Photography by Gabriel Cano

Students from the Amanda Dalton School of Dance were gearing up for their May recital when the pandemic struck during Spring Break. They were set to perform classical ballet, jazz, tap, musical theater and hip-hop at Bishop Lynch High School.

The school on Buckner Boulevard offers instruction to children 3-18. Dalton made the decision to temporarily close her studio and suspend costs to her clientele.

As many lost their jobs and spent more time at home, Dalton wanted to spread cheer into the neighborhood. While the studio was closed, she created free ballet and jazz instruction videos for children 18 months to eight years old on her YouTube channel with over 140 subscribers.

Dalton described the videos as “Pee Wee Herman delivers ballet.” The first video garnered over a million hits. The next four videos she put out racked in over 1,600 views.

She says the goal of the videos was to help give parents back some time during a stressful period.

“A lot of small businesses say ‘get out there and support us,’” Dalton says. “I felt like the neighborhood had already been supporting me for 14 years. It was now my turn to turn around and support them.”

Dalton is working to keep dance alive in the neighborhood during dark times.

“Art is not being produced onstage right now so we have to keep it alive in people’s hearts and heads,” she says. “I feel like I have a calling, and it’s been hard financially, but it’s been the right thing for me.”

Even though the dance school’s doors remained shut for six months with no income, Dalton says she decided to not apply for small business assistance.

“I have been smart with my business and my money,” she says. “I am a person that feels like you should not take what you don’t need.”

The studio reopened in September and has been holding in-person classes at a smaller capacity, Dalton says. All children and instructors are required to wear masks in the building — including 3-year-old dancers.

“I’ve lost a lot of clients because they’ve said to me ‘Amanda, it’s not law,’” she says. “And I said ‘I understand, but it’s my law.’”

Adults are not allowed in the space to keep crowds low, instructors get their temperature taken and everything is sanitized. If an instructor tests positive for the virus, they can only return after receiving two negative COVID-19 tests.

Dalton says she is taking each day one at a time as the future with the pandemic remains unpredictable.

“As long as I have a little bit of business and a little bit of movement, I think we’ll be okay,” she says.

The pandemic reignited Dalton’s passion for teaching dance in the community, she says.

“COVID has changed me as a person,” Dalton says. “It’s brought me back to what my true heart is.”