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>