Dancers’ campaign launched to improve working conditions

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A campaign has been set up to inform commercial dancers about their rights within the sector and to improve working conditions.

Dancers United UK, a campaigning body that has been founded by working artists in the industry, wants to put a stop to unpaid work, which is often advertised as “good exposure”, and to establish guidelines for minimum rates of pay.

The founding members also want to tackle issues such as guaranteed lunchbreaks, the availability of drinking water on sets and payment for overtime.

Reimbursement for transport costs and for dancers expected to wear their own clothing while performing also need to be looked into, according to the organisers.

For its campaign, It’s Up to Us, Dancers United UK has joined forces with union Equity to help secure better standards.

Shannelle Fergus, one of the founders of Dancers United UK, said that commercial dancers, who will appear in promotional films, at festivals, in music videos and live shows, do not have the same regulations available to them as other dancers, such as those in the West End.

She said that rates of pay have decreased “dramatically” over the past five years for commercial dancers and that if this continues it will be “detrimental” to their careers in the future.

“The fact that payment has gone to a standard that is lower than before, to possibly no payment at all in the future is potentially really detrimental to what is a career for us.

“We want to be on stage and performing, it’s something we are passionate about, but that sometimes gets taken advantage of and blurred with the fact it is our livelihood. We need to get a bottom line for standards and dispel the idea that dancers should be working for free,” said Fergus.

 

2 Comments

  1. Unfortunately there is a real economic issue here of supply and demand. We keep pumping out dancers from conservatoires without there being sufficient demand. And dance is the most expensive art to produce. With more limitations then there will be fewer risks taken — on hiring unproven dancers for example. (Read: fewer job opportunities.) And possibly less interesting art. If you don’t want to work for free, then simply do not.

  2. This is a relevant and complex issue. We can think that dance, especially used for commercial purposes (big shows, advertising, music videos etc.) is really form of physical labor, where the body is both treated as an object, unfortunately often “fetishized”, but also has to stay active in a most basic sense. This kind of often sexualized, not because of the nature of labor but because of the ways in which bodies are perceived in the mainstream culture most of the time, requires a proletarian subjectivity bound to the immediacy of embodied presence. The work is difficult, and yet it is questionable what it really does for the audiences. In any case, it is easy to make this kind dance work into physical and mental slavery, and it is important that dancers are aware of their needs. However, dance is also a more esoteric art than theater or even painting as it challenges (especially modern dance) common understanding of body/mind connections, bringing philosophical and poetic and sensual dimensions into the forefront of the experience. In this way it often is a challenge for audiences, and requires dedication and love without necessarily adequate material reward.

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