You’re All By Yourself, But You’re Not Alone

Remember that update that I posted a little over a month ago? About the studios in my area that were closing for good because of the pandemic? Well, this week an officially official notice was sent out about the Prime Dance Hall. Sad.

When I had written the original post, notices had been sent out to all dancers in the area about the other two closings (the City Dance Hall and the Fancy Dance Hall), but there was only that rumor that I had heard through the friend of a friend who is also a ballroom dancer about the fate of the Prime Dance Hall. Yesterday I got the official notice that confirmed the rumor. The owner of the studio had tried to hold out, follow the rules, weather the storm… but in my state the reopening phase that we have been going through has been extended once again, and it just proved to be too much. The owner of the studio has let us all know that they are filing the paperwork to shutter the business and officially retire from studio ownership.

I had expected this, and had thought that since I had already written about it back in early July that when I saw the notice come through that I wouldn’t be so shocked… but it still feels like more of a shock than I expected. Or maybe it’s because I am realizing now that when we finally are allowed to open back up and people start getting back to going to dance parties locally, there won’t be nearly as many places available to go dancing anymore. Not counting franchise-type locations, these closings almost halved the number of locations.

Believe it or not, I’ve had this castle since I was really young. Since I still have all the pieces, it’s actually worth quite a bit according to ebay. Weird that I used it like this…

There were a lot of different dance clubs and groups in my part of the world, and all of them were able to function together mostly alright because none of them were fighting for dance floor space on any given weekend. There were a few disagreements – some groups that had not-so-happy thoughts about other groups of dancers – but they had the space available to hold their events without bumping elbows with one another if they chose to. With these three studios now gone, I don’t know if that will be possible anymore.

…that is, of course, going under the big assumption that all of these dance clubs will be continuing once the stay-at-home orders are lifted. I suppose I shouldn’t discount the possibility that some of those clubs will fold as well…

The few dance studios that are left in the area that aren’t franchise-owned and are known to rent out their floor for dance groups/clubs in the area to use on the weekends are the Endless Dance Hall, the Electric Dance Hall, and the Cherished Dance Hall. There are a couple other studios I know off offhand, but those don’t open up their doors for outside groups to use the studio for non-studio sanctioned dance parties. So that’s it, just three venues to choose from at this point.

But even those three really aren’t always available. The owner of the Cherished Dance Hall really hasn’t opened up that studio for use in a long time. That individual finished an advanced degree in their other career and threw themselves into that line of work wholeheartedly. They still own the studio because, from what I’ve been told, the lease on the building is so cheap because they’ve been there forever, it has never been a burden to hang onto the space. They teach private lessons occasionally as their other career permits, but the studio hasn’t been rented out for use at parties in a long time.

The Endless Dance Hall is another story. Having the largest floor of all the studios that I’ve ever been to in the area, it’s always been a highly sought after venue for dance events of all kinds. The problem is, since it’s such a large open space, it’s also been a highly sought after venue for other events as well, like wedding receptions, family reunions, formal parties that are not dance related, etc.. Having talked to the owner of the Endless Dance Hall, I know that they make A LOT more money by renting the place out for those other sorts of events than they do for dance parties, so when people try to book it for dance events, they have a limited number of dates that are left available, and they have to be OK with that. Non-dance events keep the lights on in that building.

So that leaves the Electric Dance Hall. Are all of the dance parties that used to go on every weekend in my area suddenly all going to be held at this one venue? It’s possible. I know that the owner of the Electric Dance Hall, Lord Junior, doesn’t like renting out his building for non-dance events, even though he can make more money on a weekend-night by doing so. He has griped in the past that those sorts of events are always sooooooooooooo much more work for him to do that the money coming in almost doesn’t seem worth it. For some reason, even though he has other people that work at the studio, he always seems to end up having to work these other non-dance party events alone. Poor guy.

I also think that it has something to do with one of the first non-dance events that he allowed to be held there after the building opened. If I remember correctly, it was for a birthday party. During the party, while the other guests were talking and not paying attention too closely, a group of small kids started to push some of the furniture around on the floor in some kind of game they were playing. Since they weren’t very strong and weren’t being very careful, their game knocked one of the protective coverings off the leg of one of the pieces of furniture, and once the covering was gone that leg left huge rents in the floor everywhere they pushed it. I know Lord Junior was super sad about that.

Now, there is one other independent studio in the area that I know sometimes opens its doors to allow people to come dance socially. I’ve never actually been to this one, since they allowed the public to come and dance in so rarely, and I always seemed to be busy whenever they did so. Because of that, this studio was never given a fancy name like the others. But it exists, and it looked like it was leaning toward allowing open dance parties before this whole pandemic issue started. So it’s possible that now that there is a void of dance floors across the area to hold dance events they may step up to try and help fill that void.

But I don’t know whether that will be a good thing for the local dance community or not. On the one hand, having a new venue for dancing is always an attractive prospect. On the other hand though, from the pictures I’ve seen and the reports I’ve heard from people who’ve gone to dance there, the dance floor in the space is weirdly shaped. It’s not really a rectangle, but more triangular. They put it in this way so that they could get more wooden floor in the interior space available. While that’s a good idea from a business perspective, from a social dance perspective I imagine that would make ballroom dances on that floor a bit tricky.

Also from reports that I’ve heard, the parking situation for this building leaves a lot to be desired. The studio is close to downtown, so they don’t have a normal parking lot like all the other studios do/did. Going there requires a lot of on-street parking, or parking in paid lots where space may or may not be available, and then walking over to the studio. During the week that’s not a huge problem, but if normal life returns to the downtown area, a lot of dancers trying to find a place to park mixed in with the normal crowd of people who go downtown to party on the weekends would be challenging.

But all of this is just another assumption. If the reopening phase continues to be extended because the number of people who test positive for this virus in my state doesn’t go down, who knows if any of these other studios will be able to come out the other side of this shutdown intact. Maybe two weeks from now I will be writing another sad post about more closing notices I got for some of these studios I just mentioned. Then we’ll have to spend time conjecturing about whether any new studio owners will come in and snatch up those newly vacated spaces, praying that the former owners happened to leave the dance floor behind when they locked up for the last time.

It’s crazy, right? We’ll have to see what happens. This is quite possibly the worst type of virus to effect partner dancing that could have arisen. There is so much about the very nature of partner dancing that makes this especially dangerous.

If you are choosing to be out dancing right now, please make sure to stay safe!

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