THE owner of a popular Irish dancing academy in North Belfast says she is “frustrated” at the lack of clarity surrounding her business and Covid-19 restrictions.
Lawrenson-Toal Academy of Irish dance, based in Ardoyne and Crumlin has been closed for the last four weeks due to restrictions by the Stormont Executive to try and curb the spread of Covid-19
Owner Arlene Toal has been left in limbo alongside “devastated” kids who just want to get back to the dance studio.
“We have been closed for the last four weeks,” she explained.
“The kids are just devastated. Some of them train three or four times a week and some train outside of classes up to seven days a week.
“It is frustrating since P.E is allowed in school, of which dance can be included.
“All dance teachers are in the same position. When the first lockdown was eased, we all tried to keep our classes super safe and the same bubbles with no mixing.
“Dance is important for the wellbeing of our local children, both physically and mentally.
“Our dance group is an important part of the Ardoyne community. Not every one of our dancers trains to become a world champion, they all come to dance for a different reason.
“We tried Zoom and stuff to hold virtual classes but it is just not the same, for different reasons. Not everyone has the space in their house or a garden they can go outside and especially with the bad weather it is not really possible”
Arlene also wants clarity from the Executive when announcements are made and says dance studios are never mentioned when it comes to ‘sporting’ restrictions.
“All sport has been halted. I think dance studios have been left behind when it comes to the Executive announcing different measures. You often hear about football and GAA but dance studios are never mentioned.
“It is never clear whether dance classes are allowed or not.
“Everyone is missing it, no more so than myself. It is my job and my business and I always look forward to getting down to the studio.
“Irish dancing is huge across Belfast in general. Last year, we had our biggest intake of beginners in North Belfast and it is hard telling them there is no classes for them to go.”