Dancing zookeeper now thinks differently about the nature of humans

“I texted my friend on a Saturday morning and said, ‘Giraffe Cam, 10am’. I just improvised on the spot. The most frequently asked question is: what was the song? There was no song. There’s just me having a good time in my head, thinking my only friend was watching. Not realizing that someone had recorded it on screen.

“A few hours later, a colleague sent me a message with a link saying ‘do you know you’re on the front page of Reddit’?”

The Australian media picked up on it, then it went around the world, via the BBC, CNN and others. It was a necessary tonic, a moment of fantasy for a spooky planet.

“I came home and my roommates said, ‘Here’s a preview of the blanket.’ I walked through the door and my face was on The project. What shocks and surprises me is that 99% of the reaction was healthy. The internet can be a cruel place, but it just put a smile on your face, especially in those early days when we were all so scared of what was really going on.

“I got a lot of digital and literal fan letters in the mail, from people who wrote to say, ‘I lost my job today, because of this pandemic, or the closure of my business, because that no one knows what’s going on. And I turned on the television and saw that. And you made me smile.

“Beautiful. It was just nice.

For Victorian tourism, it’s been two years of catching up with disasters, with figures from Tourism Research Australia showing a 69% drop in tourism spending in the 12 months to March 2021, wiping billions of dollars from the economy.

The dance that went viral during a pandemic and made Adam Porter an internet sensation.

There were the bush fires that turned the summer of 2019/2020 into a hellish landscape. And before we could take a breath of smoke-free air, came COVID-19.

Behind the startling dollar figures of the collapse lie the livelihoods of people like Adam Porter.

He remained employed by the zoo, where his role as a presenter of live animal shows became a behind-the-scenes job looking after primates and reptiles until March of this year. He took a second job at URBNSURF, the surf park in the landlocked town near Tullamarine whose short life since opening in January 2020 has been constantly disrupted.

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Right now, he’s on leave from both jobs, and it happened just as he and his partner Luke bought their first home. His only income is the COVID-19 disaster lump sum payment.

“I work for two very different organizations in this category of tourism. One is from Melbourne, the other is very new and in its infancy. But I was very lucky to work for them. It’s just that opening and closing thing, but the people I work with are wonderful. If anything, it just made us stronger.

“But we are a cultural city. For someone who comes from the performing arts background and moves in circles of other performing artists and sees how they’ve been decimated in the industry, it’s just shocking, and it still happens.

“I was just very grateful to have a job. I try not to think too much about the financial element. The decisions I’ve made to be in the position I’m in now, I hold on to. It’s good to feel uncomfortable, but I trust the reasoning and decisions I’ve made about why I am where I am.

And when the going gets tough, he always has that famous dance to remember. He thinks it’s a moment that changed him forever and for the better.

“One morning I got up and read all the comments – even if they say never read the comments – and for the first time in my life, at almost 30 years old, I actually accepted who I was, ”he says.

“For that moment, I was just me, randomly dancing for a friend, and the world kissed him.”

Three questions

What did you miss the most in life before COVID?

See friends, theater and live music.

What’s your best containment strategy?

Check with yourself. Do you need to move? Drink more water? Move away from a screen? And if in doubt, take a walk.

Was there a silver lining?

You can still sing in the shower. Many one-act musicals can be performed in the smallest of bathrooms.

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