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Virtual Reality: Dance Education in a Pandemic Era

Dance studio owner Kailena Van de nes has stepped into new shoes to keep her community dancing through the Covid-10 pandemic.

When Kailena was completing her Bachelor of Recreation Management degree at Acadia University and active in several community-based dance groups, neither academia nor dance training would prepare her for the flexibility she’d have to show throughout 2020. After completing her degree in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, Kailena relocated to Ottawa to pursue a career in aviation. While working to complete practical experience in aviation, she continued to serve her community by working in the field of dance. After 9 years developing and expanding dance availability in Ottawa’s Glebe community, she opened KV Dance Studio in 2014. As with any new venture that requires both start up capital and a physical space, she flexed her creativity in business – she initiated a founder’s club where families paid in advance for the founding year of business for access to unlimited dance class registration for a period of two years. After a quickly expanding business proved the need for a larger, a more accessible space, Kailena and her business partner and husband, Jason Lambert, purchased a building and started work converting the old place to a sizeable dance space. She continued her training, obtaining several new certifications in the field of dance and fitness. She brought on staff who were experts in their fields, and expanded her programme offerings to include recreational, competitive, and performance programmes.

March 14, 2020 was the day KV Dance Studio was ordered to close its doors to the community. The Covid-19 pandemic that remains in full force in parts of the world hit especially hard in urban communities such as Ottawa. The government offered subsidies for wage and rent relief that neither KV Dance Studio nor Kailena as a business owner qualified for. KV Dance Studio continued to bleed $20,000 a month in mortgage fees with a revenue stream that did not match. Despite a reprise in Summer 2020 for in-person classes, Kailena saw her clientele dwindle from an impressive 1000+ roster to a mere 300+ and her staff of 30 reduced to 13. Fear of contagion kept people from attending in-person classes across the community, and across the world at large.

When KV’s doors closed, Kailena pivoted. With support from her core administrative staff, they quickly set to work on providing virtual dance and fitness classes. Her staff of 30 worked to stay connected with students, families, the community, and each other; they had to learn new skills in virtual connection. With the continued uncertainty that has plagued Ontario, Kailena quickly realized that things wouldn’t be returning to normal anytime soon and adopted a new normal. She and Jason sold their properties, purchased an RV, and drove cross-country with their pets to establish themselves as a virtual studio indefinitely. Kailena is calling Vancouver Island home, is relying on bandwidth to lead classes in all time zones and has expanded her studio’s offerings to include a plethora of movement styles. KV staff offers a wide range of styles such as Acro, Jazz, Ballet, to Zumba and yoga for an equally wide range of participants from 3-year-olds to adults. Based on learnings from the first lockdown and her first trial using the virtual platform she offers all classes at no longer than 45 minutes and ensures each instructor and student has cyclical virtual breaks from teaching or learning online. What’s more, each instructor has received best practices training in delivering virtual classes – each staff is provided the necessary equipment and technology to ensure a seamless experience for participants.

What’s next for KV? What’s most poignant is the flexibility KV Dance staff and owner have shown in the face of uncertainty. With the physical doors closing on KV Dance studio, this owner worked to adapt, heal, and create something new and exciting in our industry and for our global community. Kailena stresses that prioritizing her mental health through the multiple challenges of 2020 and 2021 has been most important for her. As a result, she understands that her community is relying on her to be a constant, unwavering source of health benefit and she can deliver on that. In embracing the challenges, facing them, and adapting to them she’s gained knowledge, peace of mind, and an expanded clientele. We’re should all be so flexible in the world of dance.

Want to learn more about KV Dance Studio?

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