Hard Data

Monday, 18 August, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment


Candoco Dance Company in rehearsal for 'In Translation' 2010. Dancers Chris Owen, Bettina Carpi and Annie Hanauer

by Article19

Two weeks ago we published "Hiring Women" a detailed look at the motivations behind dance makers decisions to hire one gender over another, or not as the case may be. Since then we, here in TheLab™, have been poring over the historic audition information published on Article19 from 2006 until 2014.

We did this to try and build as accurate a picture as possible of the number of jobs that are available for professional dancers to apply for in any given year.

Another goal was to determine if there was, as we suspected, very little in the way of substantive job growth for professional dancers in the UK year on year.

Data Party

Since 2006 Article19 has published 789 auditions that have offered approximately 2,545 jobs to dancers across the UK, in many EU countries and a limited number of countries in the rest of the world.

Although Article19 does not receive every audition notice for every company (that would be an achievement in and of itself) we do get enough notices for the UK and the EU to create a comprehensive picture of the job market for professional dancers, especially the job market in the UK.

Our data does not represent all jobs available to dancers in any given year because some jobs are not offered through the audition process or advertised at all.

UK Auditions and Jobs

Job numbers are derived from a combination of hard data and statistical averages with a +/- of 5%

The chart above lists the number of auditions for UK based companies alongside the number of jobs on offer.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the data is the almost non-existent jobs growth. Yes, the numbers jump dramatically from 2010 to 2011, following a large drop from the previous year, but from 2006-2010 and from 2011 to 2013 the numbers are flat. If 2014 continues on its current trend then by the end of this year we predict a fall in the numbers from those of the previous year.

For 2012 the job number spikes to 337 despite there being only 8 more auditions than the following year (with 2013 having 265 jobs available). On average, auditions that were for more than 3 dancers were recruiting 4 or 5 dancers.

In 2012 (the year of the London Olympics) there were an unusually high number of auditions looking for 6 or more dancers including one notice that advertised 15 jobs. Those 9 auditions seeking more than 5 dancers accounted for 70 jobs in total. If we subtract those 9 auditions from the job total for that year we have a number that almost has numerical parity with the following and previous year.

The spike in the number jobs was, more than likely, connected to the Olympics and all of the arts activity that was taking place during the event as part of the so called 'Cultural Olympiad'.

UK Gender Breakdown

This data is based on the auditions received from 2006 until 2014. The final year does not represent a full year.

The basis for the 'Hiring Women' piece was the evident disparity between the number of male only audition notices versus the female only audition notices.

For that piece the data was for a very specific time line, January - July 2013 and 2014.

As the chart above shows however the disparity has existed consistently over the last 8 years. More telling though is that the number of male only auditions have been steadily rising while the number of female only notices has remained relatively flat with an average of just 8 per year.

The average number of male only auditions is 18 per year. You should read through "Hiring Women" for more detailed analysis on those particular numbers.

A "neutral" request means the audition specified no gender or specified "either/or" when referring to the dancers gender. "Both" means the audition requested male and female dancers but there is no data to show how many were eventually hired.

The historic gender request data from 2006 shows a pattern swinging from choreographers requesting both male and female dancers to an inclination not to care what gender the dancer is to begin with.

That neutral preference has held in 5 years out of 8. We can't explain why the change is coming about but Article19 would suggest this is better for female dancers (who are in the majority in dance) because it means more jobs being made available to them through the audition process.

Across The EU and Beyond

Job numbers are derived from a combination of hard data and statistical averages with a +/- of 5%

When it comes to the European Union (EU) and the rest of the world we don't have enough data to illustrate growth in the number of jobs on offer, a decline or otherwise.

The above does show that the EU provides a lot of potential work for dancers in the UK (and in any country across the EU for that matter).

So when the news is rambling on about political parties and their divided opinions about the UK being a part of the European Union professional dancers should pay attention because the jobs market is harsh enough without removing the EU from the equation.

The majority of the audition notices we receive come in from UK based dance companies and choreographers. If you were wondering where the rest of the notices came from then wonder no more because the above chart reveals all.

Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Israel, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland are by far the biggest job advertisers outside of the UK.

The remaining notices come in from across the EU and a few countries in the rest of the world and these numbers are increasing year on year. The easy portability of dancers from one country to another (thanks to EU rules) mean that providing overseas job information is a vital part of what we do here at Article19.

Flat Growth

As mentioned at the top of this piece we anticipated that the data would show flat jobs growth for professional dancers in the UK.

Article19 has discussed, on numerous occasions, the need to start talking about job creation for dancers not only in the freelance world but also on the NPO side of of things, in the UK at least. Adding just two dancers on long term contracts to the ranks of every NPO dance company would create 58 new jobs with significant employment terms.

The money is there to pay for it, if ACE would stop throwing money down the drain on massively expensive vanity projects, but that's not going to happen unless the leaders in this profession start demanding some changes. Now you they have the numbers to argue with, will it start the discussion?

[ How Much Is A Dancer Worth ]
[ Hiring Women ]
[ We Need To Talk About Dancer's Jobs ]

Published Mon, 18 Aug, 2014 at 01:24 | Share on Facebook |

Hiring Women

Thursday, 7 August, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment


Scottish Dance Theatre in 'Second Coming' photo by Maria Falconer - Dancer Natalie Trewinnard

by Michelle Lefevre

When it comes to contemporary dance in the UK Article19 carries almost every audition that comes up from companies large and small. We also carry auditions from European companies and beyond if and when they come in. Over the last seven months though we noticed a trend.

During the first 7 months of this year Article19 published 78 auditions for professional dancers where the dancers would be paid for doing the work. Of those auditions 49 were mixed notices, that is, they either specified no gender or they were hiring both male and female dancers.

Female professional dancers were specifically requested in 5 of the notices and 24 specifically requested male professionals with just one of those offering multiple jobs within an all male dance company.

Over the same period last year, from January to July, Article19 published 73 auditions. Of those 46 were mixed, 11 were female only and 16 were male only. Two of the male only auditions were for all male dance companies (2Faced and Ballet Boyz). Going purely by the numbers we have an increase in the number of male only auditions and a small decrease in the number of female only notices. Mixed auditions remained roughly the same.

This large number of male only auditions caught our attention and the attention of several readers who contacted us wondering what was going on, so we decided to take a look.

Comparison Shopping

We reached out to several of the choreographers who specifically advertised for male dancers to ascertain their reasons for doing so. In most cases it was a simple matter of the choreographer needing to cast a male dancer for a specific role or replace a male dancer who had moved on to work elsewhere;

One dance maker told us;

"The first job was an historical piece, between a man and a woman. So no choice there. The second one was piece already made partly about male friendship. It's a re-cast of a piece already made with not much time to re-rehearse."

They also mentioned that consideration had been given to re-casting the role with a female dancer but the cost of additional auditions (space and a good audition teacher) made this option impossible.

Physical strength was mentioned a couple of times by a couple of choreographers but it was not the key reason given for hiring a male dancer over a female dancer. We also posited the idea of gender flipping an entire piece of work to alter the balance between male and female dancers and what differences that might make to the finished piece.

One company director told us;

"The idea of flipping the gender balance is interesting. My current touring piece is 2 female and 4 male dancers. Flipping the balance would create many challenges, one of the main ones being that there is a lot of lifting work that would take a very strong dancer (male or female) to do, let alone do well.
I also find that my work sits a lot better on male bodies due to the sheer strength required (particularly upper body strength). With this said, the main dancer in the company is female and she does many things that very few male dancers could do, I guess it is swings and roundabouts!"

The new work from Manchester based Company Chameleon, "The Beauty of the Beast', is an all male work but the previous double bill by the company, 'Pictures we Make', was an even split of two male and two female dancers. With regards to strength and devising they told us this;

"Creatively, there would in the beginning of a process [a] marked difference in body strength, so male artists for example might generate movement material that includes lifts or movement that requires the support of the upper body that our female artists might take longer to achieve.
This is generally overcome in the process by the way we train, with a large focus on building strength in the upper body, planks, press-up, handstand drills etc. In my experience to date, I would say that generally, male artists have weaker classical technique (I refer here also to other standardised contemporary techniques such as Graham and Cunningham).
Taking things like this into account, training has to be varied to help performers develop in many different areas (assuming the work requires this)."

Essentially, strength is a factor but training and preparation can make any physical differences moot as the devising process will naturally adapt to suit the dancers.

The Law

When hiring new dancers for your project or advertising those jobs it is important to remember that employment law and more specifically the Equality Act of 2010 does apply to you.

The act covers a wide range of discrimination issues but with regards to employment it states;

(1) An employer (A) must not discriminate against a person (B)
(a) in the arrangements A makes for deciding to whom to offer employment;
(b) as to the terms on which A offers B employment;
(c) by not offering B employment.

There are some exclusions to the law that cover hiring actors to play a specific role (you need a man to play JFK and a woman to play Amelia Earhart for example) that might apply to dance companies if you were creating a piece of work that was, in some way, gender specific.

You should tread carefully though because the law can be an unpredictable animal and if it bites you it's really going to hurt you.

When crafting your notices and deciding what dancers to hire think about what you're doing for a moment.

In The Majority

As the numbers above indicate the majority of auditions posted throughout any given year on Article19 are either gender neutral or request both male and female dancers. This would suggest a certain amount of gender blindness when it comes to hiring. We asked several of the NPO dance companies if they deliberately tried to create a gender balance in their company.

Kevin Finnan the AD of Motionhouse Dance Theatre told us;

"It would be my choice to have a company that is reflective of the society we live in. I would therefore choose to have a company as diverse as possible in gender, sexual orientation and race. This fundamental ambition is then tempered by the abilities of those who come to audition.
"Motionhouse always holds open auditions (I think we are rare in doing this). The dancers abilities are then paramount. In the past I have held auditions and I did  not feel the male dancers were of sufficient calibre and we employed an all female cast. It is not cut and dried but if there are enough candidates of sufficient calibre I would have a mixed gender company."

Candoco Dance Company helmed by Stine Nilsen and Pedro Machado and currently touring a multitude of different works created by a diverse range of choreographers said;

"We look for the best dancer for the job, which means being part of a company and all that entails, including contributing to a variety and balance of skills and personalities."

Article19 also wondered if it was possible to specify the differences between female and male professional dancers, why hire one instead of the other? To which Candoco responded;

"It's hard to put into words without falling into unhelpful and unrealistic generalisations and stereotypes. [We] think differences between skills and personalities are more important. Gender is not a priority consideration for us in casting. At the moment for instance we have a male dancer learning a role created for and by a female dancer (and that includes wearing a dress)."

Anthony Missen from Company Chameleon expanded on this;

"Men and women bring a lot of different qualities and energies into both the rehearsal room and into performance, although both can display strength, vulnerability, grace, athleticism, beauty and a whole host of other things. You cannot escape the fact that when you watch a performance, you are either looking at a man or a woman, and there is a degree of bringing your own subjective experience to bear in how you view [a piece of work]."

Rosie Kay the AD of Rosie Kay Dance Company and creator of works like '5 Soldiers' and the all-female 'Supernova' explained her thoughts on male and female dancers on-stage.

"I think my company would be different if it were all male or all female. It can be interesting depending on the concept or individual work, but for my company there would need to be some kind of artistic justification, which I can't ever see being a permanent situation. I'm interested in human stories, human ways of moving and energy, not a single gender. In other companies it does seems to be leaning heavily towards all male rather than all female companies. Personally I love seeing strong women on stage."

How Many Jobs

Most audition notices do not state how many jobs are available for dancers, especially gender neutral notices, so it's not possible to tell if the number of opportunities for female professionals have declined from this time last year.

One possible reason for the high number of male only auditions (relatively speaking) could be directly related the greater number of female dancers in the profession to begin with. Although things have changed a little over the last few years the graduating classes from dance schools will almost always be predominantly female.

Independent dance makers may struggle to find male dancers suitable for their work because through training and then working they are more likely to know a larger number of female professionals they would want to involve in their projects. So instead of auditioning they just ask the female dancer to work with them while using the audition process to find male dancers.

If an audition requests a male dancer only it doesn't necessarily mean that a female dancer or dancers are not already working on the project.

Additionally, for most dancers working and touring within companies in the UK their abilities onstage are just one factor of their employment. In a modern company the dancer can take on multiple roles from rehearsal director, through class teacher all the way to administrator and fund raiser. To say nothing of the education work. These are factors that also have to be considered when hiring.

Ultimately however female dancers still face greater problems finding jobs in the wide world of dance because there is, very obviously, greater competition for the few job that are available for them. From the perspective of a recent graduate or a seasoned professional seeing a lot of auditions with "male only" in the description is probably more than a little frustrating.

There is also an additional point to make. Of the 131 auditions published by Article19 in 2013, 92 of them were for jobs in the UK. That's 92 job opportunities for professional contemporary dancers in a country with a population of over 60Million. Given the the paucity of discussion in the wide world of dance about job creation for dancers that's a sobering statistic and one very good reason for the UK to remain in the EU.

Examples of many of the works and companies cited in this piece can be viewed in our video section.

Published Thu, 7 Aug, 2014 at 10:26 | Share on Facebook |

Corrupted Space

Wednesday, 25 June, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment


Normally for a piece like this we would use a screen capture of the website in question. TheSpace is so badly designed and so ugly however we thought a picture of a cute dog would be preferable! photo by Adrian Fallace

by Article19

We've all been there. You enter an art gallery, the space is the size of a sports hall, it's brightly lit and around the edges stand unsmiling staffers in black shirts and trousers, each with an earpiece dangling from one ear so they can receive instructions from an unseen control centre about when to take lunch.

Positioned in the middle of the floor is a single plinth about 4ft high. On top of that plinth is a tiny white box, fashioned from some exotic material, and next to the tiny white box is a card. Written on that card in plain black text is the phrase "musings on the universe - 2001".

Congratulations, you've been indoctrinated into the world of extreme visual art.

It is this world that TheSpace now inhabits. The website originally intended to bring the arts to the masses on the internet and on television has become the world's most annoying art gallery.

Internet, We Have A Problem

On paper the original "Space" was simple enough. Put the arts on the internet so people could see the arts on the internet. The only problem was that the pieces commissioned to be on TheSpace were, to be blunt, completely awful. There was also a side mission to get arts organisations in the UK educated in the ways of digital media.

From violinists playing music in airborne helicopters (not making that up by the way) to massively expensive "dance" films and faux television programmes that, along with the entire contents of the previous website, have now vanished into thin air.

The website ( was a mess, the content was rubbish and the staff operating it came across as having the collective personality of a cactus. Mercifully, Arts Council England, along with the BBC, only ploughed £3.5Million into the thing before it was deleted.

Did we say "mercifully"? What we meant was incompetently. Now TheSpace is back with a new mission and a new tagline;

"The Space is one of the most exciting places on the internet to find new art to explore and enjoy."

Ok, stop laughing at the back!


Marina Abramović tries the enthuse the audience about her new work '512 Hours' at the Serpentine Gallery in London and fails miserably by being a bit miserable.

The old mission was such a massive failure they had to try something new and the new thing they are trying seems to be focused on, mostly, a visual art approach.

This time out you can watch, for example, Marina Abramović giving daily updates about her project '512 hours' running at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Ms Abramović's delivery on the videos is so dead-pan, so devoid of warmth or personality we can't imagine why anybody would want to sit through all ten (at the time of writing) videos or what they would learn about her work.

If you want to get people enthused about the arts, whatever you do, don't let them watch those video diaries.

The videos themselves feel like an annoying art installation and you don't even get to see the work itself because cameras are not allowed in. Irony!

Another commission on the site ('Longitude') describes itself thus;

"LIFT, The Space, Abandon Normal Devices and Watermans have co-commissioned a world first - a live play with actors in three cities on the same longitude line - London, Barcelona and Lagos, focusing on global water shortages. All perform (sic) in a Google Hangout"

First of all, every play ever made is "live", albeit in a theatre. This play is little more than a badly written and badly acted piece of film rendered in Google Hangout's low-res video format.

The only reason we can think of for this piece being commissioned at all is for the simple reason that it can be classified as "digital". 'Longitude' is a clear example of technology leading the idea. The quality was of secondary consideration to the method used to deliver it to the good people of planet earth.

Camels, Committees, Confusion

Pretentious bad work is all part of being in the arts but when you put all of that work together into one place and it's the only thing you offer the visiting public then you have a problem. Just ask the people who watched the Aerowaves dance festival "live" from Sweden.

TheSpace is not bringing the arts to the people. What TheSpace is doing is bringing a very narrow subset of the arts to people based on the egos of the individuals who hand out the money for commissions.

Speaking of those people. TheSpace has been turned into a "Community Interest Company" the reasons for which they were unwilling to explain. Suffice to say that a CIC has less stringent, publicly available, financial reporting requirements than a registered charity. Almost every arts organisation in receipt of public arts funding on a regular basis is a registered charity.

The money to fund the TheSpace's operations is coming from several sources, all of them public. Arts Council England is handing over £8.1Million over the next 3 years (that's eight point one million just in case you thought it was a typo).

Arts Council Northern Ireland (ACNI) is throwing in £600,000 over three years along with Creative Scotland, because they are slightly less crazy, who are stumping up £250,000 for 2014/2015.

Commercial Break

ACE refused to hand over the application form (for what they describe as a "Solicited Grant") that TheSpace filled in claiming that the information contained within was "commercially" sensitive.

The funding monolith said the application contains a "detailed business plan" for the operation of TheSpace and their contracts with "partner organisations".

ACNI and Creative Scotland did not provide answers as to whether or not TheSpace had to apply for funding in writing.

In another twist it turns out that ACE CEO Alan Davey is on the board of directors of the company set up to run the website. Again, ACE claimed that there are "strict" operational guidelines in-place that counter any conflict of interest problems especially when it comes to commissioning work.

The obvious elephant in the room however is the fact that Arts Council England awarded over £8Million in funding to an arts project operated by themselves.

The registered address for TheSpace is Arts Council England's own address in London. Communication's staff at ACE seemed unsure as to whether or not the employees of TheSpace are actually working in the same building and, if not, where they actually are located.

TheSpace themselves (they have a separate communications contact which is actually managed by private PR firm Bolton Quinn) refused to say how much money was spent commissioning the videos from Ms Abramović, the painting demonstration (since removed from the site) by David Hockney or for the material "donated" by Chinese artists Ai Wei Wei.

When asked, TheSpace did not respond to questions stating that since the website was basically a proxy funding body of Arts Council England why are the general public not entitled to know how their money is being used or how much is being spent on commissions.

A New Space

Imagine for a second that you are making a funding application to Grants for the Arts* or, like many, you have gone through the torturous process of making an NPO** application. From your perspective the whole thing is like rolling the dice in a casino.

Now imagine that the CEO of Arts Council England is on the board of directors for a rival organisation also making a large funding application. Do you still think the playing field is level?

TheSpace is the perfect encapsulation of what happens when you do the arts by committee. ACE, as a funding organisation, takes something very simple, putting the arts online, and makes the whole process complex and badly presented with the overwhelming appearance of insider dealing and corruption.

Add to that TheSpace's (ACE's?) refusal to comprehensively answer even the most basic questions about what they are doing with other people's money and you have more than enough reasons to throw ACE and their entire senior management team in a canal.

ACNI and Creative Scotland's involvement in this mess, although more financially restrained, is no less forgivable.

The entire arts output in the UK could be comprehensively covered by about a dozen journalists working independently of the funding bodies and the arts organisations they fund for a lot less money than is being wasted on the current incarnation of TheSpace.

No commissions, no pretentious ideas about "hacking the arts", just coverage of the massive amount of culture being funded, created and put on show every day, all over the country.

Running a web based platform for the arts that way prevents it from being little more than a publicity exercise for large scale organisations. Like this example from the National Theatre of Scotland, because what people really want to do is watch badly made short plays, broadcast "live" on the internet at 3am.

ACE and the BBC dug themselves a giant hole with the first version of the website, which they smugly referred to as a "beta test". Having spent so much money and time flogging a web-based dead horse they had no option but to continue the project, throwing more money away in the process. Hubris and arrogance do not make good bedfellows.

Instead of learning however they have just made it all worse and even more aesthetically unpleasant and impenetrable.

In a much delayed response to questions put to Arts Council England with regards to the manner in which the money was granted to TheSpace they told us;

"Apologies for the error in [our] last email but it was in fact a Solicited Grant which allows the Arts Council to invite a specific organisation, individual or partnership to apply for funding in order to deliver a specified project that helps deliver one or more of our goals and priorities as set out in our 10-year strategic framework for the arts. When, following an analysis of all options available for achieving a particular priority or strategic aim, it is clear that only one organisation would be best placed to deliver the outcome we have prioritised; we will request approval for a solicited approach to be made to that organisation."

Arts Council England invited themselves to apply for a huge amount of money for a project that only they could run and, surprise surprise, the application was accepted.

It was accepted because only Arts Council England could operate an online arts service as bad as TheSpace and spend millions in the process.

Make of that what you will the next time your GFA or NPO application is turned down.

*Grants for the Arts or GFA is the project based funding programme from Arts Council England and is funded by Lottery money.

**NPO is National Portfolio Organisation, the regular funding programme for arts organisations run by Arts Council England and is funded by money from central government.

Published Wed, 25 Jun, 2014 at 11:44 | Share on Facebook |

How Much Is A Dancer Worth?

Thursday, 22 May, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment


Scottish Dance Theatre in 'Second Coming' photo by Maria Falconer - Dancer Nicole Guarino

by Michelle Lefevre

What is a fair wage for a professional dancer? It's a common question and there is no simple answer but here in TheLab™ we are always up for a challenge so let's see if we can work it out.

A few organisations in the UK, Equity and The Independent Theatre Council to name two, think they have cracked the formula but for some reason their formulae always favour the employer and end up screwing the dancers over. It's almost like they don't have the individual dancer's best interest at heart.

Equity was the organisation responsible for negotiating the £358.72 per week pay level for dancers working at The Royal Opera that we reported a couple of weeks ago. Whatever their misguided reasoning we can all agree that particular pay level is an insult and move on.

The Minimum Wage

The only available baseline we have for a legally enforced salary is the national minimum wage. In the UK this is set by central government and comes in at £6.31 per-hour. For a 40 hour week you would earn £252.40 before deductions or £13,124.80 annually.

Minimum wage laws were introduced to protect those working in unskilled jobs from being exploited by employers. The minimum wage laws don't take into account the cost of living and there are many who argue not for a minimum wage but a "living wage".

Professional dancers are not "un-skilled" however so any discussion about paying them minimum wage is moot.

The Baseline

As we have mentioned before on Article19, minimum pay levels for dancers should form the basis of any funding application.

If you have ten dancers in a company and they all fall within the medium pay level outlined in this article then the baseline funding for the company would be £312,000 if the dancers are employed full-time.

That might sound like a lot of money but the reality is, to employ all of the dancers in all of the NPO companies on full time contracts at £31,200 per year would cost just over £6Million.

If you think that sounds crazy then consider this. The Royal Opera House spend more money than that on just 80 of their employees on an annual basis.

There is plenty of money to make this happen, Arts Council England just needs the leadership to make it happen.

Degrees of Skill

Trying to determine a specific number is going to be tough because no matter what the profession salaries are based on a fairly arbitrary decision making process.

Most employers derive their pay levels based on a few basic factors; How hard is the job, the skills level of the person required to do the job and the experience of the person that is ultimately hired. For some fields of expertise the rarity of a qualified person to do the job will also be a factor.

In a lot of large scale industries there is also the "cheap factor". Even companies that make billions in profits ever year still pay many of their employees low wages because they can get away with it.

There is plenty of evidence that the "cheap factor" is present in the arts but let's assume, for the purposes of this piece, that the employers have some ethics.

It's also important to note that a professional dancer's value is not linked, as you might think, to the audience who watches them perform or the art-form in general but to the company they perform with or whomever their employer is, in whatever capacity.

A company cannot exist without the dancers nor can the company deliver on their artistic goals if they have no artists to work with. The merits of a particular show have nothing to do with the popularity of a particular performance or tour.

Irrespective of whether or not there are 100 people in an audience or 1000 the professional dancer on the stage has to perform the same work with the same high degree of commitment and skill.


If we break down the requirements for a job as a professional dancer into 1. Job difficulty, 2. Skills required to do the job and 3. Experience of the individual professional dancer we have somewhere to start.

We can also factor in some supply and demand numbers and we will get to that later.

Let's begin with "job difficulty". This varies from company to company and choreographer to choreographer but there is no doubt that any job that involves creating and performing a professional level dance work is extremely difficult.

It is a job that can only be done by a well trained professional dancer. You can't drag somebody in off the street, give them a few weeks and expect them to operate effectively in a company like, for example, National Dance Company Wales.

We should also factor in the personal physical risk to the dancer when they are rehearsing, training and performing. This is something that is unique to the art form, not a lot of cellists get injured playing for the LSO.

Next up are the skills required to do the job or more accurately, the work required to obtain those skills. Years of training are needed to reach the level that most dance companies require before they will even think about hiring a dancer.

Even after they graduate dancers need to keep on training and learning both to maintain their physical capabilities but also adapt to the ever changing requirements of the art form.

These skills and the work required to obtain and maintain them should be rewarded by good wages when employers seek to exploit those skills within their work.

Experience is a factor because, according to the many auditions notices we receive, dance makers want upwards of three years of it before they will even consider hiring a dancer.

The more experienced the dancer the more their skills should be worth when it comes to their pay packet because it took time and effort to obtain that experience.

Finally, dancers in most companies do a lot more than just create and perform. They do admin work, teaching, organising, planning, travelling and a whole lot more. All of these things are skills being used by their employer.

The Market

It has been falsely claimed in the past, by people who should know better, that wages for dancers are driven down by the oversupply of dancers vs the amount of jobs available.

This thinking is based on a number of false assumptions. Firstly, not all professional dancers, no matter how skilled or experienced, are suitable for all of the jobs that become available.

You can't take a dancer from the corps of the Royal Ballet and realistically expect them to get a job with Motionhouse Dance Theatre and vice-versa. Dancers familiar with the repertoire of a single and very stylised dance maker like Richard Alston would not fair well, in most cases, auditioning for Jasmin Vardimon Company.

Professional contemporary dancers in particular are not readily inter-changeable between different companies and so are not always in direct competition with one another for every job.

If every dancer could do every job, if every dancer was the same then there would be no auditions, it would just be first come first served.

Another red herring is the number of applicants for each job or the number of dancers that show up to open auditions. Applying for a job or going to an open audition is not evidence that an individual is qualified for or capable of doing the job on offer.

Every dancer that graduates from a school is also not looking to move into the profession as a performer. Some concern themselves with other parts of the profession, like teaching, or drift away altogether into other careers. Sometimes the goal is simply to graduate.


Given all of the variables above a professional dancer falls into the category of a highly skilled, sought after employee in a high risk profession with a limited career life span.

If pay for a professional dancer is inline with other highly skilled professionals in other industries then with three years experience a dancer should be looking at at least £15 per hour.

For a 40 hour week on a 12 month contract this would be an annual salary of £31,200 or £600 per week for those on shorter contracts. For a 12 month contract this also keeps you just short of the UK's 40% income tax bracket.

New graduates should be looking at £13 per hour with an annual salary of £27,040 should they be lucky enough to be on a 12 month contract or £520 per week with shorter engagements.

Dancers with 6 or 7 years experience should be rewarded for that with a pay level set at £18 per hour or more. This delivers £37,440 in annual salary or £720 per week.

For professional dancers not living in London those salaries, depending on experience, would give them a real opportunity at having what the muggles would describe as a "normal life".

This normality involves things like paying bills, having a holiday every so often and being able to save money for the future.

For dancers in London and various parts of the South East of England the mid-range salary still means plenty of financial challenges but at least they get a fair shot at not living from week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque.

Perhaps more importantly these numbers set reasonable and fair baselines for weekly salaries that dancers should expect from dance companies and other employers.

The recent debacle over the Royal Opera paying just £358.72 per week shows just how out of touch the big companies and Equity are when it comes to pay.

Dancers don't need enough money to "get by", they need enough money to live a regular life just like any other employed person. The skills they bring to the table should easily guarantee them that one very simple thing.

Published Thu, 22 May, 2014 at 10:29 | Share on Facebook |

The Big Ten

Monday, 12 May, 2014 | Comment | Make A Comment


unlike most dancers the profession itself is completely off balance - Sasha Waltz and Guests 'Gefaltet' - photo by Bernd Uhlig

Let's get one thing straight right away. Buzzfeed didn't invent the story based list so for this, we make no apologies! So let's break down the ten biggest problems facing the wide world of dance. Feel free to fix any or all of them at your own speed.

1. Sexism

Sexism has many faces in dance. You could focus on the hiring and commissioning practices in the profession that lean heavily towards male dance makers and directors (especially in the world of ballet).

Given the massive ratio of women to men in the wider profession it's hard to come to a conclusion other than the dance world has a massive issue with women being in charge.

There is also a more subtle forms of sexism in the guise of a funding system that does not take into account the legal requirement for maternity leave.

Some companies are able to provide paid maternity leave but they are the exception, not the rule. Much like dancers pay levels, unless the cost is built into funding applications and funding guidelines and those guidelines set the operational financial baseline for a dance company then little is going to change.

It's also truly ironic that having children and the cost of childcare are so often given as excuses for the lack of professional advancement opportunities for women in dance.

2. The Conference Industrial Complex

A lot of money and time gets spent in the arts setting up conferences, going to conferences and talking a lot about things that don't matter and then talking about setting up more conferences.

One example would be the 'No Boundaries' conference that involved, among other things, a Google executive pimping out her kids to show off Google products and trying, not at all successfully, to explain how this could help the arts.

That particular endeavour cost six figures which is preposterous because the whole thing could have been replicated with an email list and a PDF document or two.

A lot of money gets splashed around on these things and the net gain for the arts is always nothing at all that you can put your finger on. Even if you could put your finger on it you probably wouldn't want to.

3. Arts Council England is Incompetent

A funding organisation that spends ten times the amount of money on a project than is actually needed, provides millions to large scale organisations while turning down individual GFA applications due to a lack of money and hides millions in funding from prying eyes is incompetent.

The funding monolith's annual report from last year states that the ACE CEO Alan Davey received a total pay package of over £200,000 (including pension contributions). You have to wonder just exactly what he's being paid for given the massive losses to arts funding over the last few years and overseeing a demonstrable, country-wide imbalance in funding.

ACE doesn't even have a coherent plan to pay for touring across the UK. They just keep using the word "strategic" a lot.

Change needs to come by way of a complete replacement of senior staff and a completely transparent overhaul of the way funding is distributed and the way individual projects are given money.

The UK arts scene is defined, at present, by cronyism and entrenchment so we need some big shovels to start afresh.

4. Apathetic Theatres and Venues

On many occasions we have been to venues for a show only to find zero effort has been made by the venue to actually promote the show that's on in their own theatre. On occasion the bad venues don't carry out the simple task of putting posters and flyers out in their own foyer.

Many a dance maker has told us about theatre's that book them and don't even bother to say hello when they arrive, don't understand the concept of education and audience development and marketing strategies that start and end with a post to a Facebook page.

It's like booking a flight on Ryanair where the airline employees are literally pissed off that you bothered to show up to take the trip you paid for.

Other horror stories involve venues not having enough lights and rude theatre staff who can't wait to throw the audience out after the show is finished, literally locking the doors behind the last person who clears the threshold on the way out.

A night out at the theatre should actually best a prison sentence when it comes to consumer satisfaction scores.

5. Archive Me Not

The primary job of a dance company is to make work and tour that work. It's not asking a great deal for them to point a camera at the stage and make a record of what's being made.

Even a rudimentary archive available via a dance company website would be better than nothing but, all to often, you have to dig around to find any video material at all.

Dance has the particular advantage of working very well on screen so it might be a good idea to take advantage of that and put more of it online.

Or, as we have said many times before, if Article19 contacts you because we want to do a feature, say yes....

6. Paucity of Money

The most recent ruckus over dancers pay emphasised, once again, the fact that the arts is just not spending enough money to actually pay people to do their job.

It's one thing for an emerging dance maker with a £5,000 grant to offer low wages but another thing altogether when a massive opera company (The Royal Opera) can only muster £358.92 per week for a professional dancer.

A quick browse of the audition listings on publications like The Stage reveals the majority of the auditions they advertise for dancers are unpaid. Any students looking through that list would get demoralised very quickly indeed.

Being a "professional" at something means that you get paid for what you do and the more experienced you are (and the more you have to offer skills wise) means you get paid even more.

7. Social Media Noise

Social media services like Twitter and Facebook should be a fun way of interacting with your audience and folk in general. Too many in the arts however use their social media presence as little more than a never ending link lists or, in the case of Twitter, narcissistic "praise re-tweeting" bonanzas.

Irrespective of the particular feature set of any social network they are, ultimately, methods of communication and communication goes both ways.

A little bit more chatting and a lot less broadcasting would go a long way. It's also a really good idea if you come across as friendly and approachable and a bit less like you have a big stick up you butt!

The recent series of video updates provided by the dancers from Motionhouse Dance Theatre on their tour of the United States is a good example of how to do it.

The videos were chaotic and not technically accomplished but that's not the point because they were fun and accessible.

8. The London Lie

London is often painted as the centre of dance if not in the UK then the world or, you know, whatever. Out of 207 features on Article19 only 2 of them were filmed in London and that means dance happens pretty much everywhere else and it happens a lot. Dance companies based in London basically spend most of their time touring somewhere else.

It's also absurd that companies struggling for money should base themselves in one of the worlds most expensive cities. This makes it harder for them to function and harder for their dancers to actually make a decent living before they blow all their earnings on ridiculous rental costs.

Dance companies like Rambert are so obsessed with basing themselves in the capital, for no reason at all, they are willing to spend almost £20Million building new studios there.

Moving out of London cuts costs for everybody no matter what the national funding situation is like.

9. The Dance Media

Here in TheLab™ we don't expect everybody to be like us but come on, make an effort already. Dance Europe (stop laughing at the back) is still a print publication along with the Dancing Times, a publication that comes pre-coated in dust for you to blow off before reading.

Politics, technology, sports... these are subjects with hundreds of different publications all with strong online presences and some with companion print editions.

They all offer different styles, different readerships and different specialities. Variety keeps things vibrant and a hefty dose of professional rivalry is good for the soul and good for the subjects they cover.

Dance on the other hand? The dance "print media" mob barely register any presence on the internet at all and when they do show up it's the written equivalent of beige carpet.

The "dance blog" started by The Guardian newspaper promised little when it launched but still managed to deliver below expectations with the same old weak sauce we've come to expect.

It's just no fun at all.

10. Speak Up

A few brave souls in the wide world of dance speak up about the problems they face, often at considerable risk to their own career.

We need more of that, we need the dancing folk, the administrators and the choreographers and directors to open up about what ails them. If you have to do it anonymously or off the record then so be it, but you have to do it.

Talking about your problems is akin to admitting there are problems and that's the first stage of recovery and dance is a profession that is in dire need of some recovery.

Published Mon, 12 May, 2014 at 10:33 | Share on Facebook |

We Need To Talk About Dancer's Jobs

Thursday, 24 April, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment


Dancer Annie Hanauer in Candoco Dance Company’s ‘Imperfect Storm’. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Do you know how many regular, full-time jobs there are for professional dancers in the UK? The simple answer is not many. If we look at jobs in touring professional contemporary companies then the number of full time positions is probably less than 40.

Looking through the National Portfolio Organisations for dance, funded by Arts Council England and Creative Scotland (Scotland doesn’t call their regularly funded companies NPOs), then we have what amounts to approximately 195 employed positions for dancers.

When you think about the combined population of both Scotland and England you are looking at more than 50Million people. So that’s less than 1 full-time job for a professional dancer per 1Million of population. During training the dance teachers weren’t kidding when they said finding work was going to be hard.

In the NPOs that can’t offer full time work the contracts can be very limited. The companies with more financial support can, obviously, offer contracts for as long as 10 months of the year but some can only offer sporadic levels of employment over a 12 month period. Having year on year funding doesn’t mean a great deal when it comes to a dancer’s individual job security.

# Dance Company Dancers
Notes: Some numbers are based on the number of dancers featured in the most recent productions and may not reflect the number of dancers currently employed by a particular company.
1 Candoco Dance Company 7
2 Motionhouse Dance Theatre 7
3 Akram Khan Company 11
4 Shobana Jeyasingh Dance 5
5 Ballet Lorent 10
6 Ballet Boyz 9
7 Richard Alston Dance Company 8
8 Retina Dance Company 4
9 Scottish Dance Theatre 9
10 2Faced Dance Company 6
11 Company Chameleon 4
12 Random Dance [Company] 10
13 Phoenix Dance Theatre 8
14 Hofesh Shechter Company 12
15 DV8 Physical Theatre 8
16 Jasmin Vardimon Company 9
17 Vincent Dance Theatre 6
18 ACE Dance and Music 8
19 Protein Dance 7
20 Tilted Productions 4
21 Stop Gap Dance 5
22 Balbir Singh Dance 5
23 Michael Clark Company 8
24 Rambert Dance Company 21
25 Tavaziva Dance Company 5
Total 195


Of course there are other jobs for dancers available. Many project based companies can offer work for limited periods of time during the year and numerous opportunities to work on education projects come up across the country on a fairly regular basis.

Job hopping is common practice in the wide world of dance with dancers jumping from one stone to the next to keep working and keep their incomes at a slightly less than terrifying level.

Since the start of the year Article19 has published 47 auditions for various types of company work. If we exclude the overseas projects we are left with 35 job offers. Not all auditions specify how many dancers they require but it probably averages out at 2 per audition.

Article19 doesn’t publish every audition that’s available because we don’t always get the information. Also, some jobs for dancers are not advertised for audition at all.

Even taking those details into account that means approximately 70 jobs for dancers being made available over a period of 4 months for, in most cases, very limited contracts.

Inherently Incomprehensible

Some would argue that this is how it as always been and this is how it should be. Some would argue that the life of a professional dancer is inherently insecure and always has been and there’s nothing you can do about that.

Well we, here in TheLab™, beg to differ and you, our dear readers, would not love us so much if we didn’t.

For the moment let’s leave aside the fact that the pay and long term employment problems faced by dancers are almost entirely economic shall we.

The very old fashioned thinking relating to the dance profession is predicated on the idea that a professional dancer turns up at a theatre, puts on a show and then retires home for the evening, their 90 minutes of work done for the day.

Now, we all know that couldn’t possibly be further from the truth but it was just that sort of thinking that came to light in the debacle of English National Opera and how much they paid professional dancers to be in one of their productions a couple of years ago.

Professional dancers are constantly training, teaching, traveling, rehearsing, recovering and so much more even when they don’t know where the next job is coming from.

If you’re doing it right then the profession can be almost relentless.

The Flip Side

We have long argued the need for policies in the arts that are short on “funding application gibberish” and long on ideas for creating jobs and job security.

One policy that should be in place is requiring companies that receive regular funding to submit budgets that allow them to employ their dancers on full time, 12 month contracts. That should be the baseline cost of operating the company and ACE, Creative Scotland and all the other funding bodies should acknowledge that in their never-ending guidelines.

The benefits of having dancers on 12 month contracts to the dance company and the profession in general are numerous. NPO companies would be in a far better position to provide classes and workshops to freelance professionals, dance students and general community work on a year round basis.

Rehearsal periods for new works could be extended to the actual amount of time needed to get a piece of work ready instead of having to get it all done in two or three weeks which is the norm right now.

It would put an end to the problem of dance companies not being able to accept tour bookings or other projects because their dancers are “off contract” and working for somebody else.

On a more personal level full time employment allows for sick leave, holiday pay and maternity leave. Normal things that are not only ethical but are required by law. To their credit, a few companies have managed to offer these benefits to their dancers.

In the freelance world we have proposed a few ideas for how to create more full time jobs for those that eschew the trappings of a formal dance company.

Time to Grow Up

If our “arts leaders” really believe the rhetoric concerning the value of dance and the arts in general to society then it’s time for this profession to grow up.

It’s time for this profession to acknowledge that their single most valuable resource deserves not only a fair wage but some job security and a tangible career path.

It’s time for the industry to start talking about job creation the same way they do in manufacturing industry or the tech sector.

Political rhetoric in the current climate is all about “hard working people”. Well, dancers work a lot harder than most and some dancers work a lot harder than that.

So let’s start talking about dancers jobs and spend a little less time talking about esoteric choreographic theories and the importance of “social media” to the arts.

As ever, we hold out very little hope for substantive change but, as you all know, we enjoy the fight more than most.

Published Thu, 24 Apr, 2014 at 12:24 | Share on Facebook |

Errol White Company

Wednesday, 2 April, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment

by Susan Cunningham

I first interviewed Errol White in 2009. He had just landed in Edinburgh and was about to take off with his newly founded company. IAM was their debut piece and arrived into the Traverse Theatre in 2009 with the weight of a company that was here to stay.

It is a visceral piece with breathtaking yet truthful energy. The dancers emotionally transparent, drawing us in as if we were watching our own bodies in space. At that time, he was asking through the work, "how do you maintain your identity when you are in a larger setting of a group dynamic?" Not only a comment on the work, applying to dancers in company but a wider existential question.

Questions that arise to inform performance, feed through the veins of the company into the way the co-directors motivate themselves and continue to inspire and impart their knowledge on others.

5 years on and I witness first hand in the rehearsal studio Davina and Errol staying true to the ethos, teaching and developing choreography for the much anticipated return of IAM. They are exacting with their teaching of moves, whilst encouraging dancers to reach inside themselves to find their own authenticity within the work.

I asked Davina, how do you combine individuation with ensuring that dancers maintain technique. "It's a good question!" She replies with a laugh, but replies that despite time restraints class involves body awareness, improvisation, listening and playing, these things are just as important as technique. I witness all aspects of this in a short time with them in the studio. Their experience and motivation is infectious and seems as crucial as building strength, core and alignment.

Part of the company's ethos is not just to work with dancers on shape and form but to train them in a nurturing environment that promotes full body communication. Davina said to me that coming back to the studio is like coming home. I saw them as heads of an artistic household which encourages creativity as well as longevity: raising dancers to their full potential, whilst ensuring care and attention that can prevent depletion by demands of repertoire.

It was fascinating then to watch the rehearsals: consecutive leaps, changing directions, carving, sweeping turns, expansive rises and breathtaking falls that are the signature of White's choreography seem so demanding; surely there is a danger of burn out. However, the work is an insight into many realms of a dancing body. It displays the powerful breakthrough point when the body and mind enters exhaustion and emotional transformation can occur. 

Bodies in Space

Errol White Company (EWC) have made it their aim to produce artists not just bodies in space, the launch of their Evolve programme sees that dream one step closer. 5 years ago Errol said "In an ideal world there should be fellowship funding" but went on to say "but I'm a studio person not a politician". When the company gained charitable status 2 years ago allowed them to make a small step towards that ideal. In addition, recent news of an award by Creative Scotland to fund a full dance apprenticeship shows how studio people can make changes. 

In a relatively short time, the company have established themselves as progressive educators across the contemporary dance sector. Their personable and skilled mentoring is an adhesive support for professional dancers, particularly in Scotland. Their Emerge programme aims to provide continued personal and dance community development across the UK.

Another exciting aspect of the re -working of IAM, in addition to the anticipation of knowing new work is emerging, is the space in between: the realm of communication between themselves and their audience. What better way to witness the power and intensity of EWC dancers than close up? Watching enrapturing movement in an intimate venue allows us to feel like we are all in the front row.

We are reeled in, hearing the breath of the dancer, seeing muscles exert, feeling the shared somatic elation of lifts or the breathless empathy of exhaustion. The tour takes place in venues that allow this unique communication exchange. The first date is in the Studio Theatre at the back of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, an impressive new rehearsal and performance space where artists can train and practice staging in the actual size of the venue. 

As the EWC continue to evolve it is refreshing to see a company follow through on their initial word. Beginnings that come from an honest, open and deeply insightful place can only produce authenticity, as Errol said "it must and should, all stem from the work" and there the cycle goes on. 

The company perform next on Wednesday 2nd April 2014 at Sunart Centre (Strontian) and then on Saturday 5th April 2014, Cove Burgh Hall (Rosneath Peninsula)

'IAM' Interview from 2012 on Article19

[ Company Website ]

Published Wed, 2 Apr, 2014 at 12:43 | Share on Facebook |

A Dancer in Holland

Monday, 24 March, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment


Photo "Winter Wonderland of The Netherlands" by Dr Bob 97

Strictly speaking you're not actually supposed to call Holland Holland at all but rather The Netherlands. Holland refers to two provinces of the country, North Holland and South Holland.

However, Holland or The Netherlands it's all Dutch to us (....really? Ed!) Home to some 16.8Millions souls (approximately) the country is well know for being very liberal, very flat and the home of a lot of old fashioned windmills, cycling en-masse and great cheese.

The inhabitants mainly speak Dutch which is a language that is not at all easy to learn but English is relatively widespread so you should be able to get along just fine but if you're going to live there try and learn the basics.

When you discuss dance in The Netherlands you generally here folks talking about Nederlands Dans Theater a company that has existed for some 50 years and became very popular under the artistic direction of Jiří Kylián thanks, in part, to a lot of hyper-athletic dance theatre. Based in The Hague that particular company has been on the receiving end of some rather brutal funding cuts along with a lot of Dutch culture.

However, there is a large amount of dance activity in the country and it is more diverse than NDT on its own would, perhaps, suggest. The availability of jobs for professional dancers is pretty much the same as it is anywhere in Europe.

"In general, there is a broad spectrum of dance within The Netherlands with all genres I can think of. Perhaps one difference is that in The Netherlands there is the addition of a variety of collaborative arts, namely: acting, singing, live music and visual arts (drawing/painting/projection and film) incorporated into a contemporary dance performance which I think has widened the audiences. 
As a result, there are a lot of performing opportunities though this has been reducing since the culture budget cuts started. I personally don't tend to teach within the Netherlands but I know that a lot of the institutions here are appreciative of a range of disciplines and as a result usually incorporate a variety of teaching styles to their curriculum."

Funding for the performing arts is handled, for the most part, by the Performing Arts Fund. They distribute approximately €43Million (£35.9Million) annually to theatre music and dance productions by organisations and individuals. You can apply for the funding if you are a resident of The Netherlands, you can even do it online.

Overall the central government of the country provides €700Million (£585.5Million) of funding for the arts and culture through the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences. As mentioned above this amount takes into account some drastic reductions over the last couple of years.

This amount far exceeds, on a per person basis, the amount of money spent on the arts in the UK.

Build the CV

One of the greatest things about dance is the fact that the only thing you need to work in other countries is yourself. You can pack some clothes and a decent smartphone and off you go, all you need to dance is you.

This is especially true if you are lucky enough to be a citizen of an EU country because then a couple of dozen countries are yours to explore as you see fit.

Working overseas can often expose you to a huge variety of different works and creative processes you have never imagined.

Not only is this great for your own professional development as a dancer and possible dance maker it also looks great on your CV.

That particular piece of paper is mostly useless for dancers but it can show future employers that you've taken the initiative and broadened your creative and performing experience.

Non-EU folks do have a slightly harder time of it in Europe because of immigration and working rules but don't despair. There are plenty of dancers from outside of the European Union working and travelling around the wide world of dance here so it can be done, it just takes a bit more patience.

Pay Levels

If we use the PPI scale for cost of living then The Netherlands ranks 4 places below the UK meaning their cost of living is lower.

This means your basic consumables (like food) are going to be a little cheaper and eating out in regular restaurants doesn't require maxing out your credit card as it will in Norway and Switzerland.

Renting accommodation in a city like Amsterdam can be very tricky because there is not a lot to choose from and the best prices we could find started at €700 (£585) per month and this was pretty much the level wherever we looked.

The Netherlands has very strict rules about rent costs based on a point scoring system but that system does not apply if monthly rental is over €699 per month. So what you find is a lot of rent starting above that level.

Your best bet, even for longer stays, is to rent a room in a private house as this will save you a little bit of money. We were able to find a good size room in Rotterdam for £421 per month.

Train travel via the state owned Nederlandse Spoorwegen is very inexpensive when compared to the UK. A 45 minute journey from Rotterdam to Amsterdam costs just €14.50 (£12.00) each way. A two hour journey from Groningen to Amsterdam costs just €24.70 (£20.50) and there appears to be little in the way of penalties for booking at short notice. Savings can be made with travel passes and monthly travel cards.

So, is it possible for a dancer to live on dance alone in The Netherlands?

"In short, yes. I think this is made possible though because in the Netherlands there are much more tax considerations for a freelancer. We are allowed a certain tax free quota each year, however, for the first 3 years of your 'business' you have an additional allowance amount, provided that you work over a certain amount of hours each year."
"There is a governing body for Artists in The Netherlands and as with Equity you need to subscribe to this agency in order to benefit from their protection. However, even without being a member yourself you may indirectly benefit as in general most dance productions houses will use the governing body's guidelines when drawing up contracts, in particular, with regards to pay scales."

Visas and Permits

The Netherlands is part of the European Union so if you are an EU national then you can live and work in the country without any type of visa or work permit.

If you are working in the country you need to register with the local municipality so you can obtains a BSN number (burgerservicenummer) previously called a "Sofi" number. This is essentially a social security number (or National Insurance number for UK folks) and you need one for tax and social security reasons. You should register as soon as possible and can do so with some form of official documentation like a passport.

If you are a non-EU national then you must get both a residence permit and a work permit before you can live and work in the country.

There are a lot of rules for non-EU nationals with regards to obtaining a work permit. Dutch companies generally have to show that the position could not be filled by either a Dutch or EU national. Dance is probably considered to be a "highly skilled" profession however so this might make the process a little bit easier for you, not much easier though.

Larger companies will almost certainly be more likely to jump through the legal hoops required to obtain work permits for non-EU dancers than small or project based ones. A number of the dancers with NDT are non-EU nationals.


Hold on to your hats folks because the Dutch tax system is just a little bit complex. The Netherlands uses a system described as "the box system" and there are three boxes in total. The chances are you will only ever fall into box number 1 but make sure you are aware of boxes 2 and 3 and don't get confused about which box you are in.

In box 1 the tax system is progressive to an upper limit of 52%. On the first €19,645 you will be deducted 37% (of which the majority is social security with just over 5.8% being actual income tax). Any money you earned over the €19.6K limit is then taxed at 42% until you reach an income of €55,991 when you will be taxed at 52% for any income above that amount. Again, the majority of what you pay in taxes is to cover social security and there is no single fixed tax rate for each income bracket as there is in the UK.

The actual amount you are taxed is subject to alteration for deductions. As noted above, if you are self-employed then you have a tax free allowance that in 2012 was €7,280 but you must work a certain number of hours in order to qualify for this (1225 per year).

Social Security

The benefit of paying all of the taxes highlighted above (which also apply to self employed people) is the country's social security system. The large percentage of your tax payments that cover social security are split between various funds such as pensions, exceptional medical expenses, unemployment benefits and so on.

If you are either sick or unemployed you should receive about 70% of what you were earning before you either became sick or lost your job. The length of time you are able to claim benefits depends on how long you were employed before becoming unemployed. The maximum you can receive is just over €31,000 per year for just over three years.

If, for whatever reason, you don't pay your taxes and social security contributions then you will be unable to claim any unemployment benefits.


"There is also a fund available to artists who are out of work but you will need to have lived in The Netherlands for a certain number of years, have payed into it via your taxes and fulfil other criteria in order to qualify."

Health Care

Health care costs in The Netherlands are covered by a heavily regulated private insurance market. Insurance companies are not allowed to refuse cover or to make any distinction on insurance costs based on age, health assessments or pre-existing conditions. Health insurance is required, it is not optional.

The costs of the health coverage is met, in part, by your employer, your own insurance contributions and the government. Insurance covers the costs of medical care and all drug prescriptions as well as visits to a GP. Insurance companies can offer additional services on top of what they are required to provide for things like dental care. Absent insurance for dental work means you will have to pay for that type of treatment as and when you receive it.

Dutch health care is regarded as one of the best in the European Union.

"In The Netherlands all residents are obliged to pay for their own health insurance. This is subsidised by the government but most people will pay around €100 a month. The basic level of health insurance does not include any physiotherapy element but if you chose to pay a little extra then you can have a certain number of physiotherapy sessions a year without any addition costs.
I would recommend this. As in the UK, a freelancer is responsible for their own injury prevention or treatment. Dancers within a dance company may or may not benefit from a provided scheme."

with thanks to Erin Harty

Published Mon, 24 Mar, 2014 at 11:50 | Share on Facebook |

A Dancer in Norway

Tuesday, 4 February, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment


'Northern Lights over Vigra, Norway' by Severin Sadjina

Norway is a relatively small country with a population size approximate to that of Scotland, 5 million souls all told. It makes up for the spectacularly cold winters with very warm summers and scenery to die for almost everywhere you look.

The Norwegian folk primarily speak Norwegian (obviously) and they can easily converse with their Scandinavian brothers and sisters from Sweden and Denmark without breaking a sweat. English is very widely spoken however but it's only polite to learn the language if you're going to live there.

Dance-wise the country has a very strong, if relatively short, history with a lot of well known and very creative companies and choreographers. From Carte Blanche through Joe Stromgren and Zero Visibility Corps to Panta Rei Danseteater in Oslo there is plenty to choose from and a whole lot more besides.

As for the job market for professionals, well, it's a similar mix to most other countries.

"The job market is better now, than what it has been before. The biggest job market for stage artists now, are what we call "Den Kulturelle Skolesekken", productions created for children in Elementary/Primary School, Youth School/Junior High or High School.
The show could be touring in both small and bigger areas, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. There are more active artists here now and they have started their own companies, based on the opportunities this market has created. Many of these shows are also performed on professional stages.
Theatres all over, both private and institutional, hire professional dancers for their productions. Personally, I would have love to see a bigger group of professional dancers in these productions, but at least dancers are hired!
As for the teaching, there are many private ballet and dance schools all over the country. Most of these schools/dance studios have between 300-700 students, so the need for talented and educated teachers is important."

The arts in Norway are primarily funded through the Norwegian Arts Council or Kulturrådet'. Last year they had 1.15Billion NKR to distribute across the arts, that's about £112Million. One of their main projects for the arts is called "The Cultural Rucksack" that ensures the arts are present in schools and that most artistic provision is provided by professionals.

"We have several government organised funding organisations where we can seek financial support for projects. I have not yet sought any support from any of these organisations, but, from what I hear from my colleagues, it is a full time job writing applications. It is tricky but the more info you have the better the application will be and the greater chance of actually receiving funding."

As far as agencies and unions are concerned things are a little different from the United Kingdom.

"Agencies are not a big thing here in Norway. We are a small country and approximately 1000 registered active stage artists (in all forms within dance). We do have a Union, Norske Dansekunstnere. They help us with our contracts if anything looks "fishy", they provide us with legal advice, ads for an upcoming performances, free morning technique classes, auditions both in and outside of Norway, etc."

The Travel Guide

When you read travel guides about particular countries there will often be a section that tells what the people are "like" in that country.

Depending on the nation they are talking about a lot of generalisations will be thrown around about personal habits, drinking, socialising, likes and dislikes, etc.

One Lonely Planet guide told us that all Austrian people, especially in Vienna, like you to make eye contact even if you are just passing them on the street. Failing to do this will render you persona non-grata in that particular country.

All of this is of course complete nonsense. No matter what country you visit an entire nation cannot be categorised as "nice", "surly", "pedantic", "nationalistic" or manically requiring you to look into their eyes or else.

There's good and bad everywhere, some people are nice and some people are not, so just take folks as they come and throw the travel guide in the bin, your overseas adventures will be better for it.

Pay Levels

Folks from the UK on their first visit to Norway will be in for a bit of a shock when you have to pay for food, rent, travel and a lot of other things. The country is rated, on the PPP scale, as the second most expensive country in the world when it comes to living costs.

All is not lost however since your pay level in Norway should cover your basic living costs if not much else. We were able to find rooms in house shares and apartments in Oslo for about 4,500 NKR (£440) per month on average. If you want a place to yourself though you would be looking at some pretty hefty prices (think London and then some).

You can save money on rent by living outside of the major cities like Bergen and Oslo. Renting a small apartment can be done for about 3,500 NKR (£330) per month. Commute costs using the excellent Norwegian public railway system are a lot higher compared to the UK, believe it or not, but they are reliable and don't smell like cattle trucks. A 35 minute return trip from Drammen (to the west of Oslo) will set you back about £20.

Costs can be reduced with monthly passes and railcards. As for levels of pay;

"Pay levels have taken a good turn lately. Our own union for Professional Dancers, Teachers and Choreographers (Norske Dansekunstnere) has worked for years to raise the pay levels up to a, so-called, "normal standard",  compared to other professions like carpenters, government employees,  office workers, store employees etc.
The challenge is to receive enough work throughout the year so that your income matches the cost of living. It is quite expensive here in Norway! I have to consider myself as being very lucky. I have only worked as a dancer, teacher and (sometimes) choreographer to earn a living, since 2005."

Visas and Permits

Norway is not a part of the European Union but is part of the European Economic Area (or the Schengen Area) and as such folks from any EU country can live and work in the country with very few limitations. Some new EU states do have restrictions imposed upon them however.

If you plan on working in Norway but you don't want to get a residence permit then you have to register at your local police station (not as ominous as it sounds) so they know who you are and where you live. It is possible to live in Norway for at least six months if you don't have a job but you will not be eligible for any social service support if you have not worked in the country previously and contributed to the system.

EU nationals do not need a residence permit to work in Norway unless you plan to stay permanently.

Non EU nationals need to have a valid offer of work in Norway before you can come to the country. From there you need to apply for a residence permit which involves handing in an application to the Norwegian embassy in your own country. In some instances you can apply online and there is quite a long list of documents you need to provide for your application to be considered.

Once your application is accepted and you're living and working in Norway you must also get a "residence card" that contains your photo, fingerprints and other details and proves that you have the right live and work in the country.

Again, it's a bit more ominous than it sounds if you're not used to having an identity card. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration website has lots of information to help you with a fairly confusing process. (


Income tax levels in Norway are relatively high with a basic rate starting at 28% for so-called "municipal taxes". You add national income taxes to that at a variable rate from 0% to an additional 12% depending on your level of income.

In addition to your income taxes you also have to pay mandatory national insurance payments that cover your unemployment benefits and sick pay if you should ever need those things. You do of course, like most other countries, have a basic allowance on which you don't pay tax set at approximately £4,500 of your total income.

As mentioned previously the cost of living in Norway is also very high with a basic rate of VAT on most products set at 25%.

To pay income taxes in Norway, as of 2014, you must have a "tax card" that your employer uses to pay the right amount of tax. Without this card you will have 50% of your income deducted at source so make sure you have it if you are an employee in Norway.

Foreign workers in certain professions (like dancers) are eligible for an income tax rate of just 15% on their total income for a period of six months. After that time the tax rate will revert to that of a normal resident worker as outlined above.

Social Security

Social security in Norway is paid for by a 7.8% deduction from your salary. Your employer will also pay a contribution toward the national insurance cost (about 14% of your total salary). The personal rate is 11% if you are self-employed since you will not have a contribution from an employer.

As of May 1st 2013 the basic amount you can expect to receive per year is 85,245 NKR (£8,300) per year. Additional coverage is available if you have children.

Unemployment rates in Norway are very low (about 3%) but professional dancers should probably be prepared to find different kinds of work for the down times.

"We do have a pretty good welfare system in Norway. If we know of a period of time that we are out of work, we can apply for "dagpenger", unemployment benefits. The tricky thing is, that the welfare support want all of us to work (in a restaurant, diner or shopping mall) instead of receiving benefits. So they send us off to different job interviews or courses, but nobody will hire a dancer who can only work for the next 3 months."

Health Care

You pay for healthcare in Norway via your national insurance so most health care is free of charge at the point of delivery. There are some costs associated with prescription drugs and doctors visits. If you want to see a GP then this will cost you about £14 per visit but for a specialist that cost will be more, about £33 per appointment on average.

Prescription drugs are charged to the user if they are not on the "important medicines" list but the drugs that are considered to be "important" have their costs to the patient capped for every 3 months of usage.

For more specialists treatments you may need to get private health insurance to cover the costs.

"If a dancer is hired for a longer period of time, with prof.companies/theatres, the companies are required to sign a health care insurance. If a dancer get an injury during his/hers time at work, everything will be paid for, physiotherapy as well.
But as for smaller companies or private theatres, the dancers are on their own. If you are a freelance dancer, as most of us are, you need to have your own health care insurance. And they cost the same for us, as an extreme athletes. (Example: climbing the Himalayas is as dangerous as being a professional dancer, according to most of the insurance companies in Norway.)"

Unless you are under the age of 20 then dental care is not free or covered by the national insurance programme so you will have to pay any and all dental care costs yourself.

With thanks to Annette Mieltoft and Lisbeth Sandnes Espeland

Updated on February 13th 2014 to include information about lower tax rate for foreign workers.

Published Tue, 4 Feb, 2014 at 11:13 | Share on Facebook |

You Got Tagged

Thursday, 23 January, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment


by Michelle Lefevre

When it comes to arts organisations designing and releasing applications for mobile devices the rules are the same ones related to getting involved in a land war in Asia, you just don't do it. Over the years there have been a few good examples (how many of you use Akram Khan's iPhone app?) but Pavilion Dance South West have unleashed perhaps the best example yet of why mobile applications and arts organisations just don't mix.

"DanceTag" is being marketed as some sort of game and is available to users with either Apple's "iOS" based devices or Google's "Android" enabled gadgetry. Essentially what you do is get somebody to hold your phone so they can film you doing a 15 second dance somewhere.

This "performance" has some fairly cheesy, generic music added to it (presumably to avoid licensing problems although an interview with the developers claims this restriction is to "level the playing field" and encourage users to "try something new") after which the video is uploaded to the internet for all to see.

Funding for DanceTag came via Arts Council England (ACE), the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (Nesta) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through their Digital R&D fund. The cost of this little adventure? Not much, just £123,820.

Inside the application the video is added to a map and you are also awarded points (described as "value") for you efforts. The more points you get for a particular location the more chance you have of "owning" it.

If that sounds like a mash-up of Foursquare and Instagram then you would be right because that's almost exactly what DanceTag is. When we tested the application 7 days ago there was very little content to see and what was there wasn't worth seeing at all, like the guy dancing with a mop (not making that up!) DanceTag has been available for iPhone since last November and Android devices since late December.

As for what the application is supposed to achieve? Well, Pavilion Dance told us this much;

"DanceTag is a location-based game which combines dance and social media. Users create 15 second dance films to tag a particular location. They can upload a film just for fun or challenge other users to win points and competitions."

Pavilion Dance also told us that DanceTag "..brings together geo-location, short video, gaming and friend networks to get more people involved in dance." We would argue that if you are not generally inclined toward dance as a recreational activity then an application that uploads a video of you dancing in a public place is going to be about as much use as giving a farmer an electron microscope.

They did not respond to questions asking them how the application is able to "get more people involved in dance" beyond repeating to us what the app actually does in a functional sense, they also declined to tell us how many times the application had been downloaded and used.

Additionally, Nesta declined to provide the completed application form submitted by Pavilion Dance South West.

Design, Duplication, Disaster


Some dubious reviews of the application can be seen in both the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store from users with no other review history or empty Google+ profiles.

From a design and usability perspective the phone application (designed by a company called Mobile Pie) is fairly mundane. Just a collection of big orange buttons and not much else. One fundamental problem with DanceTag is that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, et-al are all pretty much one person operations.

The idea of the "selfie", as far as taking pictures goes, is really easy to achieve but filming yourself doing a spur of the moment dance in a completely random location is nigh on impossible.

The companion website ( is equally uninspiring. The only video content available via the site is the "editor's picks" section on the homepage. At the time of writing this featured 3 videos that are all orientated incorrectly and, as you can imagine, the quality of those videos is very poor to say the least. The "game" and geo-tagging aspects of the application are not mirrored on the website.

As mentioned above this application duplicates, albeit poorly, the functionality of Instagram and Foursqaure.

With Instagram you can shoot 15 second videos, add filters to those videos, geo-tag them on a map and share them with your friends or the rest of the world if you choose to do so. When we asked both Pavilion Dance and Nesta about this duplication of functionality something weird happened.

Pavilion said this (via their PR company);

"DanceTag is a game which is specific to dance and aims to broaden participation in dance. It brings together geo-location, short video, gaming and friend networks to get more people involved in dance."

Nesta said this;

"Digital technologies are changing the way we consume, share and interact on a variety of subjects. DanceTag is tapping in this trend to broaden participation in dance. It brings together increasingly popular elements of geo-location, short video, gaming and friend networks to get more people involved in dance."

If you read from the word "broaden" the statements are almost exactly the same, word for word. So much for independent thinking.

Again, both organisations failed to explain why they invested such a large amount of money in an application, the features of which, were already available in established applications with tens of millions of users that anybody can get, free of charge.

The Rub


Some DanceTag users attempt to film themselves doing a dance without realising that the phone is pointing in the wrong direction.

DanceTag is supposed to be a game but it misses several fundamental points about gaming by a thousand yards. Games are supposed to be fun and you're supposed to be able to win. Anybody faced with the nebulous gaming aspect of this application will almost certainly give up very quickly because it's just not fun to play.

An interview with the developers on the Digital R&D website attempts to explain the scoring system;

"To add a territory system to the game, the community-chosen winner of the game then "owns" that location until challenged and outvoted. For the Mobile Pie team, this was a unique challenge they hadn't faced previously: creating a game where the winner is decided by the community rather than programmatically. Wilson adds, "Unlike other games, there's no way you can automatically work out the winner because it's subject to other people's opinions."

In our limited time with the application we couldn't locate this voting system and the "challenge" section was completely empty. Pavilion's PR reps appear to be equally confused about how you win points with DanceTag telling Article19 that "points are based on a logarithm built into the game".

We think they meant "algorithm" but the games developers suggest, in their interview, that other users decide who "wins", or not, as the case may be. Nothing this application is trying to do makes any sense.

The dirty little secret that Apple and Google don't tell anybody about their "app" stores filled with hundreds of thousands of "apps" is that most of them are either ignored completely by users, downloaded once and quickly deleted or abandoned by their developers.

DanceTag is destined to follow one of those paths because it tries to fix a problem that doesn't exist. Instagram works because you take photos (and now videos) and share those with your friends because all you need is a phone, some friends and something to film or photograph.

For DanceTag you need at least two people, access to a location that the developers have classified as being similar to one somebody else has already gone to the trouble of dancing in and then hope the other person cares enough to still be paying any attention after everybody has figured out how the ridiculous scoring system works.

Who the hell is going to do any of that?

Further problems emerge when you take into account the fact that dance is a social activity. The reason you become involved in dance is to engage in challenging physical activity with other people, real people, that are standing in the same room as you.

People "get involved" with dance because of dancers and dance companies, they get involved with dance because of real people not poorly crafted phone apps.

Young people in particular need to be encouraged to get their faces out of their phone screens and into the real world a lot more. As for the perilously weak idea that DanceTag is all about research, you could have achieved much the same thing with Instagram, Twitter and some hashtags without spending any money at all.

For these features we will grade the project from A (the highest) to F (the lowest) on Policy: the reason for the project existing in the first place, Execution: how well was the policy turned into a practical product that people can use, see or take advantage of and Utility: how much use will the particular project be to actual people who have to use or experience it in some way.
Published Thu, 23 Jan, 2014 at 11:37 | Share on Facebook |
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