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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Reality Check


Lady Elle

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Seeing that a recent trend now is 2nd company and apprentice positions often are tuition based! I used to think how unfortunate it was that often second company members don’t get paid, now I think “wow! You don’t have to pay! That’s awesome!” 😑 🤷‍♀️ “Gotta pay your dues if ya wanna play the blues and ya know it don’t come easy”

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That’s really disheartening to hear. I guess as long as someone is willing to pay companies will get away with it. I know times are tough but this isn’t the right answer. My DD just turned 17, and while I know she would give almost anything for a shot at a career, I think I would have to draw the line at paying tuition for a 2nd company. When it comes down to it, even if it meant an almost sure shot into the company, would I really want to encourage her to work for a company that is either barely solvent or else willing to exploit dancers as much as possible?

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I totally agree. When my daughter told me her friend who graduated with BFA in ballet and has been at a well established company apprentice or 2nd company position paying tuition we both were shocked but what was even more disheartening for my daughter was that her friend was totally okay with that.  😕

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Pursuing a career in ballet is not for the faint of heart or the light of wallet, that's for sure.  Even companies who "pay" these transitional roles aren't paid nearly enough to live on.  

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Not cool. Basically filling the corps with dancers are paying to be there.

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Which companies have started doing this?  I wish there was a way to not support the practice because if it is accepted some places it will probably spread to others.  😠

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Somehow this seems...illegal🤔. How can you get away with charging someone to work for you...don't they HAVE to give minimum wage??

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Interesting. That article is from 2013 so I guess this isn't a new idea. 😭

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Yes, my impression is that the unpaid second/studio company scenario has been around for a while. The terminology is muddy, and companies vary drastically on what they mean by second company. (Here’s one of the past conversations that discusses some of the differences in what is meant by the terminology) But yes, sometimes it does amount to some companies paying for work that other companies may be getting for free.

Whether it is considered illegal to have unpaid studio company members differs from location to location, depending on local laws. Colorado Ballet, for example, is required to pay minimum wage (which is >$15 an hour in Denver) for hours spent rehearsing or performing. 
 

It is tricky, because it is common in many fields, not just ballet, to have unpaid interns, and that creates a gray area between working for free, or working in exchange for getting experience in a workplace setting.

These can all be totally valid options for a dancer, depending on their situation. I think it is just important to understand upfront what is involved, and don’t assume that a position is paid or not paid just based on what it is called.

 

 

 

 

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@dancerdancer, I can't tell from  your reply if you caught that Lady Elle said in her first post that some second companies and apprentice positions are charging tuition for participation.  Requiring tuition is a step beyond not paying the dancers in those roles. 😬

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The article I reference (apparently from 2013 - sorry I didn’t catch that) also mentioned second companies being tuition based. 

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If tuition is paid, positions are generally categorized as schooling. I would imagine if the position is unpaid but dancers are regularly used in professional productions, the company needs to be very careful. The legal guidelines generally state that unpaid interns can’t be used to perform a company’s routine work and the company’s business can’t be dependent on the work of the intern (despite any useful benefit the intern may receive from the experience). It may actually be safer for a company to categorize these dancers as students and charge tuition.

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Yes, I should have said unpaid or tuition-based! In any case, always very important to clarify terminology and to know ahead of time what is involved for any position you consider.  And I agree it stinks that it is so muddled, and also so tough to find a paying job.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a good discussion.. I found this document helpful..unpaid interns, vs trainees.  So it seems some companies have the “second company” as part of the upper level of the schools.  Some may not? I guess that is soemthing to research each school for.  Conclusion seems to be that trainee or unpaid interns would be paying tuition at a school, but company would need to pay them if doing normal work. Also nonprofits is another designation where they could be considered volunteers, but I don’t think any ballet companies are using that angle.
 

I think performances alongside the professional dancers would be classified as needing to be paid, and I think most companies do this now.  Whether or not they are subject to EEOC discrimination hiring laws seems to be gray area, this document recommends to error on the side they would be…https://www.grayreed.com/portalresource/GRMUnpaidInterns.pdf

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