Dancing Together- Apart

Local dance studio struggles, yet stays afloat during COVID-19


Graphic by Jaylen Minnich-Hall/SAC.Media.

Whether it be in person or online, Belle Maturo owner and director of Perfect Pointe Dance has found ways to keep her small business afloat during the harsh circumstances of COVID-19.

As a registered teacher of the Royal Academy of Dance, a mentor for up and coming teachers for the RAD, affiliate member with the Australian Teachers of Dance and a licensed Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy location holder, Belle Maturo has lived a life of dance. She has made it a personal mission to instruct dancers at the highest standards with a love and appreciation for the art.

Back in 2010, while riding off the success of a Glen Oak Elementary after school dance program, Maturo was able to establish her own studio. Perfect Pointe opened as a small studio in Covina offering a range of dance classes to a range of ages; primarily ballet to young children. This offered an expanding business as she was able to then open a second location in LaVerne in 2015.

With two locations and a passion for dance, Maturo entered 2020 without any doubt that the dance season and her studio would be successful as it had always been. But in March, as the coronavirus became a prominent problem in the country, the studio along with other businesses was ordered to close.

“How am I going to go forward to keep these classes opened?” Maturo thought.

Quickly, she was able to consolidate and reschedule classes to be over Zoom. This did not sit well with her however, and left her believing that these classes weren’t up to par with the standards she had always set. Calculating what expenses she could personally take, she cut her tuition by 50%.

Maturo didn’t reach out for government assistance at first, thinking that this was only temporary as the media kept giving mixed timelines. She kept repeating, “If I could just get through these few weeks, I’ll be okay.”

But this was only the beginning of the long haul. Maturo started off with 12 staff members and soon realized she would have to start layoffs as the lack of income became an apparent problem.

“I immediately lost about a third of my students within the first month,” Maturo said.

In April, she came to the conclusion that she would need government assistance and applied for a SBA Loan. “A loan is something I didn’t want to have hanging over my head. I worked hard for my business and didn’t want to be paying off someone else,” she said. “It was a last resort.”

But she was denied. The government was focusing on agricultural needs.

Whatever the circumstances, Maturo remained resilient and compassionate to her students. She started a campaign of merchandise centered around the phrase, “Danced Together Apart,” to raise money and morale for the studio.

Picture of class closure sign from Perfect Pointe’s instagram.

In June, businesses were reopening with strict new CDC guidelines. Knowing that the safety of her students was most important, Maturo got to work. She spent an upwards of $3,000 on air scrubbers, sanitizing stations, custom social distancing floor stickers, and even created new rules for parent pickups. With these changes and classes back in person, things started to look up for the studio.

On July 13, Gov. Newsom reclosed indoor dining, movie theaters, family entertainment centers and additional indoor operations in all counties.

This was devastating to Perfect Pointe. By July 15, Maturo was forced to close her LaVerne location. To her, it was better to close one location than struggle to sustain two. Maturo said, “I was not prepared to close both [locations], so I closed LaVerne. the Covina location was more sustainable.”

Maturo continued to combine classes and instruct through Zoom until businesses slowly started reopening in August.

Classes were held with social distancing and masks. But Perfect Pointe, now six months into the pandemic, still wasn’t clear of its hardships.

In early September, Maturo received a Health Department complaint for being open.
“There was a scheduled visit by the Health Department, the visitor pushed a paper in front of me and said you have to move your classes outside,” she said.

At that point, Maturo didn’t know what was going to happen to her business.

Maturo’s studio had been considered a gym by the order of Gov. Newsom, therefore all activity had to be taken outdoors. During this time however, California was experiencing bad air quality from fires as well as 100-degree weather daily.

“The children are so stuck to a computer right now, they need physical activity. Many kids do outside sports and that’s normal for them but not everyone does that, some kids love to dance,” she said. “Not only that, but I was getting consistent emails from parents at the time, saying they were so grateful for their children being able to dance in the studio. That dancing was many of the kid’s forms of happiness.”

Nonetheless the Health Department urged Maturo to take class outside, as she would receive a $500 fine every time they had to visit. Yet Maturo, after doing some research, couldn’t afford the $4000-$5000 it would take to move her studio outside. She decided it would be cheaper to take the fines.

“I’m just sitting and waiting for whenever they come again,” she said.

This is a dilemma the studio is still facing.

Small businesses are being majorly affected during these trying times. Maturo’s journey with Perfect Pointe Dance is no different than the thousands of others who have struggled with losing a business or keeping one afloat. As the world passes more than a million deaths, the U.S. leads with a staggering 209,450. This is nearly a quarter of total deaths worldwide. While the country mourns for those lost, more struggle to put food on the table.