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Out-of-work dancers ‘feel like bottom of the pile’ as Covid-19 wipes out jobs

(Billy Sawyer and Jorge Antonio)
(Billy Sawyer and Jorge Antonio)

A professional dancer says he feels he and others in the profession have been forgotten about as they deal with the disappearance of their livelihoods due to coronavirus.

Billy Sawyer, a dancer and teacher from London, is one of many in the industry who has lost work as theatres and other venues have shut down.

“During this time everyone’s turning to art to help them get through all of this, but what they’re not realising is that it’s the artists that are the most affected,” Mr Sawyer, 28, told the PA news agency.

Artists including dancers often work on a freelance basis, and not all are entitled to receive money from the Government due to rules on eligibility, such as when they started work.

“The sad part of it all is that we’re creative beings, we live job-to-job and it seems like we’re bottom of the pile,” Mr Sawyer said.

“We’re of course doing whatever we can to stay creative but it would be nice to feel as though we’re listened to and we’re being looked after.”

A relief fund, Dancer’s Network, is aiming to raise £15,000 in order to give 30 commercial dancers a £500 grant towards bills, food and housing costs.

In return for donations, Dancer’s Network will be releasing videos from choreographers, with routines planned from Zara Larson, Anne Marie, and the Kylie Tour.

Mr Sawyer, who recently performed at the Royal Albert Hall along with Emma Bunton, was intending to perform at this year’s London Pride event, which has now been cancelled.

He is running his own free dance classes, as well as Zoom lessons for £4 per session to keep himself afloat.

“Even when it comes to a food shop I have to be careful because I know full well that there is nothing when I look through my diary for the rest of 2020 as it stands,” he told PA. “It’s a bit of a tricky situation.”

Dancers Network says the pandemic has been “devastating” for thousands of dancers, adding that many “can no longer afford basic essentials”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Tuesday that the furlough scheme currently supporting 7.5 million jobs through the coronavirus crisis will be extended until the end of October.

The scheme, which pays 80% of a worker’s salary up to a £2,500 monthly cap, will remain unchanged until the end of July and then continue with employers expected to start footing some of the multi-billion pound bill.

Government assistance has also been offered for self-employed workers, but a number of restrictions on eligiblity mean not all are able to apply.

DN Dancer’s Relief Fund can be found at

https://www.gofundme.com/f/dn-relief-for-dancers-fund

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