The Evil Imp


A couple of weeks ago when we were writing ‘So Now What?’, our piece on the ludicrous salaries for various men in suits at the Royal Opera House we turned, naturally enough, to Dance UK for comment.

Lest you be unaware Dance UK, in their own words are;

“… the national voice for dance. [They were] founded in 1982 by a group of dance professionals who identified the need for a central organisation, which could tackle the big issues facing the dance sector as a whole.”

Sounds good to us, this is a “big issue” after all. Dancers in the subsidised arts sector are paid really badly, for the most part, so the very idea that some buffoon was getting more pay than most dance companies receive in their entirety is bound to cause some outrage, especially at the organisation that speaks up for dancers.

The Royal Ballet, a company that employs quite a lot of dancers, is part of the Royal Opera House.

Not so fast dear readers, because you know that’s not how it works. People in positions of responsibility in the arts don’t say anything out-loud to journalists, you know this to be true.

First up DanceUK (DUK) skirted the issue by claiming we were not comparing like with like. Running a big opera company is not the same as being a professional dancer because running a big opera company is really hard and being a professional dancer is really easy.

We are of course massively paraphrasing but that’s the thrust of it. Tony Hall and Antonio Pappano, the two suits and the centre of the controversy, have a far greater responsibility than anything the rest of the plebs in arts could possibly comprehend. So there!

Article19 put a plausible hypothesis to DUK. What happens if a mid-scale contemporary company or two loses their funding completely (in the coming funding announcements from ACE) and Mr Pappano and his little minion keep creaming a collective £1.1Million in salary from public arts funds?

No dice there either. DUK wasn’t playing, “we have to have a meeting” they cried “discuss it with the board” they wailed, “this would be huge” they opined (we’re running out of verbs! Ed!)

DUK’s gist seemed to be that the ROH is a member of DUK (you have to pay to be a member) and were they to comment on such a hypothesis, then they would, theoretically, be pitting one member against the other. They might make someone cry so taking no position at all is actually helping.

Of course in our hypothetical the ones crying would be the ROH and they might take their £1,200 membership fee and go home.

The advocacy group then played the “can’t we all just get along” card, wistfully proclaiming that the dance world is one big happy family. Perhaps unaware they were channeling the coalitions governments rhetoric of “we’re all in this together”.

So, we put some questions to the Royal Ballet, for it is they;

1. Do your dancers get maternity leave? “Yes”

2. Do your dancers get annual leave and holiday pay? “Yes”

3. Do your dancers get statutory sick pay? “Yes and contractual sick pay too”

4. Do you have in house physiotherapists and is this physiotherapy free to the dancers?

“Yes, we have three full-time in house physiotherapists. Yes, the treatment is provided free of charge. They are covered by an AXA PPP group policy which is a taxable benefit paid for by the Company which does affect their tax code.”

The vast majority of professional dancers (meaning those grotty contemporary ones) don’t get any of those things unless they are very lucky, even if they do work for a company.

So here’s the deal DUK. You get the ROH (and the other big ballet companies, just because) to agree that any professional dancer employed by a subsidised professional dance company can access their in house physiotherapists for free and we’ll publish the biggest kiss-ass piece of writing all about you that you’ve ever seen.


If you’re going to be in the advocacy business then you’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that you have to piss people off sometimes. The world isn’t fair, it isn’t just and the good guys don’t always win and if DUK doesn’t get that then there’s not a whole of point in having them around.

DUK receives £255,000 in funding from ACE, make of that what you will.

[ So Now What? ]