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Coronavirus update: With no work and no money, background dancers put out SOS

Several dancers and choreographers got together to create a video appealing for help to keep going during the current countrywide lockdown.

Our Correspondent

The shutdown of the country might have been necessary to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is leading to a very difficult time for employees in the massive film industry. After reports of daily-wage labourers struggling for a living, a crisis looms for background dancers who have had no work or payment for two months now. A group of dancers has come together to put out an appeal for help as their savings are running out.

The video features a number of backup dancers describing their struggles as the lockdown continues. Describing songs and choreographed performances as a key part of Indian cinema, the dancers pointed out that it has become difficult for them to continue after two months of enforced rest.

Many also said that apart from Salman Khan's initial effort of Rs3,000 for each, there has been no further help. Considering that many of these dancers are the sole bread-winners for their families and also have to maintain a strict regimen and quality of life to be able to perform, the lockdown has meant sliding into a 'hand-to-mouth' existence.

The video also pointed out that most backup dancers seek to earn a living through television, reality shows and performances. With all shoots in limbo, most of these dancers do not have money to retain their homes. With some landlords threatening them with eviction and shootings still a long way from restarting, the dancers fear they might be out on the streets soon.

While the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE) is currently working to provide help to daily-wage workers in the film industry, it is unclear if background dancers qualify for the assistance.

There are two associations of dancers, the Cine Dancers Association and The All-India Screen Dancers Association, which clashed in 2018, accusing each other of misrepresenting the dancers. The FWICE later suspended the affiliation of the older Cine Dancers Association.

Cinestaan reached out to office-bearers of the two rival associations, but hasn't heard from any of them so far. This report will be updated as and when they respond. Veteran choreographer Saroj Khan was unwilling to comment.

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