Dancers discuss welfare issues

Chucknosis Kofi Teye Ayisa

The absence of an inclusive operational dance association has pushed dancers to engage in a discussion to improve welfare and professionalism in their sector.

In a discussion convened by Streetlight, a company that holds various dance competitions, at Batanai Gardens recently, it was a general consensus that there was need to lay foundations based on professionalism and good welfare practices to improve the sector for future generations.

The absence of such a foundation was outlined as one of the major reasons why the sector had not evolved, especially pertaining to the hip hop dance movement.

Over the years, many dance competitions have emerged and folded after a few tries, something largely attributed to bad management, financial difficulties and failure to capture corporate buy-in.

Speaking at the discussion Chucknosis Kofi Teye Ayisa, who is credited for being the first enthusiast to give urban dance its first short on national television over a decade ago, said the sector had not evolved.

“I’ve not seen the growth but its not your fault, because its an arts industry, its something that needs to be embraced by the nation for it to take off,” he said. “Many people don’t look at break-dance or dance in general as a form of business.”

Ayisa said the failure of dance to take off was because the art industry itself had not taken off.

“Dance has not grown from where it was 12 to 14 years ago because the arts industry in Zimbabwe itself has not taken off,” he said. “Back then we had Gramma Records and Metro Records where we had a system of how you can get your music out.

“Now we have a situation where artistes are not selling music, but only making money on stage because nobody is buying records.

“Where can you go to buy a CD of your favourite artiste right now, nowhere? These are the small things that killed the arts industry and you guys are just a drop in the ocean in that industry.”

Ayisa said dancers needed to go back to build a foundation.

“It starts from engaging the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Sports Arts and Culture,” he said. “They need to know that there is a whole lot of people that actually earn a living from this. Is Minister Kirsty Coventry aware of your efforts and existence, because she is the only one that can actually bring light to it”.

Ayisa said for the industry to thrive it needs buy in from top Government officials.

“You need to get an audience with the relevant minister so that they can understand where you are coming from,” he said.

“When the budget is presented, there is money for you guys in Arts and Culture and you can only benefit if relevant authorities know of your presence and existence and that’s maybe through a vibrant association”.

Celebrated dancer and choreographer Yeukai Chandiposa said the dance sector registered some growth.

“It is a tough job being a dancer because after over a decade of work we are still at a point where we need to prove ourselves when approaching a sponsor,” said Chandiposha.

“We have however, grown from the time when the whole dance industry was about by-city-your-city kind of clash; where you were booed just for coming from a certain city. Right now I have seen more collaborations.”

Chandiposha said it was still hard to get sponsorship because of past bad economics.

“Those who got sponsorship for competitions sometimes failed to account for funds and did not own up to promises even of sponsoring winners to participate at international events that would have as the ultimate prize for the competitions,” she said.

Stree-light is a brainchild of veteran dancer Blessing Fire, also known as  Bboy Christyles.

The organisation held one of its many dance competitions Umdanso at Theatre In The Park on Saturday.


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