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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 9:21 am 
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Additionally, the contract option allows dancers to guest, teach and perform in galas during the offseason, whereas most fulltime staffers have to work evening jobs to make additional income. So, in a way, in addition to legal consideration, the contract option is beneficial to dancers.
Unfortunately, this is not always true and is becoming more and more a thing of the past. Many artistic directors here in the USA and in Europe do not easily allow their dancers to go and perform in Galas and guest for other companies, even during layoffs. Lots of times it is written into the contracts that they can't do that. Many AD's argue that it is a workmans comp issue because what if the dancer becomes injured while they are guesting. My answer to that is always, "well, pay them enough money where they don't have to suppliment their income". :mad: $30,000 a year before taxes on average is not enough moeny to demand exclusivety.

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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 10:08 am 
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Perhaps I'm misinformed, but it is my understanding that during layoffs, dancers are officially unemployed. and can collect unemployement benefits. Which means that the dancers are not under contract, and so the companies cannot dictate what they can and cannot do. And also that injuries during that time are not covered by workman's comp. Though I'm sure they can influence what a dancer does and doesn't do.

Now, during season is a whole different issue. I remember reading that one of the issues that lead to Ethan Stiefel's departure from NYCB was his inability to get permission to do guest appearances during 'Nutcracker' season.

Still, there certainly seem to be a lot of dancers from the big companies like NYCB, SFB, ABT, PA Ballet etc. and smaller companies who guest for other companies and in Nutcrackers etc., in and out of season. And ABT & NYCB has and will have dancers from Russian, Danish, Dutch, British and other European companies dancing with them.

Europe is a different matter, because many of the big, national companies have year-round performance schedules with a month or two off in the summer. So dancers have less time when there are no rehearsal or performance committments. And contract are different as the money comes from the government, often along with pensions at relatively young ages.

Kate


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 7:08 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
Quote:
Originally posted by ksneds:
it is my understanding that during layoffs, dancers are officially unemployed. and can collect unemployement benefits. Which means that the dancers are not under contract, and so the companies cannot dictate what they can and cannot do. And also that injuries during that time are not covered by workman's comp.
That is correct for US companies.


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 7:18 pm 
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Location: SF Bay Area
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Originally posted by osiris661:
Many AD's argue that it is a workmans comp issue because what if the dancer becomes injured while they are guesting.
You make good points, Osiris, but the workers comp issue is a very ugly one. All companies, including for-profit businesses, have seen escalating costs beyond their control. Another is liability insurance. It almost hardly make sense for some ballet companies to be in business now, with a HUGE portion of their budget going to workers comp and insurance -- it's like the companies exist only to contribute to these two money-sucking elements.


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 7:40 pm 
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Location: New England
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Now, during season is a whole different issue. I remember reading that one of the issues that lead to Ethan Stiefel's departure from NYCB was his inability to get permission to do guest appearances during 'Nutcracker' season.
This is a perennial problem throughout the ballet world. For a given male dancer at a certain level, someone will ALWAYS pay him a LOT more for guest Nutcracker appearances than his company is able to pay him week-in, week-out for the rest of his dancing.

I've seen guys with no more than 1 or 2 years professional experience get payed up to $1000/show for Nutcracker guesting, plus travel expenses. A weekend can net 3K EASILY. For a company in which the entire Nutcracker season pays only $3-6K, this is nearly irresistable for the starving dancer. Almost always, the company paying huge sums for guesting is not of same caliber as the "home" company.

Ethen Stiefel made a LOT more than that, both for dancing at NYCB and for guesting. But the math and incentives are still the same. And when the next Spring rolls around and high-priced guesting opportunities have evaporated, you will certainly get hired back for the regular (non-Nutcracker) season, which is more interesting anyway. Because they need men.

It's perverse, but there is a real disincentive to stick around with a quality company for Nutcracker. There are no easy answers to this problem but all companies face it. NYCB sought to draw the line on this kind of guesting, and they lost Ethan Stiefel for it. That may not have been such a bad management decision, given NYCB's tradition and heritage. In Balanchine's time, Balanchine himself was the only irreplaceable person at that company.

The other big guesting opportunities come in the late Spring, when all the semi-professional shows go up. If you can do Swan Lake and Coppelia and the rest of the standard classics on moment's notice, you can make a lot of money in may and June that way as well.

For a dancer who was nothing like Ethan Stiefel (but still quite competent), I've seen men make a steady $30-40K/yr just from guesting --- and that's only working maybe 12 weeks out of the year. Once you've made a string of contacts, you can just do them year after year, like any other consulting lifestyle. No ballet company can compete with these prices on a regular basis.

On the other hand, everyone seems to agree that guesting around is not as rewarding, artistically, as dancing regularly for a company.

Quote:
And ABT & NYCB has and will have dancers from Russian, Danish, Dutch, British and other European companies dancing with them.
Does NYCB do this? If so, it's a departure from their past tradition. ABT is well-known for bringing in and promoting stars from around the world. That's what makes them distinctive as ABT. But historically, NYCB has sought to work with its own company.


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 7:50 pm 
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Location: New England
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My answer to that is always, "well, pay them enough money where they don't have to supplement their income". $30,000 a year before taxes on average is not enough moeny to demand exclusivety.
I'm sure that AD's would if they could. But they can't because the money isn't there. Therefore, the pragmatic AD is always happy to see his dancers make money without sapping his budget. Of course, many ADs do not see things this way.

Here's some consolation: the vast majority of guesting opportunities are for men. And it is those very same men who have significant bargaining leverage, even without a union, to be allowed to guest. In ballet, any reasonably competent man can ALWAYS find a job elsewhere if he stops wanting to work for his current employer, for WHATEVER reason.

Quote:
Many AD's argue that it is a workmans comp issue because what if the dancer becomes injured while they are guesting.
That's a fishy excuse, if I ever heard one. Worker's comp requires that you, as an employer, pay for injuries sustained in the course of your job. If your employee is injured on some other job (or at home), then you are not responsible. If this were not the case, then Citibank managers would prohibit their employees from bungee jumping on their vacations.


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 7:59 pm 
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Location: New England
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On staff of ballet companies taking pay freezes, the staff is payed year round, where as the dancers are not. Yes, they get unemployment, but that's not full pay.
This is a BIG argument for why dancers need skills other than dancing. If I'm on furlough and not being paid to dance, then I have my time to put to something else in life. If I have skills, then that something else will be more interesting and rewarding than waiting tables.

I see nothing wrong with not being paid for large chunks of time when I'm not rendering any services.

Staff have to do things year round. Marketing often starts way before the dancers come in to rehearse. Many companies are associated with schools, and staff work on school projects as well. Summer programs soak up a huge amount of staff time, just as the company shuts down for the summer.

Again, I see nothing wrong with giving staff 12 months of pay for 12 months of work.

Quote:
I also think on almost every level the Artistic Director makes too much and the rest of the Artistic Staff is payed too little as are the dancers.
The AD I am most familiar with definitely does NOT make too much money. In fact, many of his dancers are wealthier than him, either through marriage, inheritance, dancer pensions or lucrative non-dance skills. He works harder and longer than any of the dancers, and he works 12 months out of the year as well. There are no breaks or furloughs or down-times for him.

Remember also that while dancers are usually in professional dance for a limited period of time, ADs are in it for life. A dancer can dance for 10-20 years just scraping by, then at the age of 30 go to college, gain lucrative skills, launch a new career, and be on firm financial footing by the age of 40. This is actually quite common.

Except for a very few top companies, it is just not possible to pay dancers a living wage. The more able dancers are to make a living wage in other ways, the more dance we will see in this country. AD's, much more than the dancers, are FORCED to make their entire living, for their entire life, in the dance world --- a scary prospect, indeed.

<small>[ 24 March 2005, 09:03 PM: Message edited by: citibob ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:40 am 
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And ABT & NYCB has and will have dancers from Russian, Danish, Dutch, British and other European companies dancing with them.

Does NYCB do this? If so, it's a departure from their past tradition. ABT is well-known for bringing in and promoting stars from around the world. That's what makes them distinctive as ABT. But historically, NYCB has sought to work with its own company.
I was referring to both companies in the list, but yes, especially because of the Balanchine Celebration, NYCB has had quite a few guest dancers in recent years. Both Sofiane Sylve (Dutch National Ballet) and Robert Tewsley (Royal Ballet)made extensive guest appearances before joining the company, and Tewsley still is making the odd guest appearance, though he's retired from professional ballet. For the Balanchine Celebration, I believe there were dancers from ABT, San Francisco Ballet, PNB, DTH, Royal Danish Ballet, PA Ballet and others. Plus Igor Zelensky and Ethan Stiefel have come back for 'Nutcrackers' since leaving the company.
However, it seems that the NYCB policy is only to bring in guest dancers for special celebrations, for whole seasons as a 'try out' for a permanent contract and in emergencies where they need someone to fill a particular role.

Kate


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 2005 7:35 pm 
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Location: Key Biscayne, Florida, USA
I completely agree, if artistic directors and BOD's could pay more to their employees then they certainly would. My argument is that many AD's won't let dancers perform elsewhere to suppliment their incomes in or off season. I PROMISE you that MANY of the larger ballet companies here in the United States DO NOT let their dancers guest even on layoffs without giving them lots of grief about it, fining them, or even dismissal. I am not going to name specific AD's but I assure you this goes on more than you think. Additionally, this policy is written into many contracts and basic agreements including the few companies that AGMA represents. IMHO it is a control issue, simple as that. Now, that being said, I know of many dancers that simply tell their AD's to go take a flying Jete' :(

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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 2005 8:25 pm 
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Originally posted by Azlan:
the workers comp issue is a very ugly one. All companies, including for-profit businesses, have seen escalating costs beyond their control. Another is liability insurance. It almost hardly make sense for some ballet companies to be in business now, with a HUGE portion of their budget going to workers comp and insurance -- it's like the companies exist only to contribute to these two money-sucking elements.
Yes, I agree, the Workers Comp issue is an ugly one but it is an issue that has two sides. Here is an example, a dance company is planning to perform in a theatre without a sprung floor either at home or on a tour. A portable sprung dance floor easily costs anywhere from 10,000.00 and up depending on the size of the stage and how good of a floor you want. The company says that it cannot afford to purchase a sprung floor and does the performance tour without it. As a result of dancing on a bad floor, dancers either become injured, or old injuries flare up requiring weeks if not months of accumulated PT. So, the 10,000 sprung floor problem can easily mushroom into 40,000 to 50,000 worth of PT per dancer as well as overall increased premiums for Workmans Comp and Disability which do not go back down very easily. Do this same kind of thing for 4 or 5 years and WHAM, you are paying out the TUTU to Workers Comp. in some cases more than dancer payroll. The same can be said for bad company classes. If you have a CRAZY teacher with the typical 1930's mentality of "The harder you push the quicker you will get in shape so push push push!" the company will definitely see a rise in WC claims. I used to dance with a woman who had scoliosis (??Spelling) and as long as she got warmed up slowly and did what she needed to do prior to rehearsals she was fine and there was rarely a problem with her back. The very second this one certain teacher would teach she was in PT for like a month or out comletely for a few days in horrible pain. I know what you are all thinking, "well don't take the class then", that is easier said than done. Many of these teachers are also AD's and they make it mandatory to attend classes regadless of your injuries. If you miss the class then you stand the chance of being fined, disciplined in one way or another, or even not having your contract renewed. It is a horrible cycle and one that sygnificantly adds to the ever growing Workman's Comp. premiums. All this being said, there are certainly circumstances and things that are beyond anyone's control that lead to injuries. However, there are definitely many factors that contribute to the high cost of WC and Disability claims that BOD's and AD's do not take into account. Put all this together and yeah, it is a HUGE problem.
If only we could just replace injured body parts with new ones, or even better, replace body parts we just don't like. Anyone for more turnout? New feet? Extra set of hips? I for one would love to buy some new toes and toenails ;)

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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 7:10 pm 
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Quote:
Originally posted by osiris661:
So, the 10,000 sprung floor problem can easily mushroom into 40,000 to 50,000 worth of PT per dancer as well as overall increased premiums for Workmans Comp and Disability which do not go back down very easily.
The phrase "penny-wise and pound-foolish" comes to mind. Unfortunately, this is true for a lot of people when it comes to saving money, saving time, saving effort, and, yes, even saving face. I believe paying up front or being honest up front is a form of integrity. However, re-training how people think is not the easiest task.

Quote:
Originally posted by osiris661:
If only we could just replace injured body parts with new ones, or even better, replace body parts we just don't like. Anyone for more turnout? New feet? Extra set of hips? I for one would love to buy some new toes and toenails.
Isn't that happening already? Just visit Hollywood... ;)

<small>[ 29 March 2005, 08:10 PM: Message edited by: Azlan ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 4:31 am 
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Where is this thread going? We've confirmed poor management in many unnamed ballet companies, including:

1. A controlling atmosphere that extends far beyond the studio and stage for its dancers.

2. Penny-wise, pound-foolish approaches to dancer injury.

This is all so foreign to me. At my company, the dancers who trained the longest with the AD rarely (if ever) get injured. And he's not controlling.

But that aside, what are we to do about these dysfunctional aspects of dance, other than complain about them here?


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 11:22 am 
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Your AD doesn't run every company!


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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2005 5:00 pm 
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Location: Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
I think it is a good thing that the government insists on accountability, and though nobody's raised it this time, I think that so-called government censorship is a bugaboo. Which Western European state ballet companies have been censored any more than private ones with certain divas dictating policy ? If the government wants to censor art, it will move against it whether privately or publicly-funded.

As for the hair-raising examples of insurance and liability costs, dangerous venues and ballet masters, government regulation could go a long way toward minimizing the ill effects of all those. Yes, I'm for 100% government funding, but would settle for less as an interim measure.

<small>[ 30 March 2005, 06:03 PM: Message edited by: Toba Singer ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: It's contract time, again; you're gonna dis me
PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2012 2:12 am 
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They can work elsewhere. Just having worked for the top gives one many options to work elsewhere. It is an interesting aspect of human nature that many people get stuck at the top in spite of being mistreated. Because "nowhere else is good enough.


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