Dancing Through the Pandemic

Grant from ECF allowed 98 students to safely participate in Shumka’s popular summer camp

For 25 years, Shumka’s summer camps have attracted young dancers from all over the country— and beyond — to learn from the legendary Canadian-Ukrainian dance company.

“We’ve even had people from England and Ukraine come for the dance camps in the past,” explains Darka Tarnawsky, executive director of Shumka. “It’s a really important part of what we do.

”But when the pandemic significantly reduced our ability to gather, the viability of hosting the camps—which typically see 250 participants each summer—was up in the air.”

Initially, Shumka bumped its dates later into the summer, hoping the situation might improve. But when it was clear that the pandemic would persist, Shumka started closely examining AHS guidelines to determine how they could safely proceed.

To do so would be costly. But fortunately, Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) granted Shumka $10,800 through its COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF). ECF began strategic COVID-19 granting on March 19, 2020. Since then, ECF has provided more than $4 million in funding to Edmonton’s charitable sector to help the city’s most vulnerable during the pandemic.

That money allowed Shumka to invest in the equipment, supports, and online capabilities that allowed for a smaller but safer camp experience. Limited-capacity camps happened across Shumka’s four studio spaces, with safe distancing between dancers and mandatory PPE. There was extra studio cleaning, and a video made for participants to guide them through the protocols from morning arrival to departure. Shumka also adapted some of its teaching material for Zoom, which allowed them to do online classes for participants who couldn’t attend in person.

The Rapid Response Fund helped offset the financial burdens of both increased costs and the camps’ greatly reduced capacity.

“It was the Rapid Response Fund that allowed us to make the decision to move forward, Tarnawsky says. “To know that we could actually do this without losing tens of thousands of dollars.”

Overall, in a combination of in-person and online classes, 98 students participated in the summer camps, which ran in August. And thanks to Shumka’s commitment to stringent safety guidelines, COVID didn’t make an appearance.

Developing a safety process for their summer camps has helped the company prepare for the year ahead, Tarnawsky notes.

“It was also a really good test run for us,” she says. “We learned a lot from doing the camps that really helped all of our other programs.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.