Nigeria's Dance Queen, Kaffy took to social media last week to slam artistes who disrespect dancers and all that they stand for. This caused a media storm as she said it like it is, without holding back.
She stood as the voice for other voiceless dancers who have been ill treated and oppressed and said the time has come for a proper structure to protect themselves. Now, while some people hailed her bold step, a dancer in her industry lashed out at her.
"To be honest she's guilty of the same thing she accused the artiste of doing. You can't be the only creative director/choreographer for all the artists in Nigeria,Give people opportunity," dancer Micheal Omani said.
In a tell all exclusive interview with LIB, Kaffy speaks about the situation and gives an insight that you'll find no where else. Definitely a must read! Continue below.
LIB: Your explosive lash out at artistes who disrespect dancers generated more controversy than expected. A dancer is accusing you doing this for selfish reasons. What do you have to say about this?
Omani is not in the class or category of dancers that have the right to talk to me. I have never worked with him for him to have a personal beef for me. If he's making accusations against me based on what he heard about people, that is hearsay.
LIB: He said that you need to give people opportunity and not be the only major choreographer in the dance industry. Your thoughts on this?
First of all, if you are really better than me, you are doing better than me or you know that you dance even better, i think you owe it to yourself to get to where you want to be. I do not hold anybody's destiny. All i do is create platforms. When i started doing this dance, nobody was bold enough to come outside and say they where dancers few years ago. I created platforms and give everyone an opportunity, Every single person that has made something out of dance today - passed through my path or learnt something from me till today.
LIB: He also alleged that you don't pay your dancers? Any truth to this?
For you to allege that i don't pay dancers, first of all, am i the owner of the job? We actually recently had a meeting of top choreographers that have had enough of the indiscipline of dancers. You want to earn more money but you are not ready to put more work into it. You want to be where Kaffy is, but you are not ready to suffer what Kaffy is suffering. Some of the deals i contract that have gotten me to where i am today were done out of help and sacrifice. Not all of them paid me money. Some of them have big names but terrible budgets. But these dancers don't know that. They see a high profile job, they think you've made a lot of money from it. now when you give them the same opportunity to do such a job side by side and present the budget that comes with it, they think you are cheating them.
That is even an issue that can be addressed if dancers are one. if we have dance seminars, forums or organisations or associations set up, we can discuss these things internally and fix it. But blaming me for whatever wrong happened to you or your friends is totally uncalled for.
LIB: Allegations were also made that you cut dancers, including their pay, before they climb the stage - at the last minute. What do you have to say?
"I do not cut dancers money before the stage. Who does that," Kaffy exclaims! "I have never had such a situation before. It's totally impossible because you need to plan your budget to know what you are going to pay the dancers, way ahead. We are in an industry where things are always done last minute. But not that kind of last minute that it would be behind a stage, It's not possible. If a dancer is cut before he climbs the stage, it's either he sucks, did not do well or was terrible at the last rehearsal, injured or misbehaved, i.e when they are caught in a fight. Sometimes its the artist who can make the last minute changes. Choreographers rehearse as many people as possible, so that when it comes to choosing. We wont have to spend much time. You cant buy back time. We tell the dancers, "On that day, you fit make am or you fit no make am, If the artist come, he go choose oh".. So if the artist doesn't choose you, its my fault? Its not."
"I don't cut dancers if its in my power to do so. There is a code of conduct, There are so many immoral, ethical issues that we are dealing with which these dancers are ignorant about. Then they come and complain about we their leaders are cheating them because they don't understand the structure of the business. Then when they decide to set up on their own and see the issues, they come calling back because they realized Kaffy no chop their money."
Its not all jobs that come with a lot of money.These same dancers are the ones that want more money but are not doing better, Most dancers cone with the IQ of 'I don't want to audition, You know i sabi dance, etc.' They want to be hired without auditions. I was the first person that ever paid the highest amount to any dancer in this country and when i started paying dancers in 2000/2002, i remember Very well that i started paying at least 5k per shows, People older than them collected 30/40k. I even remember negotiating 50k for a particular female dancer, who later went behind my back, slept with the artist and got paid 10k. This of course brought down her value." You tell these dancers. Especially girls, the manner in which you behave determine a lot of things. If you ace too loose around an artist, when he acts inappropriately, like smacking you in the bum, you will be wondering why. What can't they try it with me? Also, while some of the loose ones sleep with them to get the job, they eventually get disrespected but will now be vexing for me. Some of these girls do 29 to 39 videos a week. If you never blow after that, how is it Kaffy's fault?
Dancers will go and claim to clients that they taught me my Job. All because they want to collect work. Dancers I trained would say Kaffy is too expensive and that they should be hired instead for a cheaper fee.
LIB: Omani claims that you housed dancers but put them in one room and did not take care of them well. Any response to this?
'I started putting dancers in my house since i started dancing back in 1997,' Kaffy reveals. They are fed in my house and get free clothes, other stuff. 17 - 19 people at one point lived in my house. I'll go out there to seek for Jobs that they get paid for. Yet, they don't even bother to make a contribution towards the running of the home. They can't even clean themselves up. 'Common hygiene they no fit do.' Won't you one day caution them if they misbehave? 'Some don't even live in Lagos but i harbour them to help them.
"All off us dey struggle, Me sef i stay for person house, sleep for floor before. How is that a bad thing? You stay in my house, earn money. is it my own work to go to the kitchen and cook for you? or help you clean up?"
I had to send a lot of them way. There are only three of them now, that are dedicated and working based on my conditions. It is my home. I have a family. You can't come and treat my house anyhow. They sometimes play immoral truth and dare games in the living room of my house, where there are children and you expect me not to complain? When i was single, i did not condone such behaviour. Even Indian Hemp smoking has been reported by neighbours and more. Because i am trying to reform dancers. A lot of dancers i stared working with are street kids. I see that dance is what they have, but when they work with one or two clients that like them, they cut you off and make you seem like a bad person.
"You staying in one room is not a prison. I offered it you. Should i bring you into me and my husband's room? Or put you in my children's room? Sometimes i even inconvenience my kids and allow the females i trust a lot to share the room with them. I want to help you doesn't mean i want to spoon feed you. I am only trying to help you professionally and not add your personal problems to mine. When opportunities come, i will assist. But they don't come by you siting your ass down. It comes by you working your ass off."
LIB: In conclusion, you basically said it is high time to end the unethical and unprofessional way dancers are being treated. That a proper structure will be put in place to cater for other voiceless dancers who have been ill treated, marginalized or oppressed. Has this now kicked off? What is being done to secure more respect for people in the dance industry?
We are working on it right now. Lawyers are trying to figure out the name at the Corporate Affairs Corporation. People have come forward to offer support and more for any process that we need to put the structure in place, I have names out and lawyers are doing the search and will get back to me soon. Apart from that, there is a guild of Nigerian dancers that is also available, so whatever one works for you, you can join whichever. Those that hate Kaffy should not come to me. if you don't like me, you cant understand my mission and policies. The dance industry needs a system that dishes out information, awareness, seminars to educate the dancers. Even if they don't want to join a crew or company or association, at least info is online, What to do, how to read contracts, etc.
I know inside my heart that I have suffered and slaved for dancers. We are trying to create a body whereby all these policies that we need to have a better understanding between dancers - artistes, dancers - dancers, dancers - clients and more, will be actualized. Their mode of operation, ethical and professional conduct and all will be put in place. When you sign up or register, you are protected by all these policies. We are also trying to create a body whereby we would have Nigerian and International experts come in and certify you based on what you are good at. Categories will be set to determine minimum to maximum wage, to create balance in the industry.
"This is not a Kaffy thing. It's not an association of Kaffy's dancers. I will do my best. It's not unusual to have people come at you, I don't expect everyone to support me. In life there are people that like and dislike you. The fact that more than a thousand people support the motion show that it is truly needed. Those are the people I am catering for. The future will convince those that don't like my ways."