID-19 have receded.” She added, “Our community will be there for us in many forms. We aren’t alone. We don’t know what is going to happen as each week passes, but we will pursue every avenue of support we can find. From grants and low-interest government loans to donations from foundations and online fundraisers, we will make sure we can sustain our studio, even when the doors are shut.”

Individuals can also help. “The best thing our community can do is stay enrolled in our classes while we shelter-in-place,” said Heather. “We will continue to connect with our community through every creative means possible. We are all in this together and we will get through it together.”