Provo dance companies press on amid pandemic

A DJ waits for patrons to arrive at Afuego Fridays on Aug. 14, 2020. Afuego Fridays is one of several Provo-based dance companies that have reopened amid the pandemic. (Josh Carter)

Leer en español: Compañías de baile en Provo siguen adelante entre pandemia

A number of Provo-based dance companies are opening their doors again for the first time in months amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies such as Afuego Fridays, Salsa Chocolate, Salsa at Southworth Hall and Country Dance Provo have all resumed their respective operations — albeit with some adjustments — over the last several weeks.

“It’s been great being able to reopen again,” Afuego Fridays and Salsa Chocolate owner Luis Castro said. “A lot of people have been coming up to us and thanking us for reopening. There were a lot of people who were sad and frustrated about being stuck inside for so long. So, we’ve just been trying to take the proper actions to create a safe environment but still give them a quality event.”

The aforementioned companies initially shut down along with much of the country in late March. In an effort to retain their customers, these businesses first turned to social media to post dance tutorials and host virtual dance parties. Afuego Fridays threw weekly virtual parties on Facebook Live with DJs on-air and a Venmo account setup for tips.

Once Utah County moved to a low-risk phase earlier this summer, the dance companies were allowed to reopen to the public — as long as they took the proper precautions. According to Utah’s coronavirus website, as soon as a county moves to the yellow phase, “all businesses” may open again but must take “reasonable precautions.” The website also states entertainment events can exceed 50 individuals if “organizational oversight can be provided that ensures guidelines are followed.”

Before officially reopening Afuego Fridays and Salsa Chocolate, Castro and his staff decided to limit the number of customers at their events to a third of their regular capacity. Their venue, the Enigma Event Center, normally has a full capacity of 900 people. Castro also mandates his staff wear masks and gloves at all times and requires attendees to undergo a temperature check at the door.

In addition to Afuego Fridays and Salsa Chocolate, Salsa at Southworth Hall and Country Dance Provo patrons are encouraged to wear masks and remain socially distant throughout the events. However, mask-wearing and social-distancing are not always strictly enforced, causing some to take to social media to express their frustrations.

Locals dance together at Afuego Fridays on Aug. 14, 2020. Although patrons are encouraged to wear masks and remain socially distant, they are not required to do so. (Afuego Fridays/Instagram Story)

“So let’s talk about reasons why covid isn’t gonna slow away in Utah anytime soon? This is @afuegofridays,” @ThatKetzyKid wrote on Twitter, along with a video of people dancing at the company’s Aug. 14 event. “A bunch of careless people and barely any with facemasks just up in each other’s spaces. They aren’t even following the codes put in place by the state of Utah.”

The tweet, which has since been protected by the owner, was published just over a week after the Provo-based party company Young/Dumb hosted a controversial event in downtown Provo. The Young/Dumb event sparked a widespread debate on social media over whether or not any such events should be allowed to take place in the current circumstances.

Despite the discontent expressed by some, Provo’s dance companies remain committed to keeping their doors open with their current precautions. Castro and his staff believe they have set up a safe enough environment for patrons to continue to attend their events despite the pandemic.

“Once we reach our maximum capacity, we don’t let anyone else in,” Castro said. “We’re keeping a limit so that there’s enough spacing. We’re taking all the precautions necessary.”

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