Ohana School of Performing Arts Keeps Students Dancing, Looks to Community for Support
CHICOPEE — The future of small businesses hangs in the balance due to the coronavirus pandemic, and despite uncertainty and disruption, one local dance studio stands firm in its mission: to spread peace and positivity through performance.
Ohana School of Performing Arts, located at 41 Sheridan St. in Chicopee, had to make significant changes to its business model as social-distancing guidelines and safety initiatives were put into place. The studio transitioned to online classes and continues to support families with an interactive Facebook group for dancers and their families, where instructors share craft ideas, new dance moves, story time, and messages of hope and joy.
“We are bringing 50 virtual classes to our studio family each week,” said Ashley Kohl, owner and creative director. She explained that teachers are recording classes from their own homes to ensure that the dancers are staying engaged and active.
In addition to moving to virtual programming, Ohana also shifted tuition terms for the studio — pay what you can, if you can.
“This pandemic has put so many families in a place of severe hardship,” Kohl said, “and I don’t want any child or family to be without the weekly virtual dance class or the good vibes that the Ohana staff brings into their lives.”
Due to the stay-at-home advisory, which Gov. Charlie Baker has implemented until further notice, it is likely that Ohana will not be hosting its June performance, which is the studio’s only for-profit recital of the year. The funds from this performance are typically used to cover overhead costs in the summer months.
In addition to the annual performance, Ohana hosts two charity performances as fundraisers for local nonprofits. To date, Ohana has donated more than $30,000 to various organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Willpower Foundation, Miracle League of Western Massachusetts, We Love Riley Fan Club, Arik(q)ue, in addition to Ohana’s nonprofit, One Ohana Inc., that provides scholarships to dancers across the Pioneer Valley.
The impact of lost revenue comes at a particularly challenging time, as the studio was forced to relocate last year, and the business had to secure significant loan funding. Without the consistent tuition and performance revenue, Kohl fears she may have to close Ohana’s doors.
With that in mind, two of Kohl’s close friends, Danielle Barone and Tanyelle Duchesne, organized a fundraiser with a goal of $20,000.
“At the end of this crisis, with whom do you want to share your time? I imagine, for many, it’s with our Ohana and to see our children back doing what they love the most,” Barone said. “The money raised through this campaign goes directly to paying rent, utilities, and teachers, and allows the business to survive this pandemic.”
Added Kohl, “Ohana means family, love, joy, and community, and on behalf of the entire Ohana family, we are beyond moved by this support.”
For more information on how to support Ohana School of Performing Arts, visit gofundme.com/we-are-ohana or ohanaperformingarts.com.