The littlest dancers got in on the action in a Sisters Dance Academy virtual production of its winter program. photo by Jerry Baldock
The littlest dancers got in on the action in a Sisters Dance Academy virtual production of its winter program. photo by Jerry Baldock
The Sisters Dance Academy (SDA) has had its fair share of difficulties while coping with state-mandated shutdowns during COVID-19. The first shutdown the dance academy faced was in March when the concerns over the spread of COVID-19 were growing rapidly. The studio quickly made adjustments to be able to host their classes online to try to preserve their students and program.

“Since so many of our students were doing school online,” said Lonnie Liddell, the studio’s owner and director, “it was really difficult for many of our students to have to do dance that way, too. We lost many students who really struggle with that learning format.”

The studio was allowed to reopen to in-person classes in June and continue with having students attend onsite through mid-November. Even though the studio faced a significant drop in enrollments during the summer and fall sessions, both students and instructors alike were grateful to be attending classes in person again.

With many new protocols in place, like smaller class sizes, daily disinfecting procedures, requiring face coverings, hand-washing and limiting only dance students to be in the building, the studio was able to maintain a very safe environment and had no COVID-19 exposures.

In mid-November, as COVID-19 cases were rising in the state, the governor issued another closure for businesses like the dance academy.

“We again had to shift to all of our classes being online and our students were so heartbroken to not be able to attend their classes in person,” said Liddell. “However, we all remained grateful we could still finish out the season virtually and give some closure to one of the most difficult years in our history.”

The dance academy was able to record their dancers and all they had prepared for the dance academy’s winter performance that was initially scheduled to be held on December 12. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the Sisters High School auditorium was not an option as a usable space for the dancers, so Liddell went looking for other possibilities. She was able to find a local church willing to open their doors to the dancers to be able to record their performance and give them the opportunity to present a virtual performance.

“The Wellhouse Church was amazing to work with and was so accommodating to our students being able to use their beautiful facilities. We are so incredibly grateful,” said Liddell.

The dancers were filmed by a local Sisters student, Jack Turpen, whom Liddell had been made aware of through other projects.

“I am so very impressed by this young man,” Liddell said. “He is incredibly knowledgeable, he has high-tech equipment, and through two days and approximately 12 hours of recording, he remained professional, optimistic, and so helpful. I can’t believe he is only in eighth grade!” Learn more about Turpen and his work at www.turpstudio.com.

Jerry Baldock of Outlaw Photography was also onsite through the two-day recording session.

“Jerry has shot live-action photography for us for the past nine years and I was so thrilled when he said he was available to take photos while our dancers were being recorded,” Liddell said. “Since only parents of our youngest dancers were allowed into the building during our recording days, we know the recorded footage and photos will be of great value to so many of our families.”

To view SDA’s Virtual Winter Showcase, “Gifts of the Season,” visit www.dance

insisters.com. Since this show is free to view and the dance academy was unable to hold an in-person performance that brings in revenue to cover expenses for running the program throughout the year, there is also a way to donate on their website.

“With all of the setbacks the dance academy has had to face this year, even the smallest donations will help us survive the continuing uncertainties ahead,” Liddell said.

The dance academy began its winter/spring 2021 session on January 4 and is currently accepting new enrollments. The session will begin online to be in accordance with the state’s current mandates, but the academy is hopeful to resume in-person classes in the near future.