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Most professional dancers ‘earn less than £5k a year’

A new survey has shown the extent to which professional dancers rely on other sources of income. Photo: Shutterstock A new survey has shown the extent to which professional dancers rely on other sources of income. Photo: Shutterstock
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More than half of professional dancers earn less than £5,000 a year from their performance work, according to a new survey.

The statistics also show that around 50% of dancers’ jobs pay less than the minimum wage, and that 70% of dancers have performed in “unsuitable work environments” in the past 12 months.

More than 400 dancers responded to a survey conducted by website Dancers Pro, which was compiled with input from industry groups such as Dance UK and Equity. It was conducted to provide an insight into the conditions that performers in the sector are facing.

The research showed that 52% of respondents have seven or fewer days of work a month.

Only 21.8% said they earn their total income from dance work, with the majority – 27.7% – stating around 10% of their earnings come from dance. Nearly half, 46.9%, had no long-term contract in 2014.

More than half of respondents, 55.6%, earned less than £5,000 in 2014. Around a third, 30.4%, took home less than £1,000.

This tallies with the results of a separate survey carried out by Equity, which found that more than half of performers earn less than £5,000 a year.

Supatee Dhanasunthorn, who manages Dancers Pro’s website, said the survey had been conducted to “take a snapshot of what dancer performers today are experiencing”.

He added that he had been surprised by the conditions dancers said they experienced and the low pay.

“More than half of professional dancers earned less than £5,000 that year [from dance jobs]. Combine that with the fact more than half only worked seven days a month, meaning their [other] income was coming from other jobs such as teaching and call centres, and it’s really shocking,” he said.

Dancers Pro’s survey also found that 49.7% of respondents took jobs that paid less than the minimum wage in 2014, and that 60.9% felt there was no place for low pay or unpaid work in the sector.

Dhanasunthorn said that this showed a significant proportion of dancers felt there was a place for low paid work in the sector.

He added that the issue of low pay/ no pay needed to be “further discussed” and claimed some projects, such as profit-share productions, help some artists with “discovery and growth”.

But he said: “I do think some employers, who have budgets and the support of the arts council, have a responsibility to not be part of that low pay/no pay group.” This month, a judge ruled that a profit-share production did not have to pay its cast the minimum wage.

Dhanasunthorn said the results of the survey had been passed on to schools and industry bodies, and added that he wanted people to see the statistics.

“We want a reaction from that as it’s one of the few fields where there appears to be a drop rather than growth,” he said.

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