For the past year, many people have had a hard time finding reasons to get up and dance. It doesn’t help that pretty much every dance studio in the entire country has been forced to close its doors to help stop the virus’s spread. Due to these circumstances, we thought it would be good to sit down and talk with Jasmin Yeung, Owner and Creative Director of VybE Dance Company, a dance studio in Markham, Ontario. We spoke to her about her experience during the pandemic and how she has adapted during these trying times.
What inspired you to get started?
I actually took over from my dance mentor in 2016, and she started it 20 years before that, so I didn’t necessarily start it, but I did take over in 2016. The reason why I decided to do that, it just came out of nowhere. It was just the right place and the right time. I had been a dance student since 2003 and started teaching and became a director and did more production stuff starting 2009. VybE is more of a family, and it’s such an important community for me. It helped me learn a lot more things outside of dance. The reason I took over is that I couldn’t see myself say no, and I couldn’t see anyone else doing it because it was so important to me growing up, so that’s why I took over.
How Has The Pandemic Affected You?
Being a dance studio and a dance company, it significantly impacted since we are based on in-person experiences. So, having the pandemic and the quarantine, not being able to go into the studio to teach and have classes was a huge hit. When the pandemic first started, we thought you know it would only last a few weeks, so we did some free live classes on Instagram because, at that point, we were thinking it’s just going to be a couple of weeks we aren’t going to be affected. As time went on and we were still in quarantine, the pandemic was still prevalent; it worsened because we had to pay the rent and utilities.
What Have you Done To Adapt?
So, we made a pivot online, started to do more YouTube content. Within six months, we were able to monetize the YouTube channel. There were many grants that we applied to. The biggest thing that we and to do was a fundraiser because it was pretty dire last summer, and we were pretty close to not being able to make it. We did the fundraiser, and we were successful and raised $25,000. We did some crazy challenges for it as well. Whenever we hit some milestones, we did some challenges like Ice water challenges and spicy noodle challenges to get the community together and have fun with it. Now that we’re a year into the pandemic, it’s looking a lot better. We still have some online offerings, but our in-person classes are running and max out at ten people.
Do you Think The Third Wave Will Effect Your Business? If so, in what way?
To be completely honest, I’m pretty stressed out about it because looking for grants and doing a fundraiser, doing all this extra stuff requires a lot of time and effort to do and make sure that we are staying afloat. It’s hard, but we’ve also figured out ways to pivot to do this stuff without it being so new and novel, so I think that we are more prepared for it more than ever. It is still very much stressful. Even last week we had to close the studio because there was a potential exposure scare, so I had to cancel five sold-out classes. I had to complete even with the scare because no amount of money is worth anyone’s health, so it was a no-brainer. We have to keep going and not be afraid to make those tough decisions.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope the pandemic will end. I hope that when it does end and when everyone has the vaccine or the virus isn’t a threat to our lives anymore, I hope that people can still trust each other. There’s much distrust between people now because of this, and it’s completely understandable because if I’m close to someone in my family might get hurt. There’s just a lot of distrust and fear, and I do hope that will go away soon. The whole human experience is all about community and relationships. Now that it’s so tough to trust anyone and hang out with your friends and family, I hope that sooner than later, everything goes back to normal.
VybE Dance Company was able to reopen its doors when York Region left lockdown last month and could run classes with drastically limited capacity. With the recent rise in cases that the province of Ontario is experiencing, businesses are wary of a possible third lockdown that might become. Currently, VybE Dance Company is still running online Zoom dance classes but hopes that they will soon run classes with higher capacity. As their clientele tends to be younger, it is unlikely that most of them will be vaccinated anytime soon, so they will have to wait for a while to be 100 percent sure of their safety.
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