Dance school gets back into its stride
When Angelina Hayward-Simas first opened Vision School of Dance, on Cemetery Road, in Pembroke, she was excited.
In September 2019, after 16 years teaching for other dance schools, she was going out on her own.
“I wanted to grow my dance skills and offer a variety of different dance styles such as hip hop for boys, dance hall and afro beat classes alongside the more traditional ballet, tap and jazz classes,” she said. “I was excited to open. The teachers were excited and so were the students.”
Never could she have imagined just how challenging her first two years in business would be. Only six months after opening her dance school the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
“Just like everyone else, we did not know what to expect,” Ms Hayward-Simas said. “This was just something new to the world. It was scary. I did not know if it would last for weeks or months. I was assuming it would just go on to the beginning of 2021. No one knew what this was.”
For months she struggled with virtual dance instruction and constantly changing health regulations. Vision’s first recital, and a planned trip to New York, had to be cancelled.
She spent the first lockdown sharpening her business plan. She wanted to add new classes and change the schedule. She did not want to have dance classes on a Sunday any more.
“Ever since the pandemic started, Sundays have been for family,” she said.
When the school was able to offer in-person classes again in August 2020, the mood was jubilant.
“We couldn’t hug each other,” Ms Hayward-Simas said. “That was hard, because we are like a family at Vision.”
And everyone including the teachers was a little out of shape after the long months in social isolation, but they were ready to get back on the dancefloor.
Now, things are looking up. Despite all the challenges, Vision School of Dance is flourishing. In September, they will move to a new, larger location.
“I don’t want to say where yet,” Ms Hayward-Simas said. “But it is going to triple our floor space. We will also be offering new dance classes, some of which have never been offered in Bermuda before.”
So far, some of their most popular dance classes have been hip hop, break dancing and Afro/ dancehall.
“I wasn't sure if we should offer Afro/dancehall and then I mentioned to the instructor of the class, Taye-Zino Trott. He said that we should definitely try it as this is a very popular dance style abroad and no dance schools offer it on the island,” she said.
In the autumn, the new space will allow them to offer even more new classes.
“We are also going to be adding classes that Bermuda doesn’t offer,” she said. “I don’t want to say just what those classes are. The new classes will be posted on social media closer to registration.”
Vision was finally able to hold its first dance recital at the Earl Cameron Theatre at City Hall, last month.
“The dancers were really happy to be on the stage again,” Ms Hayward-Simas said.
Because of Covid-19 restrictions, things looked a little different than she had initially anticipated. Only parents were able to attend due Covid-19 restrictions, but the school is now looking at selling copies of the performance to friends and family who were unable to attend.
When classes were able to meet in person again in the summer of 2020, Ms Hayward-Simas worried that some of her students might have drifted away, but just the opposite was the case.
The school more than doubled its population to 144 students.
“I was shocked,” she said. “Our old students came back, but we saw new faces also.”
They are preparing to grow again.
The pandemic has given her an extra boost to Ms Hayward-Simas’ confidence.
“If we could get through the pandemic, we could get through anything, especially as a new business,” she said. “It has taught me a lot. I am so grateful for the team I have, and the parents and students that I have.”
Registration for Vision classes begins on August 9.
See Vision on Facebook @bdavisions, on Instagram @bda_visions, call 232-1531 or 705-0206 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.