Fitness instructors dance to demand NYC reopen indoor classes

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This rally had a little boogie.

Protesters from a Manhattan dance studio cut a rug in City Hall Park on Tuesday — as nearly two dozen women also representing yoga, barre and pilates facilities rallied to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio allow group fitness classes to go ahead.

Demonstrators from DanceBody, which has two studios Manhattan, performed a synchronized dance at the end event — and were joined in the jig by Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral hopeful Eric Adams.

“We are not asking for special treatment here. Let’s be clear, we are asking for the same rules and regulations as every other business that has been allowed to reopen,” said Katia Pryce, the founder of DanceBody, during the rally.

“It doesn’t make sense that in the greatest city in the world we forget about such an important industry. This is where the boutique industry was founded,” Pryce said, charging, “We have been forgotten because its female-founded and female-attended.”

Pryce railed, “We should’ve opened six months ago.”

In September, New York City gyms were permitted to reopen from their five-month-long, COVID-19-induced closures at limited capacity. COVID-19 safety restrictions involving indoor dining and cinemas have also been loosened.

But indoor group fitness classes remain barred under an executive order issued by de Blasio last August.

Katie Muehlenkamp owner of The Bar Method Brooklyn speaking to people protesting COVID policy that keeps Yoga studios and classes closed
Katie Muehlenkamp, owner of The Bar Method Brooklyn, speaking to people protesting COVID policy that keeps yoga studios and classes closed.
William Farrington

Amanda Freeman, the owner and founder of high-intensity pilates studios called SLT, said she had 26 studios pre-pandemic — half of which were in Big Apple. Nine of them closed for good since last March.

“Our studios can’t be open at all and we can’t do these workouts at home. Our business has been decimated by not being allowed to open,” said Freeman, who banded together with other owners and founded The Boutique Fitness Alliance to draw attention to their plight.

Adams, a noted fitness buff, said the rule “defies logic.”

“To be able to open a gym where you can lift weights, but not open a yoga studio where you can lift the stress off of you is just not fair,” said Adams, adding that he regularly starts off his day practicing yoga and meditation.

People protesting COVID policy that keeps Yoga studios and classes closed while gyms have been allowed to reopen
People protesting COVID policy that keeps yoga studios and classes closed while gyms have been allowed to reopen.
William Farrington

De Blasio defended the decision to keep indoor fitness classes prohibited during his City Hall press briefing earlier Tuesday.

“I care about the people who do that work and I appreciate the work and it’s about keeping us all healthy and fit. But it also comes with particular vulnerabilities, particular problems,” de Blasio said, adding, “I’ve had this conversation with the health team and they remain very consistent saying ‘not yet.’”

City Health Department Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi added, “Our goal overall with any activity when we’re trying to determine COVID-19 risk is particularly to look at those where people are indoors, perhaps unable to wear a mask consistently or have the mask, you know, get wet.”

“And also in groups. You know, those are the settings where we have seen COVID-19 spread. And those are the factors that facilitate that spread,” said Chokshi.

Dr. Jay Varma, de Blasio’s senior advisor for public health, said COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to group fitness centers around the country and the world.

Katia Pryce, CEO and cofounder of Dancebody speaking at CIty Hall Park
Katia Pryce, CEO and co-founder of Dancebody, speaking at City Hall Park.
William Farrington

Last month, a group of Big Apple yoga studios and other gyms filed a lawsuit against the city and state to allow them to reopen.

Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks



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