Photo courtesy of Berks Ballet Theatre.

While the pandemic has altered everything, some would argue that no industry has been hit harder than the Arts. From the cancellation of numerous shows, concerts, classes, and other performances, there is no debate that 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone in this industry.

However, many theatre companies have shown tremendous ingenuity and creativity in order to continue serving their communities, and Berks Ballet Theatre Conservatory of Dance is a prime example of such a business.

Located on the fourth floor of the Goggleworks building in Reading, BBTCD has been in operation for over 50 years. According to owner and director Nathan Bland, BBTCD consists of two distinct but well-connected branches: the Conservatory of Dance, for general students (ages 2 and up, consisting of tiny, young, and pre-professional divisions), and the Berks Ballet Theatre Company itself, which extensively trains professional dancers.

When the shutdown began in March, Bland shared that he was able to pivot quickly. Within three days, he and his team were able to film many classes, and create a virtual studio for students, which in addition to the uploaded classes eventually included Zoom live classes as well.

Now that restrictions have eased, Bland is delighted that BBTCD has been able to reinstate in-person classes, albeit with restrictions that respect safety measures. “We were already known for our small class sizes, so that wasn’t a huge change, but we are limiting the number of students to a lower number and adding more classes,” said Bland.

BBTCD consists of three different studios so that students can easily social distance, extensive sanitization protocols are followed, and masks are required for everyone. Class start and end times are also staggered to allow for less cross contamination.

For those who might not be comfortable attending in-person classes yet, Bland shared that BBTCD is still offering virtual classes, private lessons, or a unique “create your own class” option where students can choose to create their own class comprised only of people whom they have felt safe seeing during the pandemic. Students can also choose a variety of six-week sessions if they do not wish to commit for an entire year of dance.

“Our goal is to offer quality training in a safe, nurturing environment and reach the community as best we can,” said Bland.

When asked how Berks County can support BBTCD during these unprecedented times, Bland replied, “Remember that the arts in general are struggling, and we provide an outlet for kids–physical and mental; mind, body and soul. Please support the Arts in general–follow us on social media, click “like” to reach more people, and attend performances even if they are virtual. We are trying to reach everyone we can.”