Do you get paid to dance?
How often have we heard that as professional dancers?
Being in the world of dance, it has always seemed apparent to me that ordinary people who provide a service are paid. For some reason, though, dancers are not considered ordinary. People think we live extraordinary lives, dancing and traveling around the world, seemingly having fun with little REAL work going on. You see, it is our job to show our audiences the end product. Unless you have the inside track you do not get to see the WORK part of it – the countless hours of rehearsal, lighting and dress techs, spacings, classes and warm-ups, all of which prepare us for the finished product one sees on stage.
Speaking from a dancer’s point of view, I see everyone else as not having normal lives: Most days they wake up and go into a job they don’t love, but do it because they did not or could not follow their passion. Similar to employees in other fields, dancers have union and non-union companies, full time and part time gigs. It is all basically very similar. A smart plan is to try and land a union job, if that is what you desire. There is a sense of security in knowing that no matter what happens, every two weeks there is a guaranteed check and if a dancer gets sick or has a baby, s/he will be allowed the same benefits as most working people. Union dancers are protected by so many laws that it is comforting to know they are protected, should something happen to them.
Now, it was not always like this and I cannot even imagine how dancers did it in the past. Many directors funded projects and companies with their own, personal funds, leaving little left to go to the dancer. It was necessary for many dancers to have supplemental work outside of their profession just to survive. Today, patrons of the arts and big corporations support the arts worldwide, which in turn, legitimizes the artist and the work required.
Thankfully, the world has made room for dancers, providing us with full benefits, childcare, maternity leave and retirement funds. How far we have come!
So, for all the fearful parents of aspiring, fearful dancers, afraid to choose dance as a major in college, trust that your child will be ok, trust that you will be just fine.
But, yes, dancers do get paid.