dance studios ontario

Toronto gyms upset dance studios are allowed to open but yoga is still banned

Dancers across Toronto are rejoicing today after Ontario's provincial government overturned a sweeping closure order for studios in modified Stage 2 hot spots.

From ballet to breaking to bollywood to bachataca, the province confirmed on Tuesday that "all classes delivered for the purpose of teaching or training amateur or professional dancers in dance techniques are permitted to operate provided specified conditions are met."

Well, almost all classes: Government officials were careful to note in a release on Tuesday that fitness-oriented dance classes, like Zumba, are still off-limits.

"This change to the regulation recognizes that dance styles such as ballet, hip hop, and ballroom, can still be taught and practised safely when certain public health measures are followed," reads the announcement detailing Ontario's amended emergency orders for Toronto, Ottawa, Peel and York.

"Dance classes that do not meet the specified criteria (e.g. a Zumba class) would not be permitted."

We get it, Ontario: Gyms can't reopen yet. But if ballerinas can hit the barre, why can't yogis hit the mat? It's a valid question, and one that the owners of some local gyms are demanding an answer to from the government.

"Let me get this straight. You can attend a class at a dance studio in Ontario COVID hotspots where heavy aerobic exercise is being labeled a team sport activity, but you can't take your place on a mat to enjoy a relaxing yoga class," wrote David Ingram, founder of Toronto's Sweat and Tonic fitness studio, in a fiery Linkedin post Thursday night.

"Boutique class-based studios offer the same services as dance studios, and are able to operate with the same restrictions. All members pre-register for classes, maintain physical distancing of a minimum 2M and are limited to 10 participants per class," he continued.

"To date, we have welcomed back over 15,000 guests without a single reported case of COVID."

Thrilled as many people are about dance studios joining other athletic facilities in reopening for the purpose of training, Ingram isn't person annoyed by the government's move.

Owners, employees and members of small, boutique gyms and personal training centres are particularly outraged over the fact that dance studios can reopen (albeit with a maximum capacity of 10 people) but their spots can't.

"How come private gyms with personal trainers cannot open up? We are all capable of wearing masks and being socially distant the same way dance students do," wrote one Ontario resident in reaciton to the news.

"Also does not make sense that there are hookah lounges operating with people indoors and masks off not socially distancing."

"You're telling me dance studios, where you would be sweating and breathing profusely, in Ontario are allowed to re-open but protocol-following, thoroughly sanitized, socially distant gyms are not?" wrote another. "Make it make sense."

Some are accusing government officials of making uninformed, willy-nilly decisions or, worse, catering to special interest groups by opening dance studios and not boutique gyms.

There's rationale for the distinction between dance and yoga studios, however, according to Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Lisa MacLeod, has to do with what's considered a sport and what is not.

"Dance studios should be treated like other sports," she told CTV on Sunday. "When they're training for the fundamentals, they should have the same setup but they were lumped, I think unfairly, in with fitness clubs, so we needed to work on that."

However valid the government's reasons for treating something like ballet (a highly-athletic professional art form) and yoga (a non-competitive, often spiritual practice) may be, small business owners are hurting.

Those with the means of keeping customers safe via enhanced disinfection protocols and physical distancing measures — and have already now shown that they can indeed do so — are asking for a chance.

"The government is making arbitrary decisions that are not grounded in evidence or science," says Ingram. "They are choosing winners and losers based on public pressure, putting thousands of businesses and their employees at risk of losing their livelihood."

"Continued closures will result in more cases of depression, a higher suicide rate and weaker immune systems. Let's hold government accountable for transparency and data to make these decisions," the boutique owner argues. 

"The industry is not looking for special treatment, just equal treatment."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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