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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Company Contract - what to look out for?


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I hope everyone is hanging in there and staying healthy in this very difficult time! 

DD was very grateful to receive a corps contract from a very small company and will most likely take it since her other options are trainee positions. At this point in her training, she feels that any corps position is better than a school position at a bigger company school.  Before she signs the contract, I'd like to ask what should be included just to make sure we don't miss something crucial.  The contract seems very reasonable and includes terms on conducts, expectations, teaching/guesting, work schedule, sick leave, worker's comp insurance and injury.  No PT mentioned.  Is there anything else we need to make sure it includes? Thanks so much!

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Perhaps you might have an attorney look at the contract? Is it a right to work State? If so, is your daughter familiar with what her rights actually are under those conditions?

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Good thought, vrsfanatic!  It is a right to work state and not an AGMA company, and there are clauses regarding potential termination for cause and without cause.  Not ideal, but I am not sure if we are in the position to question it. 

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Frankly, any contract in the current climate I would embrace, assuming that she is getting PAID. 

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Unfortunately, that may not always materialize. With a union company, in today's world, there are more guarantees. In smaller companies, while they try to be on the up and up, sometimes one may have to wait for money.

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That's how we feel too, Learning Dance. Fortunately, the contract offers a salary (to be paid every two weeks) although the season is short. 

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The topic is "Company Contract-What to look for?" Congratulations on your DC success. May everything go smoothly and well. Your excitement is understandable, but the question is a bit loaded. Enjoy your excitement!

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Thank you so much, vrsfanatic!  I didn't mean to ask a loaded question... Since this is her very first contract, we had no idea what should be included and wanted to be sure it wasn't missing anything crucial, basically a red flag to watch out for.  Besides that, she is grateful to have a contract at all.  Thank you so much for bringing up "right to work" states; that is very helpful to understand.

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Each family will decide on their own which type of contract is congratulatory or not.  In this day and time, especially, many a dancer may be faced with choices different than the ones they planned for.  That is for each family to decide, paid or not.  We all hope they all will be paid and paid well.  But also important to keep to the original poster's intent and that is answer contract questions to think of.  

taktdancers-the first contract of any kind really reveals what to look for in the next.  Key is to read deeply into what is stated.  Cause or no cause could mean anything from you aren't living up to your potential to, we don't want to pay you because you aren't in this show.  Just like "as hired" has been included in some verbal capacity in all of DD's contracts from Apprentice to Full Company.  Over time, we have learned from watching others lose contracts, that it meant everything from "your body no longer looks the same" to "your dancing has not lived up to the promise we envisioned".  Be sure to notice things like what is mentioned?  Is class required?  Is class time paid?  What about theatre time?  How many weeks?  Is there Workman's Comp?  Is the level of this contract privy to it?  What about PT?  

As an Apprentice in her first company, she found that the question missing she really needed was when schedules for rehearsals and casting would be posted meaning how far in advance.  This particular company only posted the night before, so keeping a job outside of the company was difficult except on weekends.  

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Is there a list of dance unions that we should be aware of outside of AGMA?.  I assume if it is not a right to work state and not an AGMA contract that they need to be aware of any unions they should join.  Is this correct?

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Also, Congratulations Takdancers!  That is great news!!!

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There may be unions formed however I do not know what they may be called. Most professional companies in the US, if the dancers are members of a union are part of AGMA. There was a time when dancers in major companies left AGMA, but I believe they are all connected to AGMA again. 

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My dancer is in contract negotiations now, and here are a few things that I know get discussed.  They may or may not be relevant to your contract or company.

Breaks are an important thing to look for.  Ideally, there should be breaks during or between rehearsals and breaks (days off) after weekends with 4 shows, and intermissions during performances that allow dancers to rest, etc. 

How the contract weeks are scheduled can be important.  I think different dancers have different preferences, but some companies in the 28-34-week season category have shorter layoffs several times during a season, and some have fewer, but longer layoffs.  Look in the contract to see if free company classes are available during layoffs or at least a week before the layoffs end.

It's important for dancers to know when they have been rehired for the upcoming season.  Sometimes the timing of letters of intent is in the contract. Ideally, it should be early enough for the dancer to audition for other jobs.  Sometimes contracts will mention how the company will assist dancers whose contracts are not renewed.  I don't think contracts can make renewal decisions absolutely fair, however. 

Health insurance is really important. 

If the company travels, look at the way dancers are paid when traveling.

There are little perks and burdens that are sometimes mentioned in contracts:  P.R. obligations, for instance. Obligations to dance for film or video.  Bonus pay for performances. A certain number of complimentary tickets for performers per/show.  Payment for choreography.

Don't forget to look for social media recommendations/restrictions, restrictions on skiing and skydiving, and other obligations.

And speaking of skydiving, contracts often stipulate extra pay for hazardous tricks in performances, such as flying.

Does the contract have information about reporting wrongdoing? harassment? 

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Thank you, Motherhem! 

These points are very helpful, Momsof3darlings and Mln!  I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences.  I'm hoping DD will be able to ask about some of these points.  

Thank you everyone!

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Most US companies that are not AGMA will say if they contract is AGMA based or not.  DD has never been in an AGMA company but she has been in a company where the contract was based on AGMA contracts.  She has also been in one company whose contract was nothing like an AGMA contract.  While AGMA companies give additional protections, do not assume that because a contract is not AGMA that it is a bad one.  Remember, membership in AGMA is both a financial and a dancer influenced decision like most unions.  It rarely comes from the top down but rather gets instituted from the bottom (dancer dissatifaction) up.  

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