Dance and stretching studios claim that their activities cannot be transferred to an online mode.
During the pandemic, dance and stretching studios experienced far more problems than other small business units. The main component of this business niche is the living presence of students in classes, which has become impossible due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At first glance, this statement does not seem to be such a big problem because these courses can be moved to an online mode just like all other classes and sessions. But the truth is different. This format of classes is not suitable for an online platform, although many dance and stretching schools practice this. Not all spheres of life can be run online, especially those that require live interaction between student and teacher.
If it is impossible to conduct lessons either live or online, then getting any profit is also considered beyond the bounds of possibility. During a pandemic and universal crisis, the lack of profit is a serious problem for small business units.
Anastasia Petrikeeva and Ilyas Mashanlo, a dancing couple in love, who founded bachata sensual dance studio Ilyas&Anastasia Bachata Prague, have experienced all the subtleties of launching an online teaching format. “The main problem of online dance classes is a complete lack of quality,” said Mashanlo. According to the couple’s teaching method, Bachata as a pair dance requires detailed practice with a partner under the close supervision of teachers. They consider it pointless to conduct online classes because Bachata is about feeling and understanding your partner. The dancing duo decided not to transform season tickets of their students to the virtual format. Customers who have already paid for real-live bachata lessons should not receive a product that is not of such good quality due to the disadvantages of online lessons. “It’s not fair to charge the same money for online classes as for regular classes,” said Petrikeeva. “This is the same as the customer giving you money for a Ferrari, and you giving them a cheap plastic Ferrari toy instead of a promised sports car,” she added. Despite the couple refusing to switch to an online mode in favor of their students, the profit they would have could come in handy.
During the State of Emergency, they were required to pay the rent for the dancing hall they did not use. Taking into account that Mashanlo and Petrikeeva are sub-tenants of the hall, they should have been exempt from these payments, however, they were not. “We were initially required to pay the full price every month,” said Petrikeeva. Fortunately, the dance studio is not their main means of earning money. “During the quarantine, we were in a much better position than many other dancers we know, who literally had to borrow money to live,” said Mashanlo.
A similar situation happened to the stretching studio MustStretch. Anhelina Hartshenko, one of the studio’s tutors, shared tough time stories that they faced. “We [MustStretch] didn’t have any clients for around six weeks,” said Hartshenko. “Although, before the quarantine, our minimum customer pass per month was 50,” she added. During the pandemic, MustStretch pulled in negative due to the lack of clients and the obligation to pay the rent for their training hall. Even though they launched online training lessons it was too hard to restore the client base. “We had a small number of clients on the online platform, and they were all satisfied with lessons,” said Hartshenko, “but it is very difficult to restore the old client base”. According to Hartshenko, there are numerous reasons why it is almost impossible to fully switch to the online format. People have a lot more to worry about than online stretching classes. “Many people lost their jobs, so they are not up to stretching right now,” Hartshenko said. Taking into account the gradual reduction of quarantine restrictions, MustStretch will slowly begin to return the usual mode of life classes, which is the favorite type for clients.
Another small business unit that has passed through difficult times of quarantine is WAASIDE dance studio. Zlata Skrypnik, a founder of WAASIDE, and Lesya Babisheva, studio’s administrator, also tried to launch online classes. However, it didn’t bring any benefit to the students and teachers of the studio. For the first few days, there were some earning opportunities for the Studio’s teachers, but it didn’t go any further. “The monetization of online dance sessions did not work at all,” said Babisheva,”During the quarantine period, we did not receive any profit.”
Because of the terrible apathy and transition of all spheres of life to online mode, people were not encouraged to attend online dance classes. “We tried to conduct online classes via Zoom, but people didn’t have the desire to train like this,” a studio founder said. The opportunity of online classes did not attract old students or newcomers, although the studio was attended by many before the quarantine. Part of the students went to their countries and online classes back in Prague became inconvenient due to time difference. Others were left without a job, due to the inability to transition to online. “The optimal mileage of students was around 300 hundred people per semester,” said Skrypnik. Moreover, there is one more reason why it was impossible to transfer the studio to online mode. During the quarantine period, a serious competition broke out among dance studios. “The most famous dance schools, such as Dance Academy Prague launched completely free online courses,” said Babisheva. “What is the point of doing paid online lessons if they [people] can get them for free from the same choreographer […] or even better,” Skrypnik added.
WAASIDE studio, unlike two previous small business units, remained in a more sparing position. “A huge advantage at that time was that we as subtenants did not have to pay the rent,” said Babisheva. It really saved the studio from huge problems, because WAASIDE has 5 directions, each with an hour-long session two times a week. Although the studio did not suffer any problems with renting, it lost about 90% of its customers. Even now that it is already possible to slowly resume classes, the school remains without clients. Based on this, the Studio is going to open in the middle of summer, hoping for the full restoration of favorable conditions for full-fledged work.
In the 21st century, the age of modern technologies, people used to believe that almost all areas of activity can be transferred to the virtual space. But that is not the case, because there are similar examples of dance and stretching studios for which the transition to online training is not possible. Quite a large number of small business niches have suffered and these studios are a clear example of the type that suffered doubly: both during quarantine and after it, due to incompatibility with the virtual model.