By Ali Bauman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Rehearsal studios across New York City are back in business as performers prepare to return to the stage after more than a year on hiatus.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman visited one studio space in Queens that’s helping artists get back on their feet.

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The rehearsal rooms at RWS Studios in Long Island City are finally full of life again.

“Studio rentals have begun. We have regional theaters, national tours, Broadway shows booking here in our studio space,” said Ryan Stana, CEO of RWS Entertainment Group.

Ahmad Simmons, a prolific Broadway dancer from the original cast of “Hadestown,” was performing in the “West Side Story” revival before Broadway shut down last year.

“A lot of people came in to New York to do that show and have now since moved back home or to where they were before,” he said.

He’s working on an independent dance project in the studio space while he waits for “West Side Story” to announce its decision on reopening.

“It just felt like a breath of fresh air to be in contact with people again. Like, I needed that so, so much this past year,” Simmons said.

READ MORE: Broadway Theaters Can Reopen At 100% Capacity On Sept. 14, Gov. Cuomo Says

The pandemic stripped so many performing artists of their jobs and their communities.

“I had a year’s worth of work lined up, which doesn’t sound like a lot to people with permanent jobs, but for people in the arts, that’s kind of a big deal,” choreographer Kristen Brooks Sandler said.

Busy rehearsal studios bring hope for the entire industry.

“It’s cool to see the spaces fill up, to call a studio and be like, ‘Hey, do you have space?’ ‘Oh, we’re booked.’ ‘I wish you weren’t booked, but I’m so happy you’re booked,'” Simmons said.

“This is the first time we’ve gotten to have a lot of people in a space together and that’s very special,” Sandler said.

Typically, rehearsal space at RWS Studios could cost an artist up to $90 an hour, but to help them get back on their feet, the studio is letting artists make their own prices.

“Rehearsal space for production, theater or film, can blow the budget,” Sandler said. “So being able to come here and not have to spend that money, that much, that frequently, has made me a better artist. It’s made me a better choreographer.”

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So with a little practice, the stage is set for theater’s return to New York.

Ali Bauman