What a difference a week makes. During the last week of May, all of our West Coast Swing students had to wear masks during their classes. They have been using masks since we reopened in September—9 months. However, on Thursday, June 3, our class was able to dance maskless and resume social dancing because all of the students were fully vaccinated. This allowed us to make our classes into a vaccinated-only environment. 

The COVID pandemic has been very challenging for the partner dance world because hand touching and close proximity are normal. We were able to resume partner dancing in October 2020 (we had solo dancing in September) through strict usage of masks and hand sanitizer. As the vaccine began to be administered in early 2021, more and more students were getting fully vaccinated. I watched as each week a higher percentage of our classes was fully vaccinated. By the end of May, almost the entire class had done their vaccination rite of passage. 

It felt wonderful to see students remove their masks in the studio. Some did it quickly, as if celebrating a victory of freedom. Others proceeded more cautiously, determining their own comfort level. By the time we started class, all the students were mask free and ready to dance. I, too, felt strange not teaching with my mask on. My voice didn't echo the same way it did as when I wore my microphone inside my clear mask. The best part was that I could breathe without restriction. I enjoyed watching everyone learn and social dance with an air of freedom. 

One of most interesting experiences I had that day was seeing many students' faces for the first time. You see, some of the new students started during the last 9 months, and I had never seen their faces. I look forward to getting to know them, including their faces.