'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."
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. (http://www.udi.no/)
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 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."
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.