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EXCLUSIVE: Paul Ryder slams ‘unclear guidelines’ amid fears he’ll have to shut down stage school again

The former Ireland's Got Talent contestant fears the government's guidelines are knocking children's confidence

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Paul Ryder has slammed the “unclear” government guidelines amid fears he’ll have to shut down his stage school again.

The choreographer spoke exclusively to Goss.ie following yesterday’s government guidelines on COVID-19, where he urged the government to rethink their strategy in regards to restricting the numbers allowed partake in dance classes.

The former Ireland’s Got Talent contestant reopened his stage school Proud Dance Academy 4 weeks ago, and insisted that he has been adhering to all the guidelines thus far.

“I’ve been open for four weeks under the guidelines,” he revealed, “I’ve got more guidelines in my stage school than in a shopping centre.”

“My kids are two metres apart, no parents are allowed in the receptions, we have to sanitise, over 14’s wear facemasks on entry and exit… There’s so much guidelines and safety for the kids.”

Paul expressed his frustration at yesterday’s announcement: “I am angry, annoyed and upset but that’s just a normal day in this lockdown!”

“We’re turning into the UK now with their unclear guidelines. For so long, we were ahead of the game.”

“Leo Varadkar was ahead of the game, even if he was quoting Mean Girls – god he could quote RuPaul’s Drag Race for all I care – I still felt good about it.”

Pic Brian McEvoy

“The worst part of it is watching those kids walk back into the classroom with fear in their eyes because they’ve spent the last 3-4 months locked in their houses,” he explained.

“When they walk into a classroom, like a dance class, I’m seeing fear behind them and they’re afraid to talk in case they say the wrong thing in regards to COVID.”

“It’s pushing their confidence back even further so now with this to say they can’t go and do what they love, they can’t do the thing that gives them confidence…”

“It takes them out of normality for an hour a week, an hour that they can let loose and be themselves – it’s just a kick in the head. Yet 50 people can go to mass? Hold on a minute.”

“As per a gym, we are only allowed 6 people indoors and 15 people outdoors. Originally, if it was a controlled environment we were allowed 50 people outdoors,” Paul explained.

“Weirdly, Gymnastics Ireland have said their guidelines allow 15 people indoors. What confuses me there is that gymnastics uses mats and equipment, whereas dancers just use your feet.”

“I don’t berate gymnastics people because if that means they’re getting back to what they love – that’s great. But what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.”

“I currently have 70 children on my books… I will teach 5 kids per class for up to 15 hours next week if I have to just to keep those kids going and keep my business going. At the moment, it’s my only source of income – I’ve come off the COVID payment and I guarantee I won’t get that back.”

“I want the government to rethink this one measure because if kids are allowed back to school in two weeks, why can’t they enjoy a dance class which is some of their escapes? Some of my kids, it’s their favourite hour a week because they get to be themselves.”

“Me as a child – dance was my escapism because I could be my true me and not be worried about what bullies were going to say to me,” he admitted, “I hate the fact that some kids are going to have that taken away from them.”

“Kids social skills are so strained because they’re confused as to how to act in a social situation, and that’s so sad to watch.”

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Paul Ryder during the first Live Semi Final in Irelands Got Talent in The Helix

“The great thing about the Irish people, especially when it comes to showbiz and entertainment, is we will make a mountain out of a molehill – in the best way possible! We will take the smallest opportunity and turn it into the biggest show – we will do whatever we can to do that.”

“I really hope the government can see that this is good for children’s mental health and physical health, as well as their social skills.”

Paul revealed that he would be starting a new campaign #DontStopDancing to urge the government to reconsider their strategy.

“It’s one small step for the government #DontStopDancing – that’s what I’m trying to push forward over the next day or two.”

Picture: Brian McEvoy