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Dance school continues COVID-era solution post-pandemic

The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment decided to make permanent an innovative solution to a COVID restriction-related problem. When the need arose for dance students to practice their steps outside of a studio and separate from their peers, OCU obtained a record number of portable tap boards that students could check out and use practically anywhere -- with as much social distancing as they could muster. Dancers, especially tap and jazz dancers, have particular surface needs on which they can perform.

“Returning to in-person instruction in fall 2020 was complicated,” said Interim dance school Dean Melanie Shelley. “We needed a plan to minimize the number of dancers in the studios at one time. This meant rotating dancers between in-studio instruction and their living spaces via Zoom, so half the usual number of students would be in the studio at one time.”

School officials looked at several potential solutions and decided to order boards from Stagestep, a Philadelphia-based seller of dance floors and related products. The company was able to produce the requested 300 tap boards to support the needs of OCU’s dance, music and theatre majors enrolled in dance classes.

The boards were shipped to OCU as soon as they were made. They arrived in three separate shipments, as Stagestep and their suppliers were forced to modify their operations during pandemic restrictions.

Students checked out boards at the beginning of the year and returned them at the end. Even after the studios reopened for full participation, the dance school realized the boards would still be useful in a post-pandemic world. In fact, the company that makes the boards heard about what OCU was doing with them and proposed a partnership with the dance school.

“We had a student recruitment booth at the annual DanceLife Teacher Conference in Connecticut last summer,” Shelley said. “A Stagestep sales rep spotted our booth and wanted to make our acquaintance, because we set the company’s record for the largest order of tap boards they’d ever produced.”

Dancers can now perform in spaces that don’t have suitable floors, including the outdoors. The university president’s on-campus house is one example. The house hosts receptions and private dinner parties, often featuring entertainment from performing arts students. Pre-pandemic, such entertainment was limited to musicians, singers and theater acting excerpts.

The boards also can be utilized in homes and lend themselves well to travel, so students can practice anywhere they go.

The partnership prompted a video project, with approximately 100 dance students showing their skills outside the university’s iconic Administration building. Watch the video here.

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