Dance Competition to be First Event at DECC Since Start of Pandemic

While DECC is excited to open back up, the dance community is excited that they might be getting platforms to perform again.

DULUTH, Minn.- For the first time since March, the DECC in Duluth will play host to an event once again this weekend.

The event is called the Ovation Dance Challenge, and capacity will be limited at the state guidelines of 250 people, with only family of the dancers allowed inside, and a livestream provided for anyone else who wants to watch.

“For this event Friday and Saturday there will be a max of 250 people that will be in this space and into Symphony Hall,” said Sue Ellen Moore, Director of Sales at the DECC. “There will be some family that will be watching their dancers perform but for the majority it will be livestreamed.”

Masks will be required for all who enter, and the stage along with the rest of the facility will be sanitized as often as every hour.

“In addition to that our staff will be doing a questionnaire every day before they come in taking temperatures,” Moore said.

But that staff will be greatly limited. Along with the eight full-time members on board right now, only about six more will come back, out of the 500 who normally work parking, admission, and other positions during events.

“We would have 500 people working on a normal Saturday. We have nine events going on, and we could have 20,000 people in the building so it’s been very quiet,” said Moore. Though, she adds, it allows staff to work on how they hold larger events in the future.

“It will give our staff a chance to work on our protocols and make sure that everything we planned and trained for we’re able to do really well as we’re looking to open with bigger events and bigger conventions this fall,” she said.

Meanwhile, having an in-person dance competition after so long is positive news for the Twin Ports Dance Community.

“I’m hoping this thing going on this weekend, that that’s only a positive thing for my show,” said John D’Auria.

Seeing this competition green-lit this weekend, D’Auria, founder of the Willie Kruger Dance Competition that’s taken place for the past nine years in Duluth, said he’s feeling more optimistic for his event coming up in November, even if it means looking different by livestreaming to an audience.

“If I have to at least do my show like they’re doing this weekend when they’re having the dancers and the family at least be there but no audience, I mean that at least gives me an argument that I can run my show the same way,” D’Auria said. “I would also rather have a show than not have a show.”

The Willie Kruger Dance Competition was held at the Encounter Youth Center last year, and at Grandma’s Sports Garden in years prior. It gathers about 30-40 soloists, about 10 dance groups, and 200-400 audience members.

If he can have the 10th Annual Competition this year, D’Auria says it will be his last. “This is going to be the 10th year and I’m going to wrap it up. So if I have to cancel it, which I’m hoping I don’t, I will probably do one more year just to wrap it up as the 10th one.”

“Because I don’t want to end it like this,” he said.

Still, he hopes the DECC’s event this weekend inspires others to hold a competition, giving dancers their platform again after months at home.

“This is a great thing for Duluth and other states as well because if they saw that Duluth is having one at the DECC then maybe other states in the Midwest will put them on and at least the dancers and the families will get out to do what they love,” he said.

And Moore, is just excited to have the DECC hopefully be the event hub for Duluth once again.

“This building is made to have guests and activities and typically if there’s something happening in Duluth it’s happening here. So when it’s safe and it’s time to open to bigger events we’ll be ready,” she said.

Also new this year, the DECC is now offering RV Parking next to AMSOIL Arena for $50 a night with electrical, and $40 a night without.  A potable water station is located on the north face the arena, but due to the pandemic there will be no access to restrooms or showers inside.

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