MERIDEN — Moving ahead with their annual dance recital, students at Miss Chantel's Star Dance Academy spent weeks learning all new sets that have been redesigned to be safe at a time when physical contact is discouraged.
“This is the biggest day of the year for a dancer because it shows all of their hard work,” said Chantel Martin, who has run the studio for three years and taught many of the students for as long as a decade.
To make it possible for over 100 of her dancers and their families to attend their end of the season recital, the academy split the performance into two separate shows on Sunday and moved it from Platt High School to the Hubbard Park amphitheater.
It was also moved from June to September to give the dancers — students and instructors alike — time to learn new dance routines with more distancing and less physical contact.
“Every dance has been changed since we choreographed and taught our dancers,” Martin said.
Around 60 dancers participated in each recital on Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Kids ranging from 18 months to 18 years old danced a medley of ballet, theater, tap, contemporary and other styles.
Six foot squares were marked on the stage using tape to help dancers maintain their distancing and families were asked to stay within boxes painted on the grass around the amphitheater. Tents were also set up to use as makeshift changing rooms.
“It’s very, very exciting,” said dance instructor Kaylee Wright. “We were unsure if we were going to be able to have recital.”
The most difficult part of adapting their performance to be COVID-safe was building in as much distancing as possible, Wright said. They also had to get used to the different floor material used on the outdoor stage.
Another roadblock cropped up just days before the show when around a dozen dancers were told to quarantine at home for two weeks after possibly being exposed to the coronavirus at their schools, Lincoln Middle School and Maloney High School.
With so many participants suddenly absent, Martin said around half their sets had to be redesigned. She plans to hold a smaller performance for her dancers who were unable to make it Sunday once they’re cleared to participate.
“They want to shine on stage too. They deserve this,” she said.
Julia Owen, the academy’s senior spotlight dancer, said the recitals are a time she looks forward to for the team environment and being able to see all the younger students putting their own spin on the dances she’s taught them.
“I’m very grateful we’re still doing something,” she said.