Cali’s salsa schools dance to survive amid COVID-19

Cali, Colombia, May 30 (efe-epa).- More than 100 salsa academies from the city of Cali, southwestern Colombia, on Saturday put together a virtual performance to collect funds and prevent the closure of independent schools, which have taken a severe economic hit from the coronavirus epidemic.

Dance performances, live orchestras and talks formed part of a nearly 12-hour long program through which young salsa artists hoped to collect around 500 million pesos ($135,000) in donations.

The funds from the marathon dance session will be handed over to the salsa schools left without economic resources during the COVID-19 outbreak, a health emergency which has infected over 2,400 people in Cali and killed nearly 100.

“Well, today we are holding an event called ‘Bailatón.’ It is an event where 100 city schools come together to collect funds to help us mitigate the problem we have economically,” Bryan Galvis, the spokesperson of the movement called “Salsa Lives and My School Too,” told EFE.

The dancers are hoping to use the strategy to help ease the troubles of salsa teachers who have been left jobless during the mandatory quarantine, while they help their students to not lose the rhythm.

“We want to prevent schools from closing… As a school, we were the first to close and we will be the last to open – that has brought us great financial problems,” Galvis added, referring to the restrictions imposed by the government on face-to-face classes.

Public utility bills and rents have continued to pile up to such an extent that dancers were forced to vacate their schools and take to other authorized economic activities in Colombia, which has registered over 28,000 cases and 890 deaths so far.

“We owe rent, services and payroll, and that’s why many schools have had to close. Now we dedicate our time to whatever comes our way, whatever works out. Some are selling fast food, others are working on construction, anything,” Galvis said.

Due to the lockdown, first imposed on Mar. 25 and now extended until Jul. 1, the dancers have tried to teach online classes, but said that the situation was equally difficult for the students’ parents.

Internet lessons have not been a viable alternative because very few young students are able to attend the virtual classrooms.

Galvin said the classes are not a success because there are more children who miss them for lack of payment than those who actually attend.

To be able to benefit from the funds collected via the initiative, the academies need to fulfill certain criteria such as being legally registered, having a physical office, presenting public utility receipts and being ready to artistically support the activities of the movement.

If they are able to keep the schools afloat, the dancers expect to continue popularizing the profession and strengthening the cultural process in the city, which is popularly called the “world capital of salsa.” EFE-EPA


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