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Our Businesses in the Time of Covid: Versatile Arts still climbing high

Masked rigger and owner Beverly Sobelman getting studio ready for Phase 2 re-open.

Whether your motivation is strength training, dance, Pilates or learning aerial arts, Versatile Arts check all the boxes. Owned by Beverly Sobelman, a former Software Developer of twenty years, VA was founded in 2007 and is Seattle’s first full-time school dedicated to aerial arts for adults.

Since their initial debut, they have expanded to offer four separate studios, over 15 instructors, a youth program, hand-balancing, and flexibility classes. The operation is a member of the Circus Arts Safety Network and is structured around a thoughtful curriculum based on safety, technique, and of course, fun! Typically gym sessions, private lessons, and dozens of classes are offered daily, but this stopped when non-essential businesses were mandated to temporarily close due to the Corona virus outbreak.  

Initially VA paid staff for the months of April and May with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but in June about 25% was furloughed for various reasons. VA was able to pivot and has been offering online classes for some of the activities that can be safely done at home. In general Beverly says, “People are enjoying online classes” and this seems to be working for the interim. However, she often gets requests from students who want to add rigging to their homes. Beverly understands to appeal, but asserts that there are a slew of things to consider before attempting this. She is happy to have a conversation with anyone contemplating this, but it’s not a service that the VA offers and she will still defer them to professional riggers.

On June 5, 2020, King County was approved for a modified Phase 1, allowing for more businesses to reopen under specific guidelines. VA is taking a conservative approach and preparing to reopen the studio when King County is in Phase 2. In the meantime, they are taking safety measures for daily operations and instructors are getting use to training in masks. Beverly says, “There’s a cultural shift and wearing masks show that you care about the people around you.”

Also in the pipeline, registration is now open for their 2020 Youth Summer Camps. This is a new program that “gives students the opportunity to try many different circus disciplines, including tumbling, partner acrobatics, juggling, circus style hula hoops, as well as a variety of aerial apparatus. It’s a great chance to try something new and experience all the variety that circus offers.” The program is scheduled to begin July 13, but may be postponed to August depending upon Covid-19.

Lastly, VA is offering class credits for up to $100 with any donation receipt that supports social justice organizations for people of color. To learn more, contact the studio.

Visit https://www.versatilearts.net/ for updates and to register for classes.