South Florida-based business owner, philanthropist, and dancer Ekandem Essiet has been in the choreography and dance industry for nearly 27 years. Having worked with Pitbull, Nicky Jam, Trina and Trick Daddy, Bobby Valentino, and Jae Holiday on Kings of Love Tour and Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz on the BET Awards. In addition, Essiet has worked with America’s Got Talent and choreographed the feature film Break The Stage.
Choreography and dance have fueled Essiet’s philanthropic efforts to assist dancers who have been affected by COVID-19 and now look for opportunities to earn during the ongoing crisis.
BLACK ENTERPRISE had the opportunity to speak with Essiet about the Miami Dancer Relief Fund, what has changed for dancers, and advice for dancers hesitant to pursue their dream amidst crisis.
What has changed for choreographers and dancers since the start of the pandemic?
There have been several changes. From the very beginning, the entire industry was shut down including TV, Film, and Stage. The shutdown took away a source of revenue and income not just for choreographers and dancers but for entertainers as a whole. The majority of dancers are 1099 independent contractors, which means you are getting paid per job.
Not being an employee made it very hard to apply for unemployment and for those that can receive unemployment it was very minimal.
What is the Miami Dancers Relief Fund?
I’ve always been very involved in the dance community. Some people lay foundations and other people that benefit from it. I always wanted to be a part of the foundation building by helping other dancers and choreographers. Leo Chavez reached out to me and asked if there was a way we could formally help out dancers. Miami Dancers Relief Fund, a community response to COVID-19 was born. We created a GoFundMe and began by reaching out to our contacts to start the donation process to receive assistance outside of our funds. It has gone pretty well with dancers receiving $500 a month through the program. It’s not a whole lot but it is something.
What advice do you have for dancers who are hesitant to pursue their dreams as a result of the pandemic and limited work?
I’ve always believed that if you work toward something and you push toward that goal it will make room for you. So if you’re training to be a dancer and trying to be the best you possibly can be then you’ll find your path. We can only control what we can control. We have to pursue our dreams regardless of the things happening around us.