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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Company life: Salary


Alysse

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Hello. I know each company is different, but in ballpark, what are the salaries of corps members, soloists, and principles? I have always wondered this. I ask because my parents expect me to be independent at some pointe (pun intended :]) and cannot suppoet me through my ballet career. For anyone who knows this, I appreciate it!

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Alysse, the differences are really vast. Major companies, most of which are Union companies, pay a fairly decent living wage. Smaller regional companies which have unionized may also pay a living wage, but it would be tight to live all year on it, without doing some extra work during the weeks off. The companies who are non-union sometimes pay as much as union companies, but sometimes they don't. There just is no such thing as a ballpark figure. Also, the companies have different lengths of time for their seasons. Some will work 32 or 36 weeks, some maybe less, and the majors quite a bit more. In the off weeks you can collect unemployment, but that is a real stretch to try and live on.

 

It also depends on what part of the country you work in. Companies in cities like NY, Boston, SF, DC, LA, etc., have to pay better wages because the cost of living is much higher. So, living on $500 a week might be possible in some cities and states, but not even close in others. In other words, you can afford to work for less in Nebraska or Tennessee or other places in the country for a lot less than you would have to make to live in NY or Boston. So, it's all relative.

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I know of starting corp salaries as low as $150/week in small, regional companies. I know of small to mid-sized companies with corp salaries from $300-500/week. For large union companies in major cities, I know of corp salaries at about $900/week. There are all sorts of layers in between and I'm sure that some fall outside of these numbers too. But, those are some that I can validate and they might be useful as good markers for you and your family to consider.

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In the February issues of Pointe and Dance magazines every year, there is usually a list of company auditions. Some of them do mention their salaries on this list. On the Pointe magazine website, they eventually list this information, too. The January issues are mostly devoted to SI information, but sometimes companies place ads in these issues as well. Good luck!

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Alysse--as 2marz has stated to see this you will need to find it in the magazines. The ballparks listed above are pretty accurate and Ms. Leigh is correct that whether you can make it by on that salary depends on where you are and the cost of living there.

 

You will most likely not hear from first hand information on this particular topic however, because most contracts for dancers explicitly state that they cannot discuss salary with anyone ever.

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Something else to consider when looking at salaries is how many weeks you will be paid. For instance, some companies have a 36 week contract out of 44 weeks. Meaning that over the 44 week contract period, you will receive a salary for 36 of those weeks. Things like medical benefits (if offered) will be continued for the entire contract period (44 weeks). Dancers are able to collect unemployment for "off" weeks - but you must pick up additional medical insurance during the down time when your contract isn't covering you.

 

Some company's contracts span the entire 52 weeks but only pay for say: 44 weeks of that time, keeping the medical benefits running throughout the entire year. Many companies do not offer any medical benefits. Additionally, you must take into consideration the cost of shoes, if they are not provided, and the cost of living (mentioned by the other posters) in the city you live in.

 

Lots to think about :( !!! Good luck in your research!

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Patty, i thought that for sure all companies provided your shoes for you...or at least a discount? this is a big suprise to me. As much dancing on pointe as professional dancers do, that would be thousands and thousands a year for a dancer...

hmmm.

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Alysse - I think it depends on the size of the company. My dd's provides unlimited shoes which, after the first year we figured added up to around $3500. Some small companies, however, don't offer shoes, or offer an allowance or a limited quantity.

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And if you are trainee or apprentice or second company, which I think is not what you were asking about but anyway, you may only be provided some shoes and no salary. I know of two companies that provide some shoes, no salary, to their apprentices or their trainees. However, hopefully you will get more/unlimited shoes if you are actually in the corps de ballet or higher.

 

Also about contract length...Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is the only company that I have heard of that has a 52 week (year long) contract. They are not a ballet company, though; they are a modern company. It is very common for dancers to guest artist or teach while on lay off from their own company.

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To drval01: Thank you so much for the information about the union companies and salaries and benefits! This is very useful information!! Great to get an idea of what the dance world salaires actually are rather than rumors or guessing! :D

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Okay, first off, thanks so much everyone for contrbuting to this subject.

Seccond, was I lied to when someone told me that Principle dancers at the ABT can make as much as 140,000 a year? This seems a little extreme to the rest of the numbers people were giving out. Is it really enough to live on? I mean, how in the world can anyone dance professionaly and own a house! :]

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Hi Alysse!

 

I have no idea what individual Principal Dancers may earn. But the actual contracts of many of the AGMA [American Guild of Music Artists] contracts are online at the AGMA web page. If you can manage to survive all of the legal talk, you can get a sense of what the different pay scales are at a number of union ballet companies. But, the thing to remember is that even within the contract, there may be room for individual negotiations.

 

Hope that will be of some help to you and to anyone who is interested in ballet company salaries. My suggestion would be that if you want to earn alot of money, for most people ballet is not the way to go. But if you dance because of the joy, then it is the right place for you.

 

All the best.

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