County grant helps local dance studio stay open during pandemic

CARES Act grant money helps Arabesque Dance Academy reopen

NORTH COLLEGE HILL, Ohio (FOX19) - A Tri-State dance studio is continuing to provide an outlet for kids to dance even amidst the devastating effects of COVID-19.

Arabesque Dance Academy operates in North College Hill now thanks to a grant from Hamilton County’s Small Business Relief program.

Owner Kimberly Stewart, a social worker with the North College Hill School District, says the grant was a lifeline in the darkest days of the pandemic.

Founded by Stewart in 2013, the studio has performed for the Indiana Pacers as well as the Reds with the University of Cincinnati dance team. Then the pandemic stopped performances in March, and practices went virtual.

Stewart says at one point she was delivering families to the families of her dancers after-hours.

“I figured I needed to do something in case my dance families couldn’t afford to pay their dance tuition,” she explained.

In June the studio was permitted to reopen with social distancing and sanitization restrictions in place. Those restrictions imposed onerous costs on the business. Stewart says she had to work a second job to keep the studio opening.

The county grant program, funded through the CARES Act, came along just in time.

“I was excited, super excited,” Stewart recalled of the moment she discovered Arabesque had qualified. “I was actually in the studio, and the kids were looking at me like I was crazy. I tried to explain to them, ‘You just know how much this is going to help?‘”

The money allowed Stewart to pay for utilities, rent and more.

“We were able to hire two additional teachers,” she said. “We provided our students with PPE packs, so they received masks with the studio name on them, hand sanitizer and soap.”

Now Stewart says she’s focusing her efforts on her students again rather than on her bottom line.

Small businesses still struggling can apply for another round of the program. Applications open Aug. 24.

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