‘The situation is dire’: East-end Toronto dance studio owner anxious to reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic

For four weeks, the Pink Dance Studio on Danforth Avenue was alive once again with song and dance.

“In September the numbers looked ok, we put a lot of time and money into reopening our space safely,” said owner, Natalie Borch.

Fitness centres were given the green light to reopen in Ontario’s Stage 3, with certain restrictions in place.

Borch purchased supplies and spent days measuring her studio to figure out how best to organize it for small, spaced out dance and fitness classes.

Read more: Nearly 50 coronavirus cases linked to outbreak at Hamilton spin studio

There was a sign on her front door, “Welcome back, virtual and in-studio classes now running.”

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“Then word that we had to roll back into a modified Stage 2 which has affected most health and wellness and fitness businesses, it’s been really hard,” she said.

Borch would like the provincial government to consider adding more categories to its future announcements regarding restrictions on businesses, especially fitness facilities.

“We’re being lumped in under a fitness umbrella which includes big box gyms that were having 50 people in the building, all we want to do is run a yoga class with six people,” she said, adding, “I feel like there should be … different categories, different modifications for small group classes. We’re talking about running less than eight people in a class.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Toronto officials welcome return to stage 2 despite some uncertainty of rules' Coronavirus: Toronto officials welcome return to stage 2 despite some uncertainty of rules

Coronavirus: Toronto officials welcome return to stage 2 despite some uncertainty of rules

“If anything’s been done badly in this pandemic I’d have to say it’s support for small business,” said Toronto coun. Paula Fletcher.

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Beyond the financial impact though, which Borch describes as ‘devastating,’ there is also an emotional toll to consider.

Experts point out health and wellness have become more important than ever before.

If people are unable to access these types of classes, they too will suffer.

“We need to keep our immune systems healthy and one of the ways we can do that is through physical activity and if we’re not able to keep our physical bodies healthy then our mental acuity, our psychological and emotional wellbeing will deteriorate,” explained psychologist Dr. Oren Amitay.

For Borch, who had only opened her studio two years before the pandemic, the stress of being shut down once again is becoming a lot to bear.

Read more: 2 in 5 Canadians say personal finances deteriorated amid coronavirus pandemic: report

“As a mother, as a small business owner, my mental health is really starting to suffer,” she said. “There’s a lot of sleepless nights, there’s so much financial burden and financial stress that it’s hard to keep going.”

Her message to her east-end community is to support local.

“Support your small businesses or they will be gone,” she said. “The situation is dire.”

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