PANAMA CITY – Dancers and artists performed on Wednesday on one of the main avenues of Panama City to demand formal recognition of the work of dance, the importance of which they say is historically relegated and even more so in the pandemic.
Men and women wearing brightly colored clothes performed for half an hour on Via España avenue, near the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture, the focus of the peaceful protest called by the Union of Dance Artists (Sadanpa).
The dancers claim that they are in “legal limbo” – lacking legal basis for their work, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it difficult to generate income.
“We dancers are unable to generate income, that is why we are fighting for our rights,” Jorge Rivas, a Latin rhythm dancer, told EFE.
Rivas said that he has had communication with other artists who are experiencing the same problems.
“This is quite difficult for people in the artistic world… We are trying to reinvent ourselves in the sense of holding virtual performances, but it is not the same. It is contact with people that we need,” added Rivas, certified as a judge in world competitions by the World Salsa Congress in Puerto Rico and organizer of the Panama Salsa Congress.
Felix Ruiz, communication secretary of Sadanpa, told EFE that they were fighting “not only to be seen as an addition to society, but as a fundamental part” of its development.
In a statement, Sadanpa indicated that the pandemic has been a difficult time for dance artists, who anticipated that they would be the last “to go back to work” amid the economic shutdowns, and denounced that “that laziness and the null recognition of their work are the true virus that has always persecuted the sector.”
“We have no guarantee from the government or from any state entity to safeguard the artists’ position. We continue to graduate professionals from the (state) University of Panama who do not know if they are going to have a job. That is, we live in the shadow of informality,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz attributes the situation to “legal loopholes that impede the proper development of artists in the country,” which, as in the case of dancers, contribute a lot of money to large companies, the media and large event producers, but remain “in limbo always charging pyrrhic salaries,” even below the minimum wage.
“We want that formality because people are studying in universities to be professionals of culture, art and they don’t have that. We want new ecosystems because we don’t want to depend solely and exclusively on the Ministry of Culture.”
The Ministry of Culture reported that the head of the office, Carlos Aguilar, met on Wednesday with representatives of about 20 artistic and cultural groups and guilds to formalize work on a law to improve the conditions of artists from various disciplines throughout the country.