NJ nurse Julia Grygon simultaneously manages dance studio during COVID

NJ nurse Julia Grygon simultaneously manages dance studio during COVID

Throughout the pandemic, Julia Grygon works as a nurse in New Jersey while also running her own dance studio. Managing both roles this year came with a learning curve.
Published: January 26, 2021

Julia Grygon works as a nurse in New Jersey while simultaneously owning a dance studio.

Between virtual classes and increasingly low enrollment, Julia Grygon has faced various challenges owning a dance studio during the pandemic.

Working at a subacute and long-term care facility in New Jersey, Grygon is a nurse by day and dance studio owner by night. Juggling both roles throughout the pandemic, Grygon learned how to be resilient as a business owner while still holding onto her passion for nursing.

Grygon began dancing when she was two — dancing for three different studios throughout high school and two separate dance companies. While attending nursing school in 2009, Grygon decided to purchase the Steps & Pirouettes School of Dance, even though she didn’t have any background in business. Her lack of experience operating a business didn’t deter Grygon, she was motivated by the idea of sharing her passion for dance with children.

When New Jersey COVID-19 warnings began in March, Grygon decided to close her studio and begin virtual instruction. They did not open in-person again until the beginning of September.

During Zoom classes, Grygon said she would play the music from the studio for everyone to follow along, but the biggest challenge was the “lag in the Internet” between everyone’s devices. On top of that, many dancers had trouble mirroring her over Zoom and figuring out the moves right from left.

Currently back in the studio, the Steps & Pirouettes dancers are spaced out and at 25% capacity, while all of their routines have been altered to maintain social distance, Grygon said. Each dancer has their temperature taken before entering the studio and they wear masks at all times. Grygon said her guidelines are “very strict,” but everyone seems to have adapted well.

“Miss Julie tries her hardest to make it the best experience we can have,” said Angelina Hawke, a Steps & Pirouettes instructor. “She knows how to handle all situations that are coming her way. I am happy she was able to keep the studio open during the pandemic – this shows she really cares about her students.”

Dancer Isabella Buckley, who has been dancing at Steps & Pirouettes for 12 years, said while the restrictions are challenging, every instructor gives them more a lot more water breaks and time to adjust.

This year especially, spending time at the studio has given dancers like Buckley a positive space to turn to — away from any school or COVID troubles.

“Miss Julie is like a second mom to me. She always makes dance a fun time, and I enjoy classes because of her,” Buckley said. “The studio and all the girls are like a second house and family for me, and I love being there.”

Working with COVID patients throughout the day is often “depressing,” Grygon said, but being with her students each night never fails to brighten her mood.

“Holding a phone up to a patient’s ear so their family can say goodbye to them, seeing that like multiple times a day was stressful,” Grygon said. But, “there were some days where it was horrible and then like I got to come home and teach an hour ballet class, and I was just so happy after that.”

The Steps & Pirouettes dancers have always been a family to her, she said.

Because of the pandemic, Grygon said she has become a lot more creative – both on the instruction and business sides of owning her studio – and has a lot more confidence making decisions around the studio.

“It was a hard year, but it was a year of learning a lot of things about myself and what I want,” Grygon said. “As crazy as this year was, in a weird sense, I’m happy that it happened because I learned a lot of things about not only the business but myself and what I want and how I want things run.”