The dancers are outside on an overcast Wednesday, their placement marked by neon cones in a parking lot next to the Plano location of the KJ Dance conservatory. An instructor leads them through moves for a hip hop sequence. Every so often, music booms through the space as the group works through the motions.
This is the first in-person class KJ Dance has hosted since it had to cancel in-person classes in mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s being held outside for social distancing measures.
Through changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, classes have continued, albeit from separate locations. Kristy Blakeslee, KJ Dance owner and founder, said students have been meeting through online classes as a way to keep dancing. The conservatory has students from a variety of cities including Frisco, Carrollton and The Colony.
In the wake of the pandemic and its effect on the conservatory, Blakeslee has noted the positive effects the adapted format has had on dancers.
“There are some ways that this is making them stronger than if they were in class having the distractions of each other, because it's just them at home,” she said.
Among the dancers in the parking lot is Taylor Wenzel, a graduating senior at Frisco's Liberty High School. For her, the practices at home brought about a different discovery.
“I didn't realize how much I fed off of everyone's energy until I was alone,” she said.
She dances next to Madison Goodman, a senior at Allen High School who has been accepted to The Juilliard School for dance for the fall. At home, she has been practicing on a different floor surface, which brings its own struggles.
“It's really difficult,” Goodman said. “I dance on carpet, and I kind of just fall all over the place, so I just have to kind of dumb everything down and feel my body instead of pushing myself to, like, maybe get more pirouettes or something.”
Ashton Benn, a senior at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, is preparing to attend the University of Southern California for dance. For her, practicing now also means looking to the future.
“It has been difficult, especially because when you're dancing at such a high caliber, you have to keep up,” Benn said. “And so we know that we're going to school, and Madison and I and one of our friends are graduating, and we're going into dance, and we can't just let our abilities and the things that we've been working so hard for slide.”