I’ve been a professional flamenco dancer for over 20 years. The pandemic was really hard on me and all artists. It cut us off from the public and really reduced our incomes. The help I received saw me through the lockdown, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the crisis, it’s that we need measures that take into account the specific nature of our occupations.
I live in Lausanne. I’m 46 years old, I was born in Switzerland, and I’m the son of Spanish immigrants from Malaga. I’m very lucky because they always supported my desire to dance. I’ve always wanted to dance, but also to teach. For a long time, I 've also run a flamenco school in Geneva, in the Eaux-Vives area.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the authorities introduced support measures fairly quickly. As a self-employed worker, I’ve been receiving loss-of-earnings benefits from the Compensation Fund of the Canton of Vaud since March 2020. It's allowed me to survive but it doesn't even represent half of my usual income.
And then there’s all the administrative stuff. Before taking up dance full time, I went to business school, so I’m used to paperwork. But sometimes I felt like I had hit a wall, the red tape was so complicated. I don’t even want to think about what it was like for artists who aren’t used to that kind of thing!
France has a social protection system for intermittent workers in the performing arts. It’s a specific system that takes into account the particular nature of theatre, cinema and audiovisual occupations. We need support that is more adapted to our needs. I consider that we’re entitled to this. I think that we should be considered essential workers because what we do is essential for life.
A lot has been said about the role of culture during the pandemic. During the first lockdown, I really mobilized for my students. With my sister Sylvia, who’s also a flamenco instructor, we gave courses on all kinds of online platforms. On Fridays we even gave a cooking class. We felt that people really needed this. That was our role: to give them moral support.
But all this has taken an emotional and economic toll. Now that things are returning to normal, I’m far from having recovered the number of students I had a year ago. I hope that the social benefit support will last until at least into the autumn and the start of the school year.
I use lots of castanets for my shows. I have one pair in Plexiglas. They broke during one of my shows. I posted a picture on Facebook at the height of the pandemic to show how I felt. I still feel a bit like that.