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 Post subject: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 3:24 am 
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Quote:
Follow the Money

By JIM DOWLING
The Village Voice
April 20, 2004

Editor's Note: Dance makes great financial demands on young practitioners—and provides a very small return. Painters, writers, and composers can create their works alone in small studios, but a choreographer's raw materials are big rooms with resilient floors and highly skilled human beings.
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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 9:12 am 
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Location: San Francisco, CA
In case people missed the companion article also:

Quote:

The Etiquette of Dancing for Free
by Josephine Lee and Kimberly Bartosik

New compact transcends "amicable ambiguity"
April 20th, 2004 11:35 AM

Dancers expect a life of uncertainty. Thousands come to New York each year, prepared to make little or no money doing what they love. The major ballet companies and a few large modern troupes, such as Merce Cunningham and Alvin Ailey, have union contracts with the American Guild of Musical Artists that stipulate weekly salaries, health and dental insurance, supplemental unemployment benefits, and a retirement plan. But most downtown dance artists work with no benefits or protections, and until recently, talking about conditions was considered taboo.
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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 11:43 am 
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"Talking about conditions was taboo". Hmmm, from what I remember, dancers gripe about it constantly amongst themselves. But complaining to "management" was not done too much. I think the feeling was that the artistic directors often thought "if you complain, then I can get 50 other willing dancers to take your place who won't complain". I think if dancers didn't like certain working conditions or pay scales, they simply wouldn't take a job, or would quit. There didn't seem like much redress for grievances, in the "non-union" downtown dance scene.

<small>[ 22 April 2004, 01:45 PM: Message edited by: trina ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 12:11 pm 
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No kidding. I think that's the hardest thing is that every dancer is fully aware that they are easily replaceable.


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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 3:32 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Hat's off to the Village Voice for devoting significant column inches to this theme.

The Dance UK seminar "Paying for the privilige" addressed similar issues here a couple of years ago. A number of meeting with Government followed and then in a recent spending round a Minister mentioned the need to improve the conditions of dancers - so this sort of publicity can work.


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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 8:26 pm 
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Location: New York City
But you know what? Part of me says that if you want to dance, somehow you need to accept something about the fact that there are more people who want to do it than there is a market for. If you were an engineer in the same siituation, you would relocate or retrain for another job. So if dancers don't get into one of the big paying companies, or get a job on Broadway or ona cruise ship or something, they have to face that. As a very small-time choreographer, I hate it when dancers come and agree to work with me but are all frustrated with me because it's not a big company financial situation. And no one is paying me a salary to come up with the dances that put them on stage...

And having been a dancer and a choreographer both at different times, let me tell you, it is MUCH harder being a choreographer. I was never $65,000 in personal debt for my work as a dancer....you know what I would love? If dancers banded together and made repertory companies that commissioned choreographers. I could just come in and worry about making the dance, and someone else would take care of all the production and fundraising, and I would walk out with a small check that somebody else worried about where that would come from. And the dancers would have autonomy and self-direction as a performing entity. I often feel that frustrations are levied against choreographers, assuming somehow that they're the financial gatekeepers. I would love to see other models in place.


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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2004 10:13 pm 
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Fiona I agree in some ways. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I also have been both a dancer and choreographer. As a non-union dancer (the very large majority of modern dancers in the US), I would sometimes rehearse for weeks or months at a time for a pittance. Barely enough to pay my transportation to and from rehearsal. Other times I was paid a weekly salary as part of a contract. Oftentimes the quality of the work and the salary had no correspondence. Mediocre choreographers who knew how to write grants or had rich friends could get their work produced with ease. Later in my dancing career, when I had my own company, I was very adamant about always paying my dancers and when on tour, additional per diem. I did this out of principle; my peer choreographers often would not pay dancers. I too went into debt, and knew if I didn't recieve grants, would have to foot the bill out of my own pocket. IN the long term, this entire financial set-up is untenable. I just came from a modern dance concert tonight. Not important to tell you who, but this is a company which has just incorporated and celebrated their five year anniversary. They are experiencing exactly the same problems I/we did. I don't really know what the answer is. As far as Fiona's analogy about engineering, I disagree. A mediocre enginner can make a pretty nice living, thank you very much. Only the BEST of the best dancers stand a chance, and very few of those best can earn a living solely in dance. A sad state of affairs. But those who have the desire, will continue.


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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 4:59 am 
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Trina, you are right about the engineer analogy. I guess what I was reaching for is a way of getting people to look at the situation in a hard-headed way, rather than just keeping the stars in their eyes, and then blaming those around them for the way things are.

I never expected to make money from dance so in some ways I've been more at peace with it than some. But I have always tried to pay the dancers something - and I have never once payed myself as a choreographer for my own work. Any money we got always went to the dancers or back into the expenses of making the work. And it's never been enough for me not to go into personal debt. Other friends of mine who get more grants and funding than I do tell me it only gets worse once you get funded because then everybody's expectations go up...my good friend told me she always winds up $10,000 in debt after each concert, even though this year she had a fantastic, successful two-week run at the Kitchen!!


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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2004 7:35 pm 
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OK, I'm an engineer and a dancer --- probably a better engineer. Far too many mediocre engineers get jobs just because no one better is there to fill them.


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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Sat May 15, 2004 3:11 pm 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
Quote:
my good friend told me she always winds up $10,000 in debt after each concert, even though this year she had a fantastic, successful two-week run at the Kitchen!!
I have a friend who's not going to self-produce again until his/her* personal debt gets below $30,000.

Under the current model, as a lighting designer, I can't pursue my art unless and until someone hires me. If I'm lucky, we'll have a shared vision, but even then I often have to fight to be treated as a fellow artist rather than as a "techie"**

What I'd love would be to have the money to produce my own season: hire the choreographers I want, to make dances I want to light, with set and costume designers I want to work with. That's what I'd love.

<font size = -2>* No hints here

** I truly hate that word.</font>

<small>[ 15 May 2004, 05:16 PM: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

_________________
Jeffrey E. Salzberg,
Dance Lighting Design
http://www.jeffsalzberg.com


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 Post subject: Re: Dance Professionals' Struggle to Live and Make Art
PostPosted: Sun May 16, 2004 6:05 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
FionaM, I can see the problem for a choreographer/artistic director who has to face the frustrations of dancers working their butts off for little or no pay. Plus it is interesting/scarey to read about the levels of debt that dance makers face if they wish to follow their art.

In a UK context, I addressed this situation in my submission to our Parliament's Select Committee Investigation of Dance:

http://forum.criticaldance.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=3;t=000713

Here are the relevant sections:

****************************

The generally positive situation for UK performance dance has not come about by accident, but has been greatly assisted by the support infrastructure established here, largely driven by the activities of the various UK Arts Councils, such as ACE..... [a] vital factor is the grant system administered by the UK Arts Councils, which is essential for the survival of most of our dance companies and although the overall level of funding remains lower than that seen in many continental European countries, it is orders of magnitude higher then the USA. While the private and commercial sponsorship model seen in the USA works very well for the largest companies with social cache to market, the smaller and experimental companies there suffer from the shortage of public funds. For example, the leading American artist, Mark Morris, was able to start making large scale dance works, now seen as masterpieces, because of a three-year residency in Belgium with a funding system similar to that in the UK. It is very unlikely that these works would have been made if he had remained in the USA, owing to the lack of significant public funding for dance and the arts generally.

Thus, overall there is much to applaud in UK dance and its associated infrastructure. Turning to what can be improved for the future:

- UK dance continues to be a lean art form and many high quality companies, especially outside of ballet, rehearse in poor and sometimes unsuitable premises. Further, top dancers in these companies receive poor salaries. In 2001 at the "Paying for the Privilege" seminar, Emma Gladstone (Producer and programmer for The Place and freelance), told the participants that she had surveyed a number of dance artists on the subject of pay. Their maximum income from all sources was £14,000 pa, including those at the top of the independent dance profession. This compares with the average starting salary for a graduate at that time of £18,000 pa. While funding increases since then have started to address this problem, levels of public arts funding closer to those seen in countries such as France and Germany would enable a fairer salary to be paid to these fine artists who often represent the UK around the world.

****************************

The theme of pay conditions for dancers and by implication others involved in making dance was addressed by a number of the witnesses at the oral evidence meeting and the committee seemed to pick up on this and may make it a central point in their report.

I am at a loss to suggest a way forward for the US situation, without a fundamental change of approach to public funding. The difference between the US and Europe also means that we now see few of the smaller, newer US companies. Mark Morris came regularly in the early 80's when he was building a reputation. I can't think of a similar US instance from recent years.

<small>[ 16 May 2004, 09:15 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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