By Faith Haushona-Kavamba
BY the time Anna Jason was knee high to a grasshopper, still mastering the art of walking without stumbling, she knew she wanted to be a dancer.
Her passion for dancing was reaffirmed in grade one, when members of the Childline Lifeline Namibia chose her to compete against other learners, dancing the Macarena and she won.
“Dance means everything to me; it’s a tool I use to express myself. When I’m dancing I feel like I am being the real me,” she said.
For the past seven years, since she was in high school, Jason has been pursuing a career as a professional contemporary dancer, focusing on house and hip hop genres.
“We first formed a group called JKL, but now we are called PHT. We all started dancing when we were in high school and spurred on by the fact that we would win dance competitions. Eventually we started dancing for musicians, we danced for Lady May and Berthold when they were still at school,” she said.
Jason and her crew boast an impressive resume, listing Faizel MC and Tequila as some of the locally acclaimed musicians they have danced for.
However, like many young dancers, Jason has been forced to reconcile with the fact that being a professional dancer is not a viable career choice.
“I thought I could dance on a fulltime basis but it doesn’t really pay….If I could take care of myself just dancing I would do it but I can’t,” the 24-year-old student who is majoring in marketing at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) said.
Jason however added that being a freelance dancer who is not signed under a label was a disadvantage to dancing in Namibia because being a back-up dancer means that the focus is on the musician and the dancers are just stage props.
“People do not comprehend and understand how hard it is to be a dancer. They take us for granted in the industry, which it is advisable for all dancers to have a plan B,” she lamented.
Fellow dancer Gideon Eiseb, popularly known as Chester, concurred, adding that sometimes they do not even get paid for dancing.
“Sometimes dancers are paid in alcohol, instead of getting money that they can use to buy bread for tomorrow or use to get the bare essentials they need,” he lamented.
Chester too started dancing when he was young and has danced for the likes of Gazza and the The Dogg. However he recently got signed to the Mshasho stable as a musician and got a contract with Exclusive gym where he will be offering dance classes.
“I would advise dancers to freelance because it means they work in comfort and can do things in their own time, dancing for an artist comes with a lot of pressure, however if you choose to dance for an artist you have to choose careful.. You have to choose one who has your best interests at heart and will help you grow. There are those who do not care about their dancers,” he said.
Sampriss Shiimi (21), who has been dancing professionally since 2010 said that it was possible to make a living off being a dancer, but like Chester agreed that it is best done as a freelance dancer because one would often to wait months to receive their payments dancing under somebody.
Newbie June Kaiko, who has been dancing professionally for two years was however more realistic, opting to pursue her studies while she danced because she believes making a good living from dancing alone is not possible.
“The industry is small, so it does not allow for you to make a good living, you need a plan B. People do not value dancers, they use you for their big gigs but they do not pay you…Artists forget that they can’t have a good performance without dancers,” she explained.
She said that apart from not being paid and valued, they are also accused of only dancing for fame and the female dancers are accused of sleeping with artists which tarnishes their reputation.
Kaiko concluded that the only way dance artists will be taken seriously is if they banded together and demanded to be treated better.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015