As the pandemic winds down locally and most restrictions have been lifted, more activities are resuming, including those that were hit particularly hard: the fine and performing arts. And now that live music and dancing feel less risky, there are even more events in the area for people to take part in. Ballroom Legacy, in Sea Cliff, is bringing its instructors to Morgan Memorial Park in Glen Cove for six weeks, where families and individuals can learn to salsa or Zumba.
Ballroom Legacy has occupied a storefront studio on Glen Cove Avenue in Sea Cliff for over 15 years, teaching people of all ages various forms of ballroom dance. It opened in 2004 and was purchased by its current owners, Veronika Simeonova and Alexander Kostic, in 2007.
“We’ve been running the studio and have been supported by the local community,” Kostic said. “It’s been going excellent, with great support from everyone involved.”
The studio offers classes for adults and children, with students ranging in age from 4 to 80 and including anyone who’s interested in learning different styles of dance or improving their skills. Until March of 2020, when it was forced to close, the studio had been on a positive trajectory, preparing for shows and competitions.
“We were changing people’s lives in a very positive, honest and sincere way,” Kostic said, “and then everything just stopped.” Being a dancer and a business owner, he said, the closure was difficult, because there was no second job to fall back on to help pay the bills.
“It was a traumatic experience for everyone at the studio and all the artists and people that we know, because that’s all we do,” said Kostic, who was coy about his age. “We went from a very successful studio to an absolute standstill within a matter of weeks.”
His studio, like many others, found itself in a difficult position. Staff members needed to learn not only how to shift to a virtual format, but also how to teach differently when they were allowed to have students back in person last August. “Ballroom dancing is a contact sport,” Kostic said, “so we had to find creative ways to resume without contact. We were masked and distanced. It was something we had never done before.”
One of his guest instructors, Eugene Yevgenii Taraniyuk, a world-class professional dancer, helped Ballroom Legacy create classes on Zoom, Kostic said, which was crucial to the studio’s survival. “His great effort, guidance and passion helped the studio, and he found creative ways to keep people interested in exercise and dance during lockdown,” Kostic said. “He was a great force in helping us go to another avenue of teaching which we had never explored before.”
Taraniyuk, 25 and a resident of Queens, has been dancing since age 4 and competing since he was 6. He began teaching workshops and practicing in the Ballroom Legacy studio about three years ago. Last year, unable to travel and compete, Taraniyuk said, he got “bored staying home all the time” and was happy to help the studio with its virtual lessons.
“The studio is great,” he said. “There are always a lot of people, and the dance floor is always full. Everybody stays for so many years. It’s a solid little family.”
Roxanne Henningsen of Glen Head, who has been taking lessons at Ballroom Legacy for 12 years, echoed that sentiment. “It’s wonderful — it’s like a second family,” she said. “It’s a very homey, healthy atmosphere between students and teachers. There’s nothing like it.”
She had wanted a place where she could go to dance, Henningsen said, and stuck with Ballroom Legacy. Over the years, she said, she has learned new techniques, and improved her posture. “They walk you through it,” she said. “It’s very friendly and encouraging.”
The loyalty of teachers and students has helped the studio survive the past 15 months, but it still isn’t the same. Since reopening last August at limited capacity, Kostic noted, the staff has had “heavy-duty protocols in place to do it safely” and no longer allows walk-ins. And teachers work with only one couple at a time.
“We only have one lesson an hour, as opposed to 10 an hour,” Kostic said. “It hurt us really bad economically.”
However, he added, the staff determined, after speaking with students, that those strict protocols helped with student retention. “Students said, ‘Because of what you did, how extreme the measures were, we were encouraged to actually come and resume,’” Kostic said. “People felt safe, and were able to ride the storm.”
Appointments are still required for studio lessons, and all staff members are fully vaccinated, he said.
Ballroom Legacy has worked with Glen Cove Recreation and Youth Services to bring outdoor dance classes to Morgan Park, which start July 10 and cost $25 per family per week. Zumba classes start at 11 a.m., followed by salsa at noon. They will run for six weeks, and a “social dance party” will take place on those Saturday evenings from 7 to 8:30. Call the studio, at (516) 609-3268, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.