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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Auditions: Asking about Salaries...


ceecee

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Is it considered bad form for DD to call and ask about entry level salaries before attending an audition? She has felt uncomfortable about doing this, but we have discovered that some "Paid" positions are paying little more than bus fare...

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I have no idea if it's bad form or not but IMO, it's bad form for a company to audition for a paid position that isn't paying a living wage and as you are finding out, there are lots who don't pay a living wage but the work week and days don't allow for part-time jobs to fill in the monetary gap. I don't think dd would call either. She auditions and then looks at the offer and makes her decision based on the details of the offer.

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Whether it's bad form or not in this case shouldn't be a worry. She may wish to visit the AGMA website for general information. I know that they now make you log in, but a few months ago there was a link that someone gave us signed in and it still worked. I have limited time today, but hopefully if I can't find it one of the other mods will come on and share it. This information will help you with trends for a good number of companies.

 

For others, once a dancer already has a Trainee or Apprentice contract it is important information to know and compare. While every dancer wants a company contract, in their consideration must be whether they accept one that pays less than their Apprentice contract did or more or how the cost of living in a certain area affects their ability to live within the means they will have (or with the means we can help them with). For smaller to medium companies, the pay range runs from surprising that it's as high as some larger to shock that it's so low.

 

I believe it must be in how you phrase the question. Maybe ask in a list of 2-3 other important questions about promotion practices, options, etc.

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I am in full agreement with Swanchat. My dd has been in 3 companies and never asked ahead of time what the salary would be. Instead she waited on the contract and made her decision. If your dd knows someone in the company, she could ask them what they are being paid. My dd never had the nerve to do that, citing that the information was too personal to ask of a ballet friend.

 

Edited to add that not all companies are AGMA unfortunately and therefore it may be more difficult to get that information.

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I don't think that it is bad form to inquire as to the salary. In other professions, a salary range is routinely given in job postings. Salary information may be important to your decision as to whether it is even worth your while to audition, particularly if the audition is out of town.

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I do not see anything wrong with phoning the Company Manager of a company and asking for apprentice amounts or corps base pay. All they can say is no.

 

Unfortunately there are so many young dancers who will take a position with very little pay. This is one of the main reasons I am a supporter of AGMA. I see one of the the prime purposes of an AGMA contract is to protect the young dancer from being taken advantage of through low wages. It is interesting to hear dancers in trainee or 2nd company positions complain that they cannot be used by the company due to the contract the Company dancers have in place. The intent of contractual limitations on how many apprentices contracts are permitted and how many trainees from the school can be used in a performance is actually a protection in place for the apprentices and the trainees, NOT the company dancer. If those limitations were not in place there would be more trainees and 2nd company dancers being given a small stipend than there were actual company members being paid a salary one can live on. Remember, I am speaking of companies who are members of AGMA. Non-AGMA companies usually do not have as many "protections" in place.

 

It is important to not just look at the weekly wage but also the number of guaranteed weeks of work.

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I would venture that it's important to note the difference in US auditions and those overseas in terms of pay: both method and amounts when considering this question. Larger US companies you may be okay not to ask if you already have a ballpark from AGMA sites. But when talking smaller-medium companies, it's something you almost have to know prior to spending money on attending auditions.

 

How you find out is up to you, you may have to resort to asking. However, what happens in the US is you might be in an Apprentice position that pays say $100 a week (blessed if you are), if the company you are auditioning for pays the same $100 for it's entry level company members dancers (some do), then that is a huge consideration of whether you spend your money on an audition. For some dancers, the difference in saying you are a company member is all that is needed regardless of the amount of the paycheck. But for others, the cost to attend an audition for a company whose dancers make less than other Apprentices other places, may not be. For those on limited audition budgets, it comes down to making sure your money is well spent. I wish everyone had the budget to just attend auditions willy nilly these days in hopes of gaining a contract. But as companies have had to streamline their budgets, so have auditioning dancers.

 

In our years with family and friends in US companies as well as teachers of my DDs who worked in smaller, local companies. You can be determining if you are spending your money on auditioning for a company who pays per performance only, some who pay $100 a week and some who pay $500 a week,etc. Big difference in whether you need to put yourself out there to ask if you have no other way to gather that information and how best to spend your audition budget. I will never forget one of DDs teachers early on who was making $30 per show as her paycheck. Nothing more. So for Nutcracker, she netted about $150 to attend class everyday (required), all the rehearsals and put on that one show for 5 nights. All those dancers worked full time jobs and danced on the side. This is not an audition I would have been happy for DD to attend, gain a contract and then find that the contract for the year didn't cover the audition costs. Yes, find out the best way you can. Hopefully that doesn't mean you have to ask the company, but you do need to ask someone and if the company is your only option, then if your pocketbook has a bottom to it, asking is more important than not.

 

Agreeing with gcwhitewater on the issues with non-union companies. But you can find non AGMA companies who follow those guidelines pretty much to a T. You may find in some of those, that you actually gain by it not being an AGMA company. Key is that you'd better ask dancers if that works to their favor or not.

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Thanks for the responses. There is a lot to think about! Gcwhitewater, I totally get what you are saying. Dd has danced in places with protections like you describe & has also danced in places where the larger part of their corps is dancing for free. Definitely prefer the situation with the protections! (Although those dancers do LONG to just DANCE too!!) Momof3, you are hitting on the reason for my question. When a dancer is in a place where she really must buy a plane ticket to get to any audition, how does she determine which auditions are worth it? DD traveled to an audition earlier in the season where she received an offer which initially seemed like it would be a step up from where she is, but after considering the tiny stipend as well as some other factors, she decided to pass it by.

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And then, of course, there is the issue of deciding to travel to auditions only to have the auditoner announce: 2) They don't have any female (or male) contracts; or B) They don't know if they'll even have any contracts to offer. HELLO!!!! These kids paid for travel costs--and often an audition fee--to be there!! They may very well have passed up a different audition in a different location to attend this one.

 

Yes, audition season is rough . . . . and very expensive, especially given how little one can ferret out about the potential return in order to choose which auditions to include given limited travel funds.

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And then, of course, there is the issue of deciding to travel to auditions only to have the auditoner announce: 2) They don't have any female (or male) contracts; or B) They don't know if they'll even have any contracts to offer. HELLO!!!! These kids paid for travel costs--and often an audition fee--to be there!! They may very well have passed up a different audition in a different location to attend this one.

 

Also one of my personal favorites:

 

"This audition is for 2nd company only. You are all ok with that, right?" (Even though the audition was advertised as a company audition and the 2nd company auditions were listed separately. AND the 2nd company is a non-paid, school associated position)

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Here is a link to the AGMA site for contracts for major US ballet companies. In the contracts, it lists salaries, so it can be compared.

http://www.musicalar...ents_dance.html

 

Thank you for the link, learning.a.lot.

If a company is not listed, does that mean it is not an AGMA company? Or is the company just not considered a "major" company, and one has to ferret out the information by other means?

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I echo Twinkle Mom's question. Our local ballet company (the only one in the state) is not a member however I have gathered from observation that there are contracts with the dancers which have many stipulations in them. I contacted the executive director who was willing to let me know the weekly salaries for apprentices through company dancers. We wanted the information because we would like our DK to understand the financial realities of the dance profession. We have no illusions that he could be hired here (and would like him to expand his world). One of the trendy words in business is "transparency". We may find that the arts world will fall in step and practice it as well.

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Or is the company just not considered a "major" company, and one has to ferret out the information by other means?

 

No "major" has nothing to do with AGMA at all. It simply means they are AGMA. AGMA is a labor type union, it's something you join or your company joins for the protection of it's members. By major, we simply mean those larger, more well-known companies in the US. However, it's important to understand that this used to not only be ranked on reputation but also size. With the downsizing over the past 4-5 years or so, many of those so called "larger" companies are now really in the size range of many medium companies 4-5 years ago. And many of those well known medium companies are now pretty small in the number of full time employed dancers. And some smaller companies who have done nothing more than continue on their same path of 20-25 employed dancers didn't move size, size simply moved more in their direction.

 

I'll also note that this is only a sampling of AGMA ballet companies, there are some I know to be AGMA that are not listed. There are also a couple on there who have been known to not pay their dancers as well as some non-AGMA companies. So this list should not be used to rank in any way, simply to see what "might be".

 

*also important is checking out cost of living versus salary before getting excited about seeing what appears to be a decent salary or "poo-pooing" another.

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