German burlesque dancer helps out at a vaccination centre during the pandemic

By Agency

Champagne stands at the central vaccination centre in the German city of Hamburg. In normal times she performs at a burlesque club, but with everything closed due to the pandemic, she's now helping residents get their jabs. Photo: Christian Charisius/dpa

Despite the pandemic turning her entire life upside down, Eve Champagne hasn't lost her cheerful outlook.

In normal times, she's a dancer and the artistic director at a burlesque show in Hamburg, Germany. But after the clubs and bars in the Kiez, as locals affectionately call the northern German city's infamous party and red-light district St Pauli, were shut due to the pandemic, she's found a new way to keep busy despite the bleak times.

"It was love that brought me here. I'm having the pandemic of my life!" says the 36-year-old while standing in Hamburg's central vaccination centre.

She smiles behind the FFP2 mask as she talks about the man in her life, an event technician who also works in the Kiez. He's the one who encouraged and helped her to find other jobs when the coronavirus crisis suddenly put an end to her normal life.

"I started last year in spring as an asparagus picker when the harvest helpers couldn't come," Eve says. Then her boyfriend got her a job as a courier for coronavirus tests from Berlin to Hamburg.

But the drive takes about three hours one way, and Eve eventually decided to look for something else. That's when her boyfriend alerted her to the job at the vaccination centre.

"And since I'm a bright old gal and don't like to sit around, I figured I'd personally help end the pandemic by helping distribute the vaccine," the dancer says.

She is now part of the so-called Care Team at the centre that is located in Hamburg's vast trade fair halls. "I accompany the elderly through the entire vaccination process," she explains.

"And I have heard so many wonderful stories – from war veterans or old ladies on walkers who get all excited and want to see me on stage when they hear that I am a revue dancer."

Many of the elderly people coming to get vaccinated are lonely, Eve says. "And the pandemic has also made us artists lonely."

The dancer is happy about her job and with her colleagues. About 30-40% of the people she works with are also from the Kiez, she estimates. "In logistics, 80% are event technicians. They all have time at the moment and are keen to work here."

The job allowed her to finally see new faces again while also meeting up with old friends, the dancer explains. And it helps that she has no reservations. "I basically live outside my comfort zone because that's where you experience the most and meet the coolest people."

Those who come to get their Covid-19 jab enjoy the special atmosphere at the centre, Eve says. "When you come for an appointment here, it's pure entertainment. It's a lovely process."

From the bouncer at the entrance who usually works at a club in St Pauli to the sign-out area, most working here are from the Kiez.

Jochen Kriens, head of the vaccination centre, is surprised to hear that half of his employees come from the city's party and red-light district. But either way the mood is great, Kriens says.

The centre has the capacity to vaccinate 7,000 people per day – if there were enough doses, Kriens explains. A big if in Germany these days.

But all fun aside, Eve is less optimistic when it comes to the future of the Kiez and her industry, which she is certain will be changed by the coronavirus in the long run.

The dancer lives in St Pauli herself and has seen the swarms of tourists and revellers who usually crowded the district disappear first-hand.

"The only nice thing about it is that you can see the neighbours because the crowds aren't there and communication is working again. You now know who lives there."

Eve is certain that it will be hard for individual shops and business to survive and that they will be slowly replaced by mainstream enterprises. In addition, many of her fellow artists "have sought permanent work because they could no longer live the freelance lifestyle.

They now have the security of having health insurance and paying into retirement plans." And many would probably prefer that security even when things get going again after the pandemic ends.

The dancer is not afraid to admit that she's also enjoying the benefits of working five days a week and having weekends off.

"It would be great to be able to go out or be entertained myself for a change. But at least I get to spend the weekends with my partner, that would have never been possible before," she explains.

But no matter how comfortable her current life is, Eve is determined to return to show biz as soon as possible: Regardless of how long the pandemic lasts, giving up on her dream is out of the question. – dpa

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