Susan Cloutier said the “Ghost Light” in her dance studio window will remain lit until the pandemic is over and her students can return. The light is an old theater tradition, turned on by the last person to leave the theater and turned off by whomever comes in next. “I just thought that was so relevant to where we’re at,” she said. In the meantime, Cloutier and her teachers have used Zoom to offer classes remotely at the Studio for the Living Arts Dance Complex in Gray. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

GRAY — At the Living Arts Dance Complex in the Gray Plaza, Susan Cloutier has three studios, 12 instructors and 400 students — all of them now suddenly tapping, tumbling and pirouetting in their dining rooms during 80 Zoom classes a week.

“They’re in basements, kitchens, bedrooms taking classes,” Cloutier said. “I’ve seen families move their kitchen table away and kids are building tap boards so they can have something to tap on, a little square of plywood, so everybody seems to be adapting at this point. It’s amazing.”

Cloutier said her studio, in Gray for the last 28 years, draws students from Lewiston, Portland and Cumberland for ballet, hip hop, jazz, tap and tumbling.

More than half are part of the recreational program, taking one or two classes a week, and 110 are part of the Pulse Dance Company, used to hours and hours of practice a week.

There was about a weeklong Zoom learning curve for Cloutier and other instructors when it came to moving those lessons online after the pandemic lockdown, she said. “It takes a while to figure how to deliver the class, I feel like a broadcaster sometimes,” but students are largely embracing it, even her creative movement class of 3-year-olds.

“It’s incredible — the focus they have is so much better because they’re not distracted by the other kids in the class,” she said. “Occasionally, they’ll see something in their house and want to show you, ‘Oh, look at my doll!’

“We Will Return” is one of the messages in the window of the Studio for the Living Arts Dance Complex in Gray. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“You have to kind of revise the whole way you teach,” Cloutier said. “All of us have figured that out for every level. You can’t run, run, leap and do a sequence of travel movement in-house — we’re used to a 30-by-4o room.”

On a lot of her young minds: The annual recital on June 14. It’s traditionally held at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center. They have the costumes for this year in already.

“We’re still teaching our recital numbers and keeping them rehearsed for that,” she said.

One option she’s weighing, if Gov. Janet Mills has lifted gathering restrictions even a little by then: Renting a stage and performing in the open-air parking lot.

“We’re bound and determined the show will go on — they can put those costumes on and get on stage,” she said.

 


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