For Susan Bensmiller, closing her Armstrong dance studio was a gut-wrenching, tough decision.
But, she said, it was the right one.
After 14 years, Bensmiller, founder and operator of the highly popular Armstrong Dance Academy on Okanagan Street announced on the academy’s Facebook page April 19 that she was closing the doors for good due strictly to COVID-19.
“It is very sad,” said Bensmiller of her decision. “It’s the situation. It is what it is.”
The academy, which operates September to June, following the school calendar, closed March 12 for spring break, planning to reopen on March 30. But with the pandemic progressing, Bensmiller was left with no choice.
“Things progressed rapidly over the next few days after we closed for the break,” she said. “Everybody was alarmed and shocked at what was happening in Canada and even in our own community.
“For me, it (closing) was the logical choice to make in our situation. My husband and I assessed all of the possibilities, all of the ‘what ifs?’”
Students who had classes booked for April and May were given full refunds.
The closure comes during a time that normally the academy is gearing up for festival and recital performances.
Bensmiller opened her academy offering classes once a week in Armstrong at the Zion United Church and once a week in Enderby at the Drill Hall before moving to her current location.
She estimates she’s taught dance to approximately 2,000 students in the academy’s history.
“It’s been very good, very consistent,” said Bensmiller. It’s kind of amazing that I was able to have the opportunity to share my passion.”
More than 25 people took time to comment to express their sadness and compassion over Bensmiller’s decision, and gratitude toward the academy.
“This news saddens me and my family so much,” wrote Rhonda Sloot. “You are forever etched in our hearts and together we have made wonderful memories. We think of you so much and the joy you have brought into our lives through dance and music. Susan, you were a huge part of my girls’ childhood. I can’t thank you enough so incredibly blessed to have you in our lives. You will be missed in the community.”
In her post, Bensmiller said, “Although this may be the end of a chapter, there are so many more blank pages yet to be written – for you and for me.” Asked if she would reopen once the pandemic ends, Bensmiller said, “I’m not sure.”
“I’d get myself groomed if the right opportunity came where I could offer classes,” she said. “Or if another studio opened and they wanted me to teach, that would be fine with me.”