Hello to all my readers out there!
It has been a long time since I’ve written (yet again) and I apologize, this year has been a very busy one, filled with changes and all sorts for me. Anyway, I have just arrived back in Auckland after touring with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which completes my third National big band tour in N.Z.
It was a great experience, and perhaps I will write more about that later. But for now I want to write on another subject that I think is important for professional dancers out there. I saw this video recently so I have shared it on my blog… ‘Watch What Happens When You Ask Non-Creative Professionals To Work For Free’
Granted this is fairly in the extreme, but it does drive home to me the point that I have come across so many times in my career, why are Dancers, Musicians, Actors, and other artists expected to work for free so often? Or, work for less, or in worse conditions than others?
I can’t stress enough to young dancers how important it is to know your worth. Yes, I totally agree that when you are a young dancer, possibly still a student or just graduating from college, there will be a number of gigs/opportunities that you need to take and work just for the opportunity to get your name and face out there so that people start to know who you are. But there comes a time when you also need to say Hey, I am a trained professional. I’ve spent years and thousands of dollars working on perfecting my craft. I have been hired to do a job, and I am just as important as anyone else working in this show/gig/event etc. If you weren’t, they wouldn’t have hired dancers in the first place.
It is important to act with diplomacy and decorum always, and don’t be a diva! Make an effort to get along with everyone, be easy to work with, be professional. There will be plenty of times you turn up to a show and the stage is small, the dressing rooms have no mirrors, the costume wasn’t what you expected, anything can happen. You will gain respect as a professional dancer and your reputation and therefore future work opportunities will be great if you deal with these challenges without complaining,and get on with the show.
Having said that, it is well within your rights as a professional to voice when something really isn’t right. Don’t be afraid to ask your agent/choreographer or whoever is running your gig, about your pay when it is due. Better than that, you NEED to be asking what is the fee you will be paid for your services BEFORE you agree to perform! Don’t let yourself look unprofessional by not knowing the details.
This is your career, your income, this is how you pay rent, how you eat, how you live! As a dancer you have probably spent more years of your life training for this profession than many others. The years and years that go into your training start when you are a child. So why would you value the art form that you are so passionate about, any lower than someone who has gone to Uni for say 3 years to become a professional in their field?
I like in the video that’s posted, how the word Trust is used. How will I know if I like the coffee if I pay for it first? You just trust the person who is making your coffee knows how to make a good one. We all give our trust to people every day as consumers. The people you audition for already get to see what you are capable of during the audition. Know that if they have hired you, they want you for a reason. So don’t apologize or act awkward when you ask about your pay or your work conditions.
When you buy a piece of clothing at a shop, the retail assistant doesn’t say ‘I’m sorry, that’s $52 is that alright?’
YOU ARE YOUR PRODUCT.
Of course there is give and take with our industry. I am happy to perform for a reduced fee when it’s to help support or promote a fellow artist and get a new project off the ground. It’s up to you to use your discretion and think about if you feel comfortable performing/teaching in that situation. Or perhaps as a favor if there is someone you are trying to help or support by lending your talents and/or name to. But also beware that this is should not be expected of you.
If you are passionate about dance and art, live, eat, and breathe it, don’t de-value it by not knowing how valuable you truly are, and how many lives you inspire with your performance.