I absolutely love this….. check out their other videos.
I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and blogs talking about choreographers and venues trying to recruit dancers for no money, and also that the pay for dancers who are on the payroll is too low. I think that a lot of people are getting confused over this, because they think this is one big problem. It’s not, it’s two big problems. Working for free and getting paid badly are two entirely different things.
The main point being argued, is that if dancers all banded together they’d start getting paid, or paid better.
In fact, lots of these projects would just not happen. Here’s why.
Dancers who are willing to work for cheap or free are basically an infinitely renewable resource. So, getting together in a union to force the evil megalomaniacs who run the south bank centre to pay £300 a day simply isn’t going to happen. Dancers have no bargaining chips. Dance is nice, but these works don’t HAVE to be made. When firefighters get stroppy about their paychecks, people sit up and listen because they don’t want their houses to burn down. Dancers do not have the luxury of being in an industry that the population at large actually need.
So, projects get shitcanned, and venues and dance-in-general get less publicity and contemporary dance slips even further into obscurity. In the parts of the industry that actually make money, the employees have more power. If, one night the kids in Stomp decide that they don’t want to go out there and hit dustbins repeatedly, someone’s going to lose a lot of money. This is not a negotiation tactic we can replicate backstage at Resolution.
Here’s the problem. Artists don’t get to define what they are worth. You might think that your solo is worth £10000 a performance, but the audience doesn’t. The market decides what your labour or product is worth. And nobody cares enough about dance to pay big bucks to see it. We can’t have it both ways, we love being wilfully obscurist in our world, and deride people who get successful, but, in the arts as in fast food, if you make a product that no-one wants, you’re not going to make any money, and Mcdonalds doesn’t get to ask the government to step in and buy up all their Jaegermeister milkshakes when they fail at the tills.
As far as working for free goes, it’s annoying, but short of a Communist Revolution, it’s never going to go away.
Other industries rely on people who have worked as interns for their recruitment pool. Whether this is fair, or gives an unfair advantage to people who can afford to work for free is for another time, (And anyone who’s hung out with BBC people will know that it’s not a coincidence that it’s overwhelmingly upper middle class white people whose parents were paying their rent back when they were getting coffees for Avid operators in Soho.)
No-one got into contemporary dance for the big moneys. Lots of people who have been out of college for a couple of years are beginning to realise that they are not going to be able to pay the rent by rolling around on the floor, yelling in Swedish. But you chose this business knowing what the industry was like, because you HAD to do this, and that meant sacrificing a big salary. At least in Music you’re gambling with the vague possibility of making serious money, ( I’m still writing that combined Christmas Song/Football Anthem.) but in Dance, you’re not. Nobody is making crazy money except the guy who runs the cafe at The Place. And if you didn’t know all that, then at least you’re in the Arts rather than the private sector, where you could do some real damage. That said, it’s a shame that Dance isn’t creating zillionaires. I’d love to see footage of Richard Alston floating around on the Virgin Galactic spaceship in a couple of years.
That terrifying mental image brings me to my next tangent.
The concept of individual responsibility is alien to many in the arts. If you don’t want to work for someone for free, don’t. But someone else will, and if they bust their ass, they will get noticed, and you won’t. That’s what’s being gambled here by refusing to volunteer. Rambert recruits on the basis of skills, not on the principled stand that you took over expenses.
There are very valid arguments for not working for free. If something has no price, people won’t value it. I was arguing with someone about this once, and she said,’ i’m a therapist. If you looked through the list of therapists in London, who all charge from £50 to £150 an hour, and I charged £3, what conclusion would you draw?” ‘That you were incompetent.”
Plus, often if you work for free, people will assume that next time you’ll work for free. Or, you work for free, and when the employer does finally get a budget they use someone else, because subconsciously, they don’t value your work, because they got it for free. This has happened to me several times. However, more often than not, once you’re part of the team, and the budget money does start rolling in, you’re on the payroll.
Right, that’s me done. If anyone needs me, i’ll be selling part used airline toiletries on Ebay.
I mentioned Trash Money in the interview with Dance Ground, so I though i’d put up this video of us at the ICA. Best band in the world. Look for the nanosecond of me playing keys with one hand whilst drinking beer with the other.