Why we can't have nice things

AndreaSTL

New member
I got this e-mail a few days ago from a local dancer who is putting on an event. I debated sharing it, but I'm so frustrated & sad I decided to do it. Here is the e-mail:

Greetings fellow dancers and friends!

(Event name and date)
This is going to be an amazing weekend filled with live music, bellydance, art, workshops, afterparty and vending. I would like you all to be there and be a part of it!
I am sending this email recruiting dancers to dance to live music.
The show will be held at (location), there will most likely be two shows, one Friday and another Saturday.

The confirmed band lineup is as follows:
Band 1
Band 2
Band 3

I am waiting confirmation on a few other bands and looking for performers.
While i will not be able to pay performers because all the proceeds will go into paying the bands, venue and travel expenses for the bands - I will do some kind of nice thank you gift. (end e-mail)

This is a talented dancer, and I'm happy she's organizing events. I'm not so happy that dancers are considered little more than props to her musical evening. The bands rate a gig fee and travel expenses, but the dancers do not. :( She often will dance at festivals and other events in exchange for exposure. While I'm not exactly marketable and this doesn't affect my bottom line, it devalues the dance and the dancers. I know I don't have to plead my case with you guys, but I had to share and get it off my chest.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
:wall::wall::wall::wall::wall:

I haven't used that particular smilie in years and here I've used it twice in a single day. Which planet is retrograde right now?

Chorale singers run into the same thing. Instrumentalists in the orchestra are paid, singers are not; even though one cannot do Mozart's Requiem, Handel's Messiah, or Beethoven's Fifth without a choir, chorale vocalists are too often not considered musicians. Soloists are different, of course. If your dress is anything but concert black, you are important.

Did she, I wonder, ever consider paying a single band so she could pay the other performers?

:wall::wall::wall:
 

AndreaSTL

New member
Did she, I wonder, ever consider paying a single band so she could pay the other performers?
I don't know for sure, but I doubt it. Then it wouldn't be the big to-do that she wants to present. Plus, since she already dances for free she doesn't even value her own performance so I'm not surprised she doesn't value others'. The sad thing is she will have dancers who come because OMG! They'll, like, get to dance on stage with a band in a real show and everything. :rolleyes:
 

teela

New member
She can pay the bands, and she can provide a gift for those who dance but she cannot pay the dancers? If she can provide a gift, why can't she pay the dancers?
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
:rolleyes: Duh. :lol: Long day. A fifth of anything sounded pretty good.

I also meant Verdi's Requiem.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
She can pay the bands, and she can provide a gift for those who dance but she cannot pay the dancers? If she can provide a gift, why can't she pay the dancers?
EXACTLY what I thought when I read that. >:/ I'm not a business expert, but it sounds to me like she needs to learn a few things about courtesy and common sense, but as was pointed out, if she doesn't even value her own dancing, she's bringing down herself and every dancer in that area.

How to change her attitude? I don't have the answer to that. :(
 

Aniseteph

New member
... she can provide a gift for those who dance but she cannot pay the dancers? If she can provide a gift, why can't she pay the dancers?
Because a small gift looks like a nice thank you; the cost of it in cold hard cash looks derisory.

Is this directed at professionally performing dancers (in which case oh puhleaze, I don't put on an eyelash for that)? Or open stage all-comers?

I'm conflicted. I agree it does highlight that the bandS (count 'em... :shok:) get payment and expenses and aren't expected to do it for the fun/ experience/ exposure, but dancers are - even if you know that's what happens, rubbing your nose in it makes you go huh?

But there's a spectrum for me. At one end is the commercial show pitched at a paying audience where someone is aiming to make a real profit - in which case all performers should be paid properly.

And at the other the type of show/ hafla where maybe one invited performer gets paid and the rest of us are basically getting up and doing a party piece. Why would you expect to be paid for that? It's about the dancers, and if we want a hired DJ or catering or staging or a band and none of them are prepared to do it for free, then unless our belly dance fairy godmother is throwing us a party we all have to chip in to pay for it.

And in the middle a huge grey area. My teacher is taking us to perform in a big event soon (with student label firmly attached ;)) - am I undervaluing myself to do it for nothing? What if we are terrible (you get what you pay for, LOL)? Are we only undervaluing ourselves if we are good and start being some sort of threat to the professionals? (another king size order of LOL - just being hypothetical here).

I guess the difference is that my value to the hafla organiser is pretty much nil unless a) I bring hordes of fans and followers, or b) there's a scarcity of dancers willing to do their party pieces. Either of which might start making paynent of some kind an option. Ah. Hang on, maybe no difference. Same applies to the commercial producer... (short pause with cogs in brain turning over... to be continued)...
 

Aniseteph

New member
Right. Umm... thinking as I go, bear with me...So it seems to be looking pretty much the same as my by dancers for dancers local hafla rather than the BDSS as far as commercial models go.

Assuming she is not making an evil secret profit off her fellow dancers' work :mad: or being a hopeless organiser squandering funds elsewhere - sure she could pay the dancers too, valuing their contribution and all, but if the books don't balance that's it - no event, or no repeat.

Is the horrible economic bottom line that not enough people want to pay to see these dancers/ events for it to work any other way? If you want to perform but nobody much wants to watch, you have to pay-to-play at some level. As a hobbyist I've paid for a whole series of workshops for a live music opportunity and would again.

I feel there's a line not to cross in this that has to do with not messing it up for other people.

(got to go and make cake now. :cool:)
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
If musicians are being paid, dancers should be paid.

If she's throwing a hafla with recorded music and a volunteer disc jockey and charging just enough at the door to cover the cost of the venue, then fine, invite people to dance just for the heck of it.

But F*&^ this noise about only paying some of the performers at the expense of the others.
 

AndreaSTL

New member
If musicians are being paid, dancers should be paid.

If she's throwing a hafla with recorded music and a volunteer disc jockey and charging just enough at the door to cover the cost of the venue, then fine, invite people to dance just for the heck of it.

But F*&^ this noise about only paying some of the performers at the expense of the others.
This. I am not always opposed to dancing for free. I've done it, and there are times when I think it's appropriate (hafla, charitable event, family event). There are several festivals here where the pay is nominal, so in exchange for your performance your instructor comps you a free class or a DVD or something small. No problem. As Anisteph mentioned, a free class seems less insulting than $5, which is what we would have ended up with.

However, to bring in bands from out of state, pay their performance fees and travel expenses but not pay the dancers? Bull shit.

We have tried in the past to get everyone on the same page regarding fees. You know, actually charging them and stuff. We tried to establish minimums for various types of performances to avoid undercutting. Of course, you can always charge more (and some do). It didn't work. We still have undercutters and people who dance for free. They just don't seem to understand that the instruction they've paid for and the time they've spent practicing has value.
 

Aniseteph

New member
However, to bring in bands from out of state, pay their performance fees and travel expenses but not pay the dancers? Bull shit.
Hmm. Contributing for a couple of local bands for everyone to amuse themselves with at a special hafla, that I would go for. This sounds more like having big ambitions and effectively expecting dancers to subsidise them. Not cool.
 

jjj

New member
This is not mandatory so I don't see why she shouldn't do it. You don't agree with it and by not doing it you put in your vote. If other dancers want to participate and enjoy a day, kuddos for them. Many girls don't and will not get paid or find jobs as dancers so this might be their moment to shine. If she loves to perform and if the only way she gets to do it is for free and she finds way to do it so be it. To her this might be advertisement.
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
This is not mandatory so I don't see why she shouldn't do it.
Because it devalues both the artists and the art itself is why she shouldn't do it. Because professional ethics. Because this kind of crap is not only why we can't have nice things, but also why we not only can't ever hope to make a LIVING with our dancing anymore, we can't even cover our own training costs anymore!

If other dancers want to participate and enjoy a day, kuddos for them.
NO, not kudos for them -- instead think "sorry" for them, because a generation ago a quality performer could actually earn what she was worth.


Many girls don't and will not get paid or find jobs as dancers
EXACTLY -- because entirely too many people will dance for free!!!

Back a generation or two ago there was a Dancer's Union, which kept the pay high, the entertainment quality high, and the number of paying customers high -- protecting the livelihoods of those dancers. We don't have that now because there are too many candidates for too small an employment pool, and everybody will dance for free because they want their 15 minutes of fame. It's selfishness, pure and simple.


so this might be their moment to shine.
So she should take money out my bank account so you can get a warm fuzzy feeling from being on stage? So my son should have to go without health insurance because she wants to show off a costume? Selfish. If she's good enough to perform professionally, she's good enough to get paid.


If she loves to perform and if the only way she gets to do it is for free
This is a recursive cycle. A self-fulfilling prophecy. There are few good paying jobs out there because too many people will dance for free. The only way these people can get jobs is by dancing for free -- because THEY THEMSELVES have destroyed the market for their own dancing!


To her this might be advertisement.
Advertisement for what?! "Come see me dance for free so you can hire me for your birthday party where I will again dance for free because no one will pay me because everybody is dancing for free because it's the only gig we can get so we dance for free." ???

What was the old anti-drug commercial slogan? "I use Coke so I can stay awake so I can work more hours so I can afford to buy more Coke so I can stay away so I can work more hours so I can buy more Coke..."


What if your Dad or Husband was a plumber, and that's how he put food on the table? What if all the other plumbers in town decided to work for free? How is Dad or Husband going to make the house payment?

Our dancers don't get subsidies from the government and we don't usually get grant money. If we don't work, we don't pay our gas bill. Our kids don't get food. A lot of hobbyist dancers can afford to do something for free. They have husbands or day jobs. Most pro dancers rely on teaching and gig income. They aren't doing this to "shine" on stage. They're doing it because they wanted to make doing what they loved into their career. And yet every time somebody pulls a stunt like this, they make it that much harder for the real professionals to share THEIR art, or make a living wage. Why is it that somehow we don't care about these dancers?


If we were talking about Egypt and we were discussing how the regional pro dancers were having to find other employment (maybe even having to take to the streets) because too many students or lesser-known dancers were performing for free, this board would light up like a Christmas Tree or a thread on Shaabi ;) Why the double standard? Why do we continue to disrespect our own professional dancers by advocating dancing for free?
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Excellent points, Aziyade. :clap:

Too many people regard dancing as "not a real job." Can't make a living dancing? Suck it up, quit having fun, and go get "a real job." Same for most jobs in the arts. I've lost count of the times people have asked "Do you get paid for doing that?" upon learning I am a writer/dancer/visual artist. "Have you sold anything?" "Are you published?" "How much do you make?" In other words: is this a "real job?"

Oddly enough, no one ever asked me if I got paid or how much I got paid for being a paralegal or a range conservationist or a fisheries biologist. Go figure. :rolleyes:
 

AndreaSTL

New member
Oddly enough, no one ever asked me if I got paid or how much I got paid for being a paralegal or a range conservationist or a fisheries biologist. Go figure. :rolleyes:
That's because you clearly would only do those jobs for fun because you liked lawyers & fish. Duh!

Aziyade, thank you for the great illustrations. Just because our chosen profession is in the arts doesn't mean our work doesn't have value. Would you dream of asking Johnny Depp to perform in your local theater's spring production for free? Nope. You would use his name and talent to hopefully draw patrons and put butts in the seats, but you would pay him. You wouldn't ask Souheir Zaki to dance for free at your show for the same reason. Granted, most of us aren't at her level, but we have put in years of training and a lot of money into our dance education.

As I mentioned before, I think there are occasions when it's fine to dance for free. A full-on stage production designed for the ticket-buying general population is not one of them. Why do the bands rate getting paid for their performance and their travel but not the dancers? Both have spent hours getting to a professional level, so both should be paid.
 

Aniseteph

New member
As I mentioned before, I think there are occasions when it's fine to dance for free. A full-on stage production designed for the ticket-buying general population is not one of them. Why do the bands rate getting paid for their performance and their travel but not the dancers? Both have spent hours getting to a professional level, so both should be paid.
Yes.

So are these are professional dancers she is asking to dance for nothing, not a bunch of students and hobbyists? :confused:

I think it's related to the lines between the social and professional dance being so blurred. When does a hafla with a little show and maybe a couple of paid special guests cross the line?

I guess it's your relationship to the audience that switches it from being dancing for fun for like-minded hobbyists to being an undercutter of pros.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
When students and hobbyists are good enough to be asked to dance in a show with professional musicians and a paying audience, they are no longer students and hobbyists but performers in a professional show. Pay 'em and they are professionals. Don't pay them and they are ripped off amateurs.
 

AndreaSTL

New member
So are these are professional dancers she is asking to dance for nothing, not a bunch of students and hobbyists? :confused:.
I can't say for sure since the distribution list on the e-mail isn't visible. I am guessing that she sent it to everyone on her list, so it would include both pros and students.
 

da Sage

New member
To me, this sounds like a logistical nightmare. Multiple bands on stage with multiple dancers? Who's going to handle the multiple set lists?

Maybe the big festivals (TribalFest, Rakassah (sp?)) do this, but it seems like a big mess to me.

How DO the big festivals do it? I've seen dancers performing with bands there (via YouTube, anyway)...how does that work? :think:
 
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