An eleventh-hour offer has saved same-sex dance studio Dance Cats from near homelessness.

Dance Cats founder Anny Salerni said a verbal agreement with the new owners of their Fitzroy home of 15 years fell through, leaving the studio stranded and without a place to practise from Sunday.

Salerni said she was told in July the building had been sold, but was assured by developers the Dance Cats Studio could remain for at least another year.

“We were given three months to move out but I was in negotiations with the new developers, who sounded like they were happy with us to stay on for 12 months,” she told the Star Observer.

Salerni — who also lives in the building ­— said it wasn’t until November 1, when she spoke to the new owners, that she was told the studio had to move out at the weekend.
“It was a verbal agreement. I feel completely duped, but pretty stupid for believing them … there was nothing in writing,” she said.

“For 15 years we’ve had a month-to-month lease with the old owners, so everything’s been really casual.

“I’m not just losing a business space, I’m losing everything. It’s pretty massive for me, I’m looking around at all the memorabilia and I’m getting teary-eyed. I’m the principal founder so it’s my baby.”

On Monday, Yarra Council threw the studio a last-minute, albeit temporary, lifeline. It offered the group a dance space for three months, at a discounted rate, at the council-run venue The Stables in Duke St, Richmond.

Salerni said she was relieved the council space came through, but that it was not a permanent solution.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said. “But it will at least get us through the busy summer with the Midsumma events and the [Australian] same-sex dance sports.”
While Dance Cats provided gay and lesbian dance couples a safe space to practise and perform, the group will now have to share its space.

“That will be the sad part, not having photos on walls, the gay flag at the back of the room and the iconic things,” Salerni said.

The studio says it will need all hands on deck to help it move this weekend, and a working bee will be held this Saturday from 10am to pack the studio’s 15 years of history into boxes.

The Dance Cats were the subject of documentary Ballroom Rules which aired on ABC TV this week.

INFO: If you can help out on Saturday,
call Anny on 03 9417 6072.

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