COVID-19 has claimed another victim with the Royal South Street Society forced to cancel its prestigious dance competitions less than a week after also pulling the pin on its popular calisthenics program.
Thousands of disappointed dancers will shelve their competition pieces until 2021 after organisers decided to cancel the event.
Royal South Street Society chairman Peter Zala said about 75 per cent of the eisteddfod program had already been cancelled, and a board meeting on Monday night would likely signal the end of all competition for 2020.
It will be just the fourth time since Royal South Street competition started in 1891 that no competition has been held.
For three years during World War II the competition was cancelled, and in 1952 when polio pandemic was ravaging thousands of people the competition was curtailed, but not cancelled.
"At the very start of the polio epidemic in 1952 Melbourne was the worst so the state health authorities got in touch with us and said don't take any competitors from Melbourne, so we could take competitors from interstate and country Victoria, but not Melbourne," Mr Zala said.
Organisers had planned to make a final decision about the dance competition on August 7, but after criticism from dance schools and parents about the costs involved in continuing to pay for lessons and preparation of costumes the decision was made early.
It would also allow dance schools to move forward in to term three with clear planning and studio or online space for whole class lessons, bringing back much needed income to the schools for the rest of the year.
With Melbourne in lockdown and students unable to attend lessons and dance studios, most are only able to train at home with online coaching. "We are mindful that even if the lockdown period is released after the six week period this does not allow an even playing field for those competitors who are back to online (zoom) classes compared to regional competitors who have been attending lessons in their dance studios," organisers wrote to dance schools and parents.
The other drawback was the increasing number of COVID-19 cases across all of Victoria.
Ballarat dance school owner Anita Coutts said she would have had over 100 students prepared to compete at Royal South Street including more than 60 soloists and various groups.
"For me personally, having participated in Royal South Street myself and then having that recurring every year since, it's hard to believe that competition won't be going ahead," she said.
"Just to see students faces as competition after competition is cancelled, it becomes more difficult to continue to keep their spirits up but we are certainly trying and will run our own in-house competition."
Mr Zala said Monday's board meeting would likely see the entire Royal South Street eisteddfod 2020 program abandoned.
"Early on in the piece when we didn't know how long COVID-19 was going to last, we thought we would defer some competitions to October and November when it hopefully would have gone away, but it now seems impossible they will proceed," he said.
IN OTHER NEWS
Among the competitions already cancelled in addition to dance and calisthenics is the Victorian Brass Band Championships, Arts for All, Herald Sun Aria, debating, speech and drama.
Cancellation of much of the Royal South Street Society Eisteddfod program for 2020 is another blow in a series of difficult years for the landmark competition.
With Her Majesty's Theatre close for renovations in 2018, there was an 18 per cent drop in entries and fewer ticket sales resulting in a $200,000 loss, and delays in the completion of the theatre renovations last year meant some competitions had to be transferred elsewhere but the big-drawing Herald Sun Aria, dance and calisthenics competitions were able to be held at the historic venue.
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