I very much enjoyed reading “A Dancer’s Retort” by Brittany Beyer–a self-professed “Dance Enthusiast” and Associate Editor for the Huffington Post. In it, Beyer explores the issues surrounding making a living wage as a professional dancer. There is a lot in this article to love, but let me share some of my favorite snippets to whet your appetite.
“I have thought a great deal about sustainability in dance, asking questions about what is “working” and “not working.”
One important issue is the dance artist’s attitude towards money. Many of us have been brought up with the idea that our field is beyond a job — to be an artist is almost a sacred calling. If you have ever danced you will understand. We love our art form and have the conviction that it does others good. With integrity and passion we put our bodies — our very selves — on the line to create. Our work is beyond a job description; in many ways it is a life’s practice or a life’s mission. How does one monetize that?”
and Beyer goes on to paint a picture that is all too familiar in the bellydance world:
“What has emerged because of our “calling” premise is a system that supports work not adequately funded. We pay staff what we can and often expect people to work for free while we wait for funding that often never arrives. While some could consider this noble -and perhaps it is to some degree — by working in this manner the dance market’s pay scale is continually suppressed. While in the short-term, sacrifice enables many to perform, in the long-term, companies and artists that work in this way suffer. They are financially unequipped to market their fine pieces of artistic work to a larger audience. The dirty truth is that many times the musicians, costume designers, stage crew and support staff get paid more than the dancers who are the main event on stage. It has become acceptable to pay a non-unionized dancer very little or nothing. Dancers will dance for the love of it.”