Landed a New Gig? 5 Ways to Negotiate the Best Deal
Dancers and choreographers must be strong, clear communicators when it comes to negotiating contracts and agreements. That's part of the philosophy espoused by A. Nia Austin-Edwards, the founder of PURPOSE Productions, a Brooklyn-based organization that provides strategic support to artists throughout the U.S.
One of the reasons many dance artists struggle to negotiate successfully for themselves is what Austin-Edwards refers to as a scarcity mindset. "The scarcity of work and money allows people to say yes to some really outrageous things," she says. For example, dancers might accept a much smaller fee than what they feel they deserve, or tolerate body-shaming remarks from a choreographer because they reason "At least I have health insurance."
Rather than feel pressured to say yes to whatever is presented to them, dance artists have to be clear about the space and time conditions that will allow them to thrive. Follow these five steps to set yourself up for a successful negotiation.
1. Clarify the Offer
When presented with an opportunity, Austin-Edwards recommends that dancers initiate healthy communication by restating the facts of the offer—be it a residency or choreography commission, for instance—to ensure that you understand the main points. The institution can then affirm or clarify, and if you're unsatisfied, you can turn it down or offer an alternative. "The premise is absolutely clarity of communication," she says, "so that everybody knows what they are agreeing to."
2. Suggest An Alternative
Austin-Edwards emphasizes that offering an alternative is an effective way to keep the conversation moving in a productive direction and shows a willingness to compromise while also being clear about personal boundaries. She suggests using phrases like "I don't have the capacity to manage all that right now, but here's a series of deadlines I can provide for you so you can understand when things can get done, and you can get what you need in a way that supports both of us."
3. Set Clear Boundaries
Know what your "absolute deal-breakers" are and at what point an opportunity is not worth it, whether that's a certain amount of money or a limit to how much time you can commit to rehearsals. That way, Austin-Edwards says, you'll have clear standards that you can use to judge whether a particular job is truly worthwhile.
She recognizes that when you need to pay bills, it's not always that easy to turn down work. Therefore, it's helpful to know what your other options and skills are. Consider your alternatives, like taking a short-term side job while looking for something else.
4. Ask for Outside Opinions
Before deciding, try discussing the situation with someone else. "The reason some people get away with some outrageous things is because no one talks about them," says Austin-Edwards. "You need colleagues and mentors you can talk to honestly." She emphasizes the importance of having a multigenerational network of friends and allies so that you can solicit a variety of opinions, especially if you're uncertain about what to do.
5. Take Your Time To Decide
"Don't feel like you have to make a decision right away," she says. "Give yourself time to walk away and think about it."
You know Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo as the men who parody your favorite ballet variations—and make it look good. But there's more to the iconic troupe than meets the eye.
A new documentary, Rebels on Pointe, goes behind the scenes of the company, and it's full of juicy tidbits about what it's like to be a Trock. These were some of our favorite moments:
After 30 years of pioneering work in physically integrated dance, AXIS Dance Company co-founder Judith Smith has announced plans to retire from the Oakland, California, company. Throughout her tenure, she strived to get equal recognition for integrated dance and disabled dancers, commissioning work from high-profile choreographers like Bill T. Jones. Her efforts generated huge momentum for expanded training, choreography, education and advocacy for dancers with disabilities.
By phone from her home in Oakland, Smith reflected on how far the field has evolved since the early days of AXIS, and what's yet to be done.
You know that how you care for your body before curtain can impact your performance. But with so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to nail down an exact routine. How much rest is enough? How close to showtime should you eat? We asked the experts.
How do you make your athleisure collection stand out from the pack? Get the ultimate studio-to-street seal of approval by having dancers star in your campaign, of course.
For his second collaboration with activewear brand Carbon38, ready-to-wear designer Jonathan Simkhai traded in his usual top models like Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss for the original Hiplet dancers—and the resulting video is as cool as we'd expect from such a fierce collaboration.
Last week, we highlighted the deliberately, hysterically bad @biscuitballerina Instagram account, created by a then-mysterious dancer with a great sense of humor. This week, the artist behind @biscuitballerina—who turns out to be Royal Ballet of Flanders corps member Shelby Williams—got in touch with us to set the record straight about the intentions of those LOL-worthy posts.
Her photos and videos, with their exaggeratedly cringe-worthy technical flaws, are NOT meant to mock amateur dancers. Instead, Williams is actually hoping the account will help all dancers move past their shortcomings and accept themselves and their dancing.
Everyone knows that training is the cornerstone of a successful career in dance. But as a dance educator, I also take comfort in the fact that high-quality dance training helps shape students into genuinely good people (in addition to creating future artists, which is a wonderful goal in itself.) These are the lessons dance teaches that help make students into better humans:
Improvement Takes Commitment Over Time
In my tap courses at Cal State University, sometimes students are shocked when they can't learn something quickly. In today's world, we're used to getting fast results. You need an answer—Google it. You need to talk to someone—text them. The cooking channel wants your dinner to be easy, the physical trainer wants your workout to be five minutes, Rosetta Stone can have you speaking Mandarin in an hour.
Again and again, dance teaches me that when the filters fall away between people—when the boundaries of geography, religion and politics soften—the beginning and end of our relationships is always human.
In March, I traveled with Keigwin + Company to Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Tunisia, on a tour sponsored by the US State Department and facilitated by DanceMotion USA/Brooklyn Academy of Music. Our mission was cultural diplomacy: Simply, to share ourselves with diverse communities, to promote common understanding and friendships.
Our last stop was Tunisia. Until that point, we had mostly been learning varieties of traditional African dance, and sharing American modern dance. But Tunisia was different. The dancers already had a solid grasp of contemporary movement invention. Though we didn't speak the same language, we could make movement vocabulary with surprising ease. Everything about our backgrounds was different, but there was this special intersection through dance that seemed to present an open door to collaboration.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.
Christopher Wheeldon's new Nutcracker for the Joffrey Ballet was huge news when it premiered last winter. The choreographer shifted the setting from the home of a well-off German family to the Chicago world's fair, making the hero the young daughter of a working-class, Polish immigrant sculptress. This month, WTTW Chicago, the city's public broadcasting station, will premiere Making a New American Nutcracker, a new documentary showing how Wheeldon and his high-profile collaborators made the magic happen. Premieres on WTTW11 and wttw.com/watch on Nov. 16 before appearing on public television stations across the country. Check your local listings.
For most dancers, walking into the theater elicits a familiar emotion that's somewhere between the reverence of stepping into a chapel and the comfort of coming home. But each venue has its own aura, and can offer that something special that takes your performance to a new level. Six dancers share which theaters have transported them the most.
GLENN ALLEN SIMS
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Glenn Allen Sims in Alvin Ailey's Masekela Langage. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy AAADT
Favorite theater: Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain
Royal details: "The theater is gorgeous and ornate, with deep red upholstery and gold trim. There is a huge royal box in the center, which takes you back to when kings and queens were watching performances there."
Impressive facilities: Even the dressing rooms are a sight to see: Amenities for the dancers include large, carpeted rooms, and towel service.
The business side of dance can often fall second to the art. Contracts, which usually appear after you've done the hard work of securing a job, can seem like an inconsequential afterthought. You might decide to simply sign without reading the terms—or be understandably confused by all the legalese.
Ultimately, though, contracts can play an important part in setting the expectations for your job. A basic understanding of the legal terms you might see can go a long way in making sure that signing is a positive step toward growing your career.