Hi! We haven’t formally met. I am Ashley Shaunte. I am a media communications degreed professional, fashion stylist, AND performer. One unfortunate result of the pandemic is the loss of jobs and as a performer, you don’t receive unemployment. Millions of people’s lives have shifted. So how does life truly look for those performers during a Covid 19 lifetime?
The theaters are shut. Performances are canceled and many performers have no idea what to do. What used to be hours preparing for shows is now hours job searching and preparing for interviews. The countless hours of training and perfecting skills has now become hours of wondering and worrying if we would ever return to the normal that we knew. I spoke with one of the greatest celebrity choreographers in the world, Ekandem ‘E’ Essiet, who has worked with some of the greatest artists to date. He talked to me about the life of a performer – choreographer, dancer in this time and more. Check it out below.
Ashley Shaunte What does a typical day look like for a choreographer?
Ekandem ‘E’ Essiet That is definitely a tricky question. Depending on which project we are currently working on the days are drastically different. Majority of ‘working’ days begin with an early call time, around 630a or 7a, and a 12 hour or more shoot day. Rehearsal days usually consist of waking up and creating or reviewing concepts/storyboards before a 4-hr or 8-hr rehearsal.
On non-working days, I wake up every morning around 530a and head to the gym so I can then have the rest of the day to look into future projects, catch up with my agent, and check on the other business ventures I am currently a part of.
In either case, the best part of a typical day as a choreographer is that I get to do what I love each and every day; and when I’m not working I get to think about doing what I love, which is definitely a win-win.
Ashley Shaunte As a dancer, has much changed since the inception of this pandemic?
Ekandem ‘E’ Essiet Since the inception of this pandemic and the COVID-19 ‘season’ the entire entertainment industry quite literally came to a screeching halt. Saying that much has changed would be an understatement. Concerts, TV shows, theater performances, were cancelled and/or postponed for example. Production companies were limited as far as the amount of people they could have as a part of a project etc. Thankfully it seems as though the entertainment industry created a workaround in now promoting a myriad of virtual projects and as COVID is being dealt with or as we learn more about it, we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel; projects begin to open up and return back to normal or at least ‘our new normal.’
Ashley Shaunte What has been put in place for dancers to survive during this time when there aren’t many performances taking place?
Ekandem ‘E’ Essiet In the beginning, there actually wasn’t much, if anything, in place for dancers here in Miami during the hard times. For this reason, myself and another choreographer, Leo Chavez, decided to create the Miami Dancers Relief Fund, which provides consistent (although minimal) payments to dancers in an attempt to offer some form of financial assistance during this crisis period. Based on the application process and those who are approved and prioritized, checks of about $500 each are mailed out to addresses on file. Although we know we have only been able to service a low percentage of those affected, utilizing our contacts and the public support/donations, we hope we have been able to make even a minute difference in the lives of those in receipt of the funds.
Ashley Shaunte For those who want to start dancing but are afraid due to the times we are in, what advice would you give them?
Ekandem ‘E’ Essiet I sincerely believe that have a passion for dance or simply being a creative individual is a blessing. During the times I can understand the hesitation of those who believe a career in this path is tough. The truth is that it has always been a tough one. But the resilience consistent in all those who have proven to be artists has always been something I will continue to be in awe of.
I would tell all future dancers to continue to train, continue to love this craft of dance and continue to chase their passion. Because although it seems the path of the entertainment industry has changed, one thing remains the same; the love and necessity of the audience to be entertained. When you love what you do, the universe will find a way for you to continue to do what you love, you just have to believe it and train for that reality.
Ashley Shaunte What are you looking forward to this year as a choreographer?
Ekandem ‘E’ Essiet I am looking forward to the re-opening of concert venues, new TV shows, commercials, and the like. As things simmer down in reference to COVID-19, the need for entertainment will continue to reach a new plateau in which case our creative services and abilities will be expected to do the same.
I am also looking forward to working with new talented individuals, new artists, projects, and the challenges those will bring. This year will indeed be phenomenal for all creatives, and the passion I am sure we all share will drive us to new heights. Let’s go 2021!
Connect with Celebrity Choreographer Ekandem ‘E’ Essiet by following him on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/e_bnwent/
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