In 2016, an Instagram rant by popular Nigerian choreographer, Kafayat Shefau, popularly known as Kaffy, revealed the shoddy manner Nigerian musicians treat dancers. Ever since, the Guinness Book of World Records holder has been at the forefront of demanding for the rights and adequate welfare of indigenous dancers.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the mother-of-two lamented the
misconceptions the public has about dancers and choreographers among
PT: You have always been outspoken about the welfare of Nigerian dancers. Has there been any improvement?
Kaffy: There has been an improvement from when I became a professional dancer in 2006. For me to have gotten to where I am today, it is because doors have been opening and people have begun listening to and respecting our industry. We can’t get everything right all at once, so we will take it one step at a time.
In the beginning, nobody paid us (dancers) any attention or believed that we deserved to be paid for our services. This is why we expanded the service scope as dance practitioners. That way, the demand and supply has become quite remarkable.
PT: In what ways do you intend to improve the welfare of indigenous dancers?
Kaffy: What we are still trying to do is to expand the dance enterprise. We are teaching dancers that there is so much they can do beyond dancing on stage. We are trying to sensitize dancers and investors that the scope of music is now very wide. We want these potential investors to understand what their return on investments may be. This is because the major question I get from investors is what they will get in return if they invest in a dancer. Most dancers seeking investment always ask how best they can pitch their brands to investors and we have been tackling their inquiries.
PT: There appears to be a lot of misconceptions about Nigerian
dancers. Why is this so?
Kaffy: These misconceptions you are talking about aren’t an exclusive
preserve of dancers. A major misconception people have about the
entertainment generally is that it exposes you to a lot immorality and vices. When you tell someone that you are a dancer they automatically assume that you are a prostitute and a promoter of nudity and sensuality. But I know that scandals are also prevalent in banks, hospitals and churches- it’s even worse in churches.
As a dancer you are just exposed because your sensuality is in play all the time. People tend to watch and pay attention to you all the time and that might attract a lot of various advances. But as a dancer you still have a chance to reject or give in to advances. Irrespective of how dancers portray themselves in music videos, they are just doing their job, which is to crystallize the actual message of the music.
PT: But some critics may argue that your dance costumes suggest otherwise.
Kaffy: Whatever you see dancers do or wear in a music video is only meant to portray the message of the song. You don’t expect me to put on a flowing gown in a music video that is supposed to portray love, sex or sensuality, or expect me to wear an outfit that wouldn’t be free for me to express myself effectively in the video. The way we dress is just for us to be free while doing our job and convey the actual message we are supposed to in the video.
PT: What do you think is the major challenge confronting your industry?
Kaffy: The problem with the youth right now is that they are eager to make money meanwhile they are not investing in improving their skill-set. There is an absence of mentoring platforms for dancers and this is why I am all about creating empowerment channels for them.
PT: Some budding dancers might wonder if they can possibly eke out a living dancing?
Kaffy: Dancing is very lucrative, I can tell you this for sure. You need a lot of discipline to excel as a dancer. You need to apply a lot of basic business principles and this is one thing a lot of artistes do not do. I even had to learn it the hard way.
So if you do not discipline yourself as dancer, no matter how lucrative it is, you would finish that money and not grow.
As a dance artiste, you need to be sure that this (dancing) is what you want to do and then keep reinventing yourself. I just let out the trade secret to longevity in dancing.