P-CCS Dance program remains overlooked after Covid-19


Emily Rodriguez

Julia Rodriguez’s jazz class strikes a move at the beginning of their dance routine in Canton, Michigan. December 2022.

The hard marble floor of the Salem dance studio was nothing but ten click-clack heels, five girls and five smiles across a wide variety of ages. In 2019, the numbers of dancers were higher than in 2022, where the number of participants are the lowest they have ever been.

The P-CCS Youth Dance Program–held for ages three to eighteen– continues to face withdrawals from its classes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The P-CCS Dance Program has been around since 1950, and can serve as a fun out-of-school activity for kids of all ages.

“There are a total of six dance classes,” said Hayley Rodriguez, a dance instructor for P-CCS Dance Program. “We also will include senior solos, a production, and a family dance into the recital, which is always a lot of fun.” 

Rodriguez has been a dance instructor for years, and expressed sadness at seeing the number of student participants declining. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many businesses and activities to downsize or shut down altogether; however, Rodriguez hoped to keep dance thriving. 

To Rodriguez, having a former competitive dancer such as herself see how a pandemic affected young kids’ dance careers only made her want to keep the program going even more.

Julia Rodriguez, a first-year instructor and sister to Hayley Rodriguez, encourages children of all ages to sign up for the dance program next year.”I would work with [students]directly and encourage them to not be afraid to ask questions,” said Julia Rodriguez “I always make sure to learn the kid’s strengths and weaknesses at the beginning of the dance season so I know what would make a good dance [for them].” 

Julia Rodriguez claims that if more people join dance it won’t only increase numbers, but it will increase the fun. 

Samantha Chalmers, Canton freshman and dancer within the program, stated that tap and ballet are her favorite kinds of dance.

“There are only five girls in tap, but it’s better than when [lessons were conducted virtually]” said Chalmers. “Being back in the studio may have caused some of the attendance to drop because families may think it is unsafe, but the studio is always clean and welcoming.” 

Chalmers, who is in her second year of dance, claims that it’s a fun extracurricular activity that almost anyone can enjoy. 

Alicia Fenstermacher, the main director, who has been with the program for eight years, chose to remain positive despite a recent drop in participation.

“We want our classes to be a space where participants feel comfortable to be in and excited to attend,” said Fenstermacher. “We keep structure to the class but allow kids to be kids and encourage them to socialize with their peers during class time. We also realize skill levels vary and we work to design balanced dance routines.”

Ensuring that there is a fun atmosphere in the dance studio is the key to making kids feel comfortable in a new environment, even with the difficulties brought about by rebuilding the program. 

“The rebuilding phase of the dance program has been hard for not only the dancers but for the instructors as well,” said Fenstermacher. “If more people join the dance program, it would help grow the program for years to come.”

In order to prevent a potential permanent closure of the dance program, Fenstermacher offered a number of solutions for the school district to make the program more enticing to students. 

“Our goal is to keep people engaged in the activities they enjoy while taking into account that the conditions of the economy could impact them from being able to do so,” said Fenstermacher. “For dance, including costume in the cost of the course and adding on the ability to participate in extra dances during the recital for a very nominal fee are just some of the ways we try to provide some relief.”