It's been almost four months since Olivia and Isla Betts have set foot on the Dance Infusion floor.
They "miss it terribly," said their mother, Courtney Betts.
So she was thrilled to learn recently that the owner of the studio on 19 Lupine Road, Cindi Worthley, was reopening her business, with one notable difference:
It's opening under a 55-foot long tent at the back of the parking lot, with enough room — socially distant, of course — for 12 dancers and an instructor.
"I love it," said Betts. "Outside in a really big tent!"
Like many businesses shuttered by COVID-19, dance studios haven't been allowed to offer in-person classes because of the high potential for transmitting the deadly virus among staff and students.
Worthley said the studio closed in mid-March and she offered Zoom classes in April, but that it just wasn't the same.
After a great deal of thought, planning and applying for a town grant, Worthley figured out a way to offer classes in a fun-but-safe way.
Not only is the tent large, but she put 6-by-8-foot pieces of Astroturf on the floor, and each mat is couple of feet apart, increasing the level of social distancing.
She established a protocol for when the dancers get picked up and dropped off.
For instance, students have to wear masks when they get dropped off and when they enter the tent. Just before the class starts, they put their masks into bags that are then hung on separate hooks, Worthley said.
They have to put their masks back on when the class is over and they leave.
Worthley said she had been searching for a way to get back to in-person classes. Her landlord approved the idea, and so did the town.
She worked with Ann Ormond, the town's director of Business, Arts, and Culture, to secure a grant to rent and erect the tent.
"The grant paid for the tent," she said, noting that the first class was Monday, July 6.
It wasn't a moment too soon for Betts, whose daughters, Olivia, 8, and Isla, 6, couldn't wait to get back on the dance floor.
"They are very excited to dance again," Betts said. "To go do something outside of the house and to see their friends."
She added that they set up a special class with a group of friends for their first class this week.
Betts said she appreciates the thoughtfulness and hard work Worthley put into the endeavor.
"As a parent, I am always trying to balance social distancing and safety with mental health," she said. "This is a good balance of both. The tent is really big and Cindi thought through a lot of social distancing requirements. It was very well thought out and she'll adapt as appropriate. As a mom, I appreciate that."
For more information and to view a video of a dance class under the tent, check out their Facebook page.