She worked so hard to open her own studio and build up her student base, and at 26 she could be facing bankruptcy because of a mandated shutdown. All she wants to do is teach her kids. They're family to us and she misses them terribly."
In talking with fellow business owners over the last few weeks about the economic crisis we are facing due to COVID-19, the most critical factor to come up is always the financial toll it is taking on our businesses and families. But one aspect that is less talked about but just as critical is the emotional toll that so many of us are experiencing. One family's story stands out among others because, while it is a family business (run by a daughter & mom team), the entire clientele is very much part of the family as well. They are the dance family of Apple's Dance Lab located in Crabtree, PA, and you will not find a group of dancers more dedicated to their teacher and their craft than these kids. The studio is owned and operated by Appolonia Leake, a dancer herself since age 2 with dreams of owning her own studio. Her mom Lou Demosky is the studio "momager" and just as passionate about their dance family. Lou recently shared with me how this is affecting all of them:
"Mentally, the toll is heavy, as the teachers and students are very sad. The team's goal each season is to compete. Our last competitions were in May last year, and this year they may not be held at all. The highlight of our season is our annual recital, held in June. This is also up in the air and will cause severe financial burden if not held, and negatively affects our ability to float during summer when not as many students are enrolled. Long term, we could be losing enrolled students and risk not having a studio altogether. We can’t take new students when the building is closed, and we can’t schedule summer camps or classes without knowing what the governor will do in PA.
The mental and physical toll this shut down has created for our student population is serious. Dance isn’t just a hobby for them...it’s their life! We will do anything we have to to get our students back to in person dance instruction. The online Zoom platform doesn’t give them the same physical activity, so they will lose their endurance and muscle memory. Some may gain weight as well, which will negatively affect their self esteem (although we do not focus on children’s weight, rather their overall health and well being). They miss their friends and their teachers and the training! Our team is filled with hard core dancers who train between 3-5 days a week. They need to be permitted to continue to work towards their goals so they don’t lose their endurance and muscle memory that they’ve worked so hard to acquire.
As a mother, it breaks my heart to see Apple so upset. I am the optimist and the voice of reason. I keep her positive and raise her spirits! Then I watch the news or read the Facebook posts, and I wonder what country we really live in. Common sense must kick in soon! The numbers don’t justify the actions, and human lives are being affected in so many ways other than the virus. We stand united as a family, and we pray we can be permitted to reunite with our dance family very soon. Destroying small businesses destroys lives. This cannot be the answer. There has to be a better way."
We are people, not statistics. We have needs beyond basic shelter, food, and water. Taking a person’s livelihood from them shouldn’t be so easily determined by the stroke of a pen. Keeping people isolated from their friends and loved ones cannot be simply accepted as the new normal."
On Friday, April 17, 2020, the students and families of Apple's Dance Lab surprised Miss Apple with a parade in front of her home to show her their love and support. If this isn't family, I don't know what is!
Please help to support Apple's Dance Lab by visiting their website and by liking their Facebook page. You can try your first class FREE once the studio reopens! Sign up online using the code "THELAB".
For more info contact Lou or Apple at email@example.com or by phone at 724-221-6689.
As always, remember to #SUPPORTLOCAL !
If you are a small business owner in Pennsylvania and would like to be featured in this project, please contact me.
Tracy Miller is a family, newborn, & fine art photographer serving Pittsburgh & surrounding communities in Pennsylvania including:
Greensburg, Latrobe, Irwin, North Huntingdon, Ligonier, Penn Township, Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Monroeville, Penn-Trafford, Squirrel Hill, Wexford, Murrysville, and beyond.