This past spring, 5-year-old Madeline Dodson participated in the Botetourt Family YMCA’s dance program for the first time. Under the direction of long-time dance instructor Julie Elam, she began learning the fundamentals of ballet and tap alongside her best friend, Adaline.
As with many extracurricular activities this past year, Madeline’s dance classes started as usual in January and quickly changed course in March due to the pandemic. Even though the Y had to close for 12 weeks, Elam was determined to keep her dancers practicing. With in-person classes canceled for the foreseeable future, she created a home video for each of her classes so the children could continue to practice the routines they had been learning for their recital scheduled in May.
“I wanted to provide the children in my program with some sense of normalcy,” said Elam. So many activities and day-to-day familiarity for children were uprooted once COVID hit. This was just one way I could help the children in my program continue what they had started.”
“Even though we were juggling a pandemic, we got all our lessons in,” said Madeline’s mother, Amy Dodson. “When the Y was able to reopen, I felt that all precautions were taken to ensure safety. It was also a big bonus for Madeline to have Ms. Julie as her instructor; she was my dance teacher growing up as well!”
When classes were able to resume at the Y, Elam provided families the opportunity to participate via Zoom if they did not feel comfortable returning in-person to prepare for their upcoming recital. With limited options to safely gather dance participants and their families together, the Y took to an outdoor stage at Sherwood Memorial Park in mid-August.
At the time of the recital, Madeline’s father, Specialist Andrew Dodson, was away for pre-deployment training to prepare for his upcoming deployment in the Middle East with the U.S. Army Reserve. With the help of a little technology, Specialist Dodson was able to watch his daughter perform live through Skype.
“Madeline always asks if we can call her father on the phone whenever he is unable to attend something,” said Dodson. “It is a huge blessing to have the ability for my husband to watch his daughter in real-time. It makes both of them feel as if he is not missing out on an important moment.”
Madeline will continue to dance at the Y again this September. The Y Dance program is now enrolling for the fall dance session that runs from September through December at the Kirk, Salem, and Botetourt Y’s. For more information, visit www.ymcavbr.org.