BOULDER, Colo. -- Ashley Patchen is the studio owner of Alchemy of Movement. The tag line of the adult dance fitness studio is "Dance for Joy." It’s something she communicates daily through movement and her personality.
As fun as running a dance studio may be, she’s had a lot of weight on her shoulders the past five months trying to keep her studio alive during a pandemic.
“I knew that if I closed completely, I’d be letting a lot of people down,” Ashley Patchen said.
When everything shut down across the nation in mid-March, it only took Patchen four days to start offering virtual dance classes.
“I bought some teachers speakers for their houses, I gave people laptops, and I probably spent a full month trying to get the audio right.”
All was donation-based, but Patchen says they were able to make about 70% of their normal revenue thanks to some generous people.
“Some were in the form of people coming regularly and paying $30 a class instead of $15. Or some of our teachers were going to each other’s classes and paying for those classes. And some of the teachers were donating their payroll back to the studio. And we had a few clients who donated large chunks,” Patchen said.
Sarah Hershey who donated a lot of money says Alchemy of Movement has been a God-send in her life.
“Years ago my grandma, when she passed away, left me a pretty sizeable amount of money that I always felt kind of guilty just being handed to me. So this kind of felt like a good opportunity to pay it forward and help people that I love and a place that I love in a way my grandma helped me,” Hershey said.
So Patchen was able to continue offering virtual classes for two-and-a-half months. Then in May, when many of the quarantine restrictions were lifted in the state of Colorado, Ashley, dancers and instructors like Bethany Wilcox were eager to start in-person classes again.
“It’s amazing. It’s just an awesome amount of energy that just infuses everything,” instructor Bethany Wilcox said.
A majority of classes were shifted outside and boxes were drawn to ensure a 6-foot distance between people. Patchen was able to start charging for in-person classes again. But the donation-based virtual streaming continued for those who still felt it necessary to stay home.
“I knew about half of our clients at least were not going to be coming in,” Patchen said.
This month, Patchen was surprised to find out revenue has surpassed what it usually is in the middle of summer.
“Usually our summers are like the slowest ever. And now that we’re doing the outdoor classes, everyone is like ‘yayyy, I love being outdoors! I love dancing! This is the best thing ever!’ So it’s actually worked out really well like a lot of people who cancel their membership in the summer are keeping it going because we have outdoor stuff.”
Beyond these creative solutions to continue classes, Patchen says there’s one secret ingredient to why she thinks the studio has continued to thrive during this time.
“We are strong because we are a community. And we have survived because we are a community. Our dancers love each other, and our teachers love each other, and they all support each other,” Patchen said.
The dancers and instructors agree.
“I like a lot of people don’t have a lot of family close by so this is definitely my second family, my dance family,” dancer Megan Ramirez said.
“Honestly dance saved my mental stability during the pandemic," dancer Taylor Best-Anderson said. "Being able to just do Alchemy classes online for the first few months was really helpful. It was the only way I was really able to see my friends.”
“It’s so nice to be with actual humans again!" instructor Ayla Satten said. "Ya know, you’re so used to your community and your sisterhood and then it gets ripped away from you, you miss it so much.”
Patchen says she’s worried about the change in seasons several months down the road knowing classes outside may be more of a challenge. However, she plans to continue taking it month by month – finding some humor to stay positive amid the circumstances.
“If you have the right mask it’s not that bad. Especially if you’re sparkly," Ashley said with a laugh.