RI dance studio owners unsure how they can safely reopen under new state guidelines

Business News

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ TLC Performing Arts is the pride and of owners Linda Ciccone and Tracy Ciccone Ditroia.

The mother-and-daughter duo has been running the dance studio on Park Avenue for 25 years. But for weeks now, they’ve been missing their dancers, many of them they’ve known for years, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is our passion, our dancers are our family, we need to be together again,” Tracy said.

Tracy and Linda said they were forced to close their doors in March when Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered gyms and fitness studios to close.

“We had no warning, we never got to say goodbye, the hardest part is our overhead and our expenses haven’t changed,” Tracy explained.

That means the studio has been empty and money hasn’t been coming in. Tracy said the financial hardships are only getting worse.

“Looking long-term, we’re probably going to run at a loss for two years, but we just got our SBA loan, that will add to our expenses. We will do whatever it takes,” Tracy said. 

This week, the state released guidelines for fitness studios and gyms, which can start to re-open as Rhode Island enters Phase 2 of Raimondo’s plan to reopen the state’s economy. Commerce R.I. said dance studios fall under that category.

But Tracy said these guidelines seem like they were written for larger establishments, such as chain gyms and her business could not survive following them.

For example, she said even if she can only let a very small number of people inside her studio, she won’t be able to make ends meet.

“If you’ve never been to a dance class or a dance studio, I don’t think you can make restrictions,” Linda said.

That’s why they’re hoping the state will come out with dance studio-specific guidelines that can help her and many others get back on their feet.

Tracy said she is in contact with at least 100 other dance teachers in the state and all of them are unsure how to move forward.

“I know that me, my mom and the dance community would love to sit with Governor Gina Raimondo and maybe come up with guidelines strictly for dance,” she said. 

Tracy said if dance studios could open at 25% capacity, they would have a fighting chance.

But right now, the state guidelines say in a class setting, capacity is limited to 15 individuals (not including fitness staff) so long as social distancing requirements can be enforced. Reading through the guidelines, Tracy believes there are a lot of grey areas, and said she will be looking for more clarity.

In the meantime, the two aren’t sure when they can allow their students to return while abiding by all of the state’s restrictions. They said because they are small business owners and have control over operations, they are confident they could keep everything sanitized and safe.

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