29 Apr ‘14

Should dancers be paid?

published on 29 April 2014

Working for Free?

 

Kylie Minogue performs with dancers at the 2014 Logie Awards on Sunday night. Photo: Channel Nine
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You might have seen the news story about Kylie Minogue’s dancers not being paid, properly, or at all, for performing in a video clip and at the Logies. We always need to watch out for exploitation, and that’s what this looks like.

 

Ausdance believes that dancers are trained professionals who study and work hard to maintain their performance abilities. Like other artists, they deserve recognition and remuneration for the work they do. There may be times a dancer chooses to donate their skills and time, but we hope a professional video opportunity would come with professional remuneration. There is a standard rate from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for performances, and other agreements for TV and Film.

Here’s the story, and here’s some of our responses:

http://ausdance.org.au/news/article/pay-the-dancers

 

and this comment from the Ausdance Victoria President of the Board:

 

A request this week from producers of Kylie Minogue’s latest video clip for dancers to perform for no pay or below the award has touched a nerve in the Australian dance community.

Dancers were offered ”exposure” in place of payment for a full day’s work, with the brief sent to artists and their talent agencies insisting there was ”no budget” for performers.

The incident created a buzz on social media and has given rise to the hashtag #paythedancers. Though unwilling to be identified for fear of damaging their careers, many performers have come forward with personal stories of receiving little or no payment for work.

Few in the dance industry were surprised to hear of this incident, but for many it was a bridge too far. The music industry counts its sales for artists such as Kylie Minogue in the millions of dollars, so it is hard to understand why a few thousand dollars to pay dancers wasn’t incorporated into the budget.

It seems that some parts of the music and corporate entertainment industry – the main sources of work for professional commercial dancers – regard dancers as expendable moving props to liven up the background behind the real ”talent” rather than talented artists in their own right who deserve fair wages.

In dance, as across the performing arts sector, working for free is culturally ingrained. Any opportunity to perform is highly valued, and the ultimate goal for most dancers is a financially sustainable and creatively satisfying career. Many expect that they will have to augment their incomes with other work outside dance in order to pay the bills.

While we might begrudgingly accept (for now) the culture of underpaid dancers in the not-for-profit sector, where profit margins for all participants and creatives are low to non-existent, it is a different case when the client is a multinational organisation that stands to profit from ”donated” dance.

The use of unpaid internships is becoming more common in Australian workplaces, with university graduates increasingly expected to pay their dues or gain work experience before moving into a paid job. In other industries, careers can last a lifetime.

Questions should be asked of professional talent agencies representing these dancers for agreeing to send them on jobs that offer ”exposure” without demanding fair pay. It is also time for dancers to consider how working without fair pay is undercutting their industry, and how dance will never be a sustainable as a career if we sit quietly while dancers are treated as replaceable, expendable and free.

Jordan Beth Vincent is an Age dance reviewer and president of Ausdance Victoria.

 

You might also like to check out this Youtube clip of the dancers talking about this issue.

 

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