Dancing for crumbs

HARARE - The worsening economic situation in the country which has seen prominent groups making major losses at shows, has badly affected dance groups.

Most dance groups are hired at various nightclubs, bars, private functions and even weddings where they said they are paid an average of $60 per showcase or even less.

A survey by the Daily News revealed that it was even difficult for dance groups to get a single show per week.

A dance group comprising five dancers said at times they are paid $60 per show; hence they share it among themselves.
“It depends on how popular you are, there are some dance groups which are paid more while some are even paid less, something like $30 per show.

“We are struggling as dancers and most promoters prefer to hire musical bands that usually come with their own dancers,” said one of the dancers.

Another female dancer, who also declined to be identified, said she was earning on average $10 per show.

“In the past this was fine because we could have more than one show per day but now shows are hard to come by. Now we are getting mostly one show per week,” she said, adding, “Is it surprising that some dancers are being forced into selling their bodies because of the situation. Most dancers are in this desperate situation except Bev, Zoey and Apama.”

A bar owner who preferred to remain anonymous said they usually give the dance groups a choice of whether to collect money paid on the gate or get a flat fee.

“The experience these dance groups have had in the past where not many people paid to get in has seen some preferring to be paid a flat fee.

“We are happy for them to take the gate takings, but they know they will not make as much so they settle for the flat fee because even if one person comes, I still have to pay the group.

“The economy is so bad that at times we just play disco music to cut costs, bringing a dance group is actually a bonus these days,” said the bar owner who said they paid anything from $40 to $80 depending on the act.

A male dancer from an all-male ensemble told the Daily News that both female and male dancers were bearing the brunt of the tough economic situation.

“We have been forced, all the four guys in our group, to share a room in one of the high density suburbs.

“Dancing is all I am good at otherwise I could have quit a long time ago. Most night clubs that used to give us work are struggling and as a result they now rarely hire us.

“If we are lucky we get a single show per week. When we share the money I hardly ever pocket more than $10 per show,” he said.

Former Dancers Association of Zimbabwe (Daz) board chairperson Paddington Japajapa who also used to run a dance group told the Daily News that he was forced to quit because his group was no longer realising any meaningful income.

“When I joined the industry some years back, there was excitement in the industry as dancers were motivated, but now the tables have turned. The industry is no longer lucrative and viable. As a result I quit in pursuit of greener pastures,” Japajapa said.

Daz president Hapaguti “Harpers” Mapimhidze conceded that most dancers were struggling.

“For the past 11 years we have been trying to improve the living conditions of our dancers but the economy is failing us.
“Indeed, several dancers are sharing a room, which is a sad development. We have engaged bar proprietors to increase the performance fee but they are also complaining about the economy.

“In general, the economy is not only affecting dancers but almost every ordinary person in the country so as Daz we are hoping that one day the economy will improve.

“What we are doing now is to keep encouraging our members not to quit. As tough as the situation is, we hope they will soldier on,” said Harpers.

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