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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Contracts: length & type


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I haven't been able to find this information anywhere else on the forum. Someone please let me know if I've missed it somewhere and post a link, thanks.

What is the usual professional contract length offered by ballet companies? Does it depend on which level e.g. corps, soloist, principal ? Is it different in Europe compared to the States and other parts of the World?

Is it becoming more common for fixed short term contracts (months) to be offered rather than longer (year) contracts? Are part-time contracts sometimes offered? Or contracts specifically for a particular production?

I know this is the case generally in employment throughout the world. Far fewer people are initially employed permanent full time postions and even those who do have a longer probation period compared with when I first started paid work 35+ years ago. More employees are hired on a casual basis and many are working less hours than they would like.

Just trying to get my head around what is usual in the ballet world!

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In my short experience, I've heard that the normal contract runs one year. Of course, some dancers can get the lifetime contracts but it seems that contracts run year to year. I have also seen contracts offered for just a particular season/show. I've observed this for dancer's in Europe, Canada and the U.S.

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They can be year to year, for a fixed term, or project-based. It often depends on funding. There's no set requirement really.

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Even in annual contracts there will be a specific number of weeks of employment in that year. At least that is the way it works in the US. Not sure about other countries. In the US you will have to work a certain number of consecutive weeks to qualify for unemployment benefits for the lay off weeks.


In the US,short term contracts are sometimes offered, like for specific productions which require more dancers than are employed annually. These could be for corps or soloist roles, but usually corps. Principal dancers are hired as "guest artists" for a production, or a season. I do not know about these things in other parts of the world.

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At least here in the States, it's also common to have "layoff weeks" within a seasonal ("year") contract. The company I mainly danced with managed to work it out so that we really only had a layoff after Nutcracker, but that made the season shorter as a whole, ending in early spring after returning to work in January. On the other hand, I've been offered contracts that run from August until June, but the layoff periods were quite significant (i.e. five weeks of work and performance, four weeks of layoff, rinse and repeat with varying length of time depending on rehearsal needs) and the dancers had to largely fend for themselves as far as taking class during the layoff periods.

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From our experience in Europe (Germany, France, Spain, Belgium), contracts are annual. Vacation time is paid and is usually 4-6 weeks in duration. Vacation usually starts at the end of June or beginning of July. For larger productions, supplemental contracts are usually for corp positions and the employment time period depends on the production. If necessary, principals and soloists will be brought in to perform. They may come in the week before the performance and do final rehearsals with the company as they already know the role. Part time contracts are also offered to replace an dancer out on injury, a dancer out on maternity leave, or on sabbatical that comes with the lifetime contract. There seems to be a good bit of project work. Lifetime contracts are offered for some companies after 3 years of employment, in other companies after 13 years employment and for other companies not offered at all; it just varies by company. Dancers are given 1-3 days off after a production before returning to work.

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Our dd's experience in Europe is much like LSU's. Our dd never saw 1-3 days off after a production. She always had Sundays off though. For our dd, paid vacation began the day after the last day of the season and lasted until return in mid-August. Unlike her friends in the US, she never filed for unemployment due to layoffs.

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DS is dancing in a Europe this year and he has a paid yearly contract for the year with about 5 weeks paid leave in the summer. They usually have Sundays and Mondays off though often there is a performance on Sundays. They had a few days off at the end of December as well. A lot the older dancers in the company ( which is in Eastern Europe) have life time contracts but I am not sure about the younger dancers.

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Thank you for all the replies, they are very helpful!

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