The AFL has stared down a controversy over planned grand final entertainment at the Gabba, after objections were raised over a call for volunteers to perform at the match.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance were vocally irritated by the move from the AFL and production team Cochrane Entertainment to put a call out for amateur dancers over the age of 15 to be a part of the grand final show, without pay.
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The arts industry has been severely affected by the global coronavirus pandemic, with most live venues and performances put on ice by widespread bans on large crowds and gatherings.
The MEAA’s Sam Gaskin said the organisation was somewhat stung by the decision not to pay performers in a year where arts incomes have been dealt a crushing blow.
“We’ve had such a hard year,” Gaskin said in an interview with Channel 10.
“The AFL Grand Final is known as a big gig for many professional dancers. I feel like it’s a real representation of what we do and don’t value in this country.
“I’m sure the players are being paid. I’m sure the cleaners are being paid. I’m sure the people serving the pies and the beers are being paid.
“So why on earth would we expect our performers not to be?”
Australian choreographer asking dancers (who have lost pretty much their entire years wage in 2020) to dance for FREE at the AFL Grand Final because there is ‘no money in the budget’ for them but it would be a ‘once in a lifetime experience’. pic.twitter.com/mvUkVI6X0o— Christie Whelan (@Christie_Whelan) September 27, 2020
AFL defends volunteer dancer call-out
Amid a storm of criticism from the MEAA and other artists, both the AFL and Cochrane Entertainment sought to defend their decision.
Responding to the MEAA, the AFL said it had opted to call for volunteers in order to give the Queensland community a bigger opportunity to be part of the grand final fixture.
The 2020 grand final will be the first to be played outside of the league’s heartland in Victoria, which is contracted to host the event until 2057.
““With the 2020 AFL Grand Final being in Queensland for the first time, our executive producers Cochrane Entertainment and our production team have asked local Queensland community and amateur dance clubs and physie movement groups to take part in a mass activation that is in addition to organising paid singers and musicians to perform on stage,” the AFL said in a statement.
“Having the community involved in our biggest day is important and the choreographed activity that will be undertaken by hundreds of volunteers was designed to involve community members and amateur dancers.
“It was never intended or designed as a performance by professional dancers and no professional or paid dancers were approached to be involved in the segment.
“Having volunteers or community groups involved in on-ground mass activations is something that we and other major sports and major public events have been doing for decades and is in addition to paying professional musicians and singers to provide entertainment on stage.”
Cochrane Entertainment also responded to the criticism in similar fashion, defending their decision not to recruit professional dancers on the basis of involving the community in the event.
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