In April 2020, the European Olympic Committees (EOC) concluded that “sport has the potential to make a significant contribution, paving the way for a return to normality, especially for children and young people”. From private dance schools to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, sport practices have been disrupted by the COVID-19 health crisis and are often overlooked during global discussions on the impacts of the pandemic. What about this statement by the COE nine months after the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis in Europe and the declaration of the state of emergency in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg?
Focuses on dance activities.
December 16th, 2020
On March 18th, 2020, the Luxembourg Government declared the state of emergency in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, subsequently extended until June 24th, 2020. During this period, our lives have been put on hold to fight the new coronavirus. If summer then arrived with a breeze of fresh air and a disguised return to normality, autumn and winter made sure to push us back to reality with a drastic increase of new cases of infections and daily hospitalizations.
The most recent measures are the ones as of the 26th of November 2020, published by law n°933. Indeed, it inhibited or even erases the “less” essential activities and leisure activities of our daily lives in order to stop the spread of the virus. Falls within the scope of these activities: going out to restaurants, cultural outings to the theatre and sports.
The law therefore provides that indoor sports facilities are closed to the public. Exceptions to this prohibition are indoor sports facilities and infrastructures which remain accessible for school and extra-curricular sports activities. These sports facilities are also accessible to people to practise physical activities on medical prescription. The National Sports remains accessible for elite athletes and senior national teams. It is then stated that “the practice of recreational activities in groups of more than four people is prohibited“.
On November 30th, 2020, in a joint missive, twelve dance schools questioned the consequences of these measures for them. De facto, if dancing can be considered as physical activity, it also falls under the definition of recreational or leisure activities and could then be held with less than four students.
In its general observations no.17 of 2013, the Okaju “Ombudsman fir Kanner a Jugendlecher Mënscherechtshaus”, defines recreational activities as “a very wide range of activities, including, among others, musical, artistic and craft activities, carried out with the community or within a club, sports, games, hiking and camping, and other hobbies”.
Thus, in a first and quite short period of time, the Ministry of Health considered that dancing fell under the definition of recreational activities and was therefore authorized for a maximum of four people. This point of view didn’t last long and dance schools, with the exception of conservatories, will quickly realize that their activities were simply forgotten by the new measures.
As the letter from the dance schools and the Luxembourg National Dance Confederation underlines, “The Ministry of Culture, as well as the Ministries of National Education and Sports have specified that” we are not part of any of the fields of which they are in charge“. Dancing is therefore neither a physical activity nor a recreational activity, but simply an economic activity which must necessarily be closed because the risk of infection could be too high. However, dance schools have all complied with barrier gestures by submitting their students to wearing masks, social distancing and a lot of disinfectant in their enclosures.
It is all the more surprising that the same dance activities can continue to be taught in Conservatories, because according to the Ministry of Health “The courses offered at the conservatory are to be considered as part of school activities and are therefore authorized”.
The Ministry of Health finally filled this legislative void by considering that “Dancing is considered a physical activity like yoga or fitness, not a recreational activity. This type of activity also has the added disadvantage that it involves close contact with your dance partner, thus multiplying the risk of contagion. As a result, this activity is prohibited.”
It is imperative to remember that in these times of crisis, despite many urgent priorities, physical activity remains essential for both physical and mental health and helps alleviate stress and anxiety. It is arguably not part of the problem, but rather part of the solution by bringing a glimmer of “normality” to the heart of the pandemic.
While the numbers of dance school registrations have fallen sharply for the first quarter of the school year 2020/2021, registrations for January will be even more tragic. In fact, law no.992 of December 15th, 2020 extended the measures currently in force initially until January 15, 2021.
If the law of November 26th left room for a certain margin of interpretation by allowing dance classes to take place with a maximum of four students and the obligation to wear a mask, the new law project that will be voted next week, does not leave any doubt as to the prohibition of dance lessons and the obligation to close dance schools. The Government Council has made the necessary changes to the bill in order to solve the ambiguities by providing in article 3bis, paragraph 2, point 2 ° that “activities of physical culture are prohibited“.
However, there are exemptions provided for in Article 4 of the new law, which allows professional artists and dancers to continue to exercise their activities. Indeed, the article provides: “the obligation of physical distancing and wearing of the mask provided for in paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 5 does not apply (…) to theatre and film actors, to musicians, as well as to dancers who exercise a professional artistic activity”. It is thus possible for them to continue dancing for purely professional purposes.
The situation is very critical for private dance schools which, despite governmental economic aid, are unable to recover from the lack of enrolment in dance classes. Online courses will never replace the human-friendliness of a face-to-face course. While waiting for the pandemic to go away, the only solution will be to dance away this frustration.