Reopening in Baldwin has presented challenges for local businesses. Limiting patrons in an establishment is doable in practice, but for two Baldwin staples that were built on community and family, state Covid-19 regulations are affecting their ability to create in the way they have found works best.
Pat’s Dance Studio and Painting with a Twist have both adapted in the way they operate and the services they offer.
Pat’s Dance Studio
Melanie Vaughan, the owner of Pat’s Dance Studio, greeted every dancer who entered the studio with a hug until early March, when the coronavirus pandemic struck in New York. The business, on Church Street, celebrated its 41st anniversary this summer quietly, without the close-knit community of dancers, parents and staff who make the studio feel like a home.
“This is my life. I put my living soul into this studio,” Vaughan said. “My heart is there. The fact that I couldn’t do anything killed me.”
Pat’s Dance Studio reopened for in-person, socially distanced, masked dance classes on Sept. 14, something Vaughan said she never anticipated doing since she became director three years ago. Vaughan succeeded her aunt Pat Randazzo, the studio’s founder, whose passion for dance morphed into teaching in her Oceanside basement until relocating to Baldwin. The studio has remained here for decades.
While in-person options are newly offered, virtual classes have been held since March and are still in session for dancers who prefer to attend from home. Vaughan has adapted to teaching dance through a camera to ensure her students keep dancing because “they’ve gotten literally every single thing taken away from them,” including graduations and recitals, and she was not about to let dance be another.
“At that time, everyone was in their house,” she said, “so I’m tap-dancing in my kitchen with the computer on the floor.”
Students and parents can either log onto the Zoom session for their class or physically attend. Vaughan’s students have taken advantage of both options offered; some adorn a mask and a leotard and dance six feet apart from their fellow dancers, while others join the Zoom session and are privy to a bird’s-eye view of the studio from their home. The decision on how to attend class can be made on a week-to-week basis.
“I wanted to give all of my students and families as many options as possible,” said Vaughan, whose main goal is to keep everyone’s passion for dance alive amid a global pandemic. “We need to keep the momentum of this going for hopefully another 40 years.”
The energy of the instructor and the dancers and the studio’s home-like feeling are what make those who work and learn at Pat’s Dance Studio understand they are a part of a family. “Everything is based on community and family,” Vaughan said.
The studio also aims to bring dance into the community through “Hip-Hop Days” at Lenox and Steele elementary schools to get students moving. However, these initiatives were halted. “There are so many things that we do that we aren’t doing because of Covid,” Vaughan said.
Between studio upgrades, constant communication with parents and wavering uncertainty about life without a mask, Vaughan is trying to give her students “as much normalcy as I can give them.”
Hubs of creativity like Pat’s Dance Studio and Painting with a Twist, on Merrick Road, have taken to new ways of reaching their clients.
Painting with a Twist
Joanne Bove, owner of Painting with a Twist, opened her studio in Baldwin last July, where patrons paint while enjoying alcoholic beverages. Nine months later, she was forced to reinvent her business plan.
“We’re trying to be creative — not just creative artistically, but creative business-wise,” Bove said.
The studio hit a stride in early March, experiencing an increase in private parties, public class registrations and repeat customers shortly before pandemic regulations forced Bove to close her doors. She has abided by restaurant guidelines for reopening provided by Nassau County and New York state, as the studio operates under a state Beer and Wine License because of the “sip” component of “paint and sip.”
Moving painting to an online medium presented several unforeseen challenges. From March until mid-August, Painting with a Twist offered Zoom classes that asked customers to register at paintingwithatwist.com and pick up a “Twist at Home” painting kit at the shop where they would then receive an access link. Classes for both children and adults have been offered.
Online class registration and “Twist at Home” kits are still available, as Bove wants to ensure her painters have options. In addition to painting from home via virtual classes, public classes with reduced sizes and private parties of five to 10 people are now being offered. The option to host an off-site event, such as a backyard painting session, is also available until colder temperatures come.
“We know people love our art. We love our art. But if they’re not comfortable coming in, we are trying to give them those alternatives,” said Bove, who laughed and said she prays that her studio’s internet remains working during Zoom sessions.
One of the main challenges presented to Bove was an increase in time; it now takes a staff member more than double the time to host a typical class. Not only does the instructor have to record the online version, but also hand out “Twist at Home” kits at varying hours throughout the day, and then host the in-person class for those who choose to attend.
Additionally, a staff member must explain studio safety guidelines, like mask wearing, social distancing and limiting occupants. This is all being done to better serve the community and simplify customers’ experiences.
The business is also dedicated to being an active member of the Baldwin community. Recently, the studio held fundraisers for St. Christopher Catholic School and local churches while excitedly anticipating its October fundraiser for Freeport Elementary School.
“We opened our business in Baldwin. We wanted to be a part of the Baldwin revitalization,” Bove said. “We want to be here for years.”
For more information about Pat’s Dance Studio, visit patsdancestudio.com or Pat’s Dance Studio on Facebook and Instagram. To register for an event with Painting with a Twist, visit paintingwithatwist.com. To see the art that has been created, visit Painting with a Twist on Facebook and Instagram.