Rant & Rave

An Open Letter to Artistic and Executive Directors: Stop Making Dancers Pay to Audition

Matthew Murphy

I write this letter knowing full well and first-hand the financial challenges of running an arts organization. I also write this letter on behalf of dancers auditioning for your companies. Lastly, I write this letter as a member of society at large and as someone who cares deeply about the culture we are leading and the climate we create in the performing arts.


This is a letter about the decision to charge dancers for their job interviews. I find it intolerable that of all of the positions in arts organizations, dancers are the ones who have to pay to be interviewed.

Wouldn't it seem ridiculous to ask your prospective director of development to come to their job interview with their resume, references and $30? How about your stage manager? How about you?

Looking for parallels in other fields, musicians auditioning for orchestras, shows or gigs do not need to pay to audition. Athletes trying out for professional teams are not asked to pay $30 before they suit up and go through drills.

When we ask dancers to do it, we say to ourselves, "We are a struggling company trying to make ends meet. We are incurring an expense and so we have to try to make that up."

This doesn't hold enough water (especially when the audition takes place in your home studio and you are not traveling or paying studio rental) because you pay this business expense when finding new employees or contractors for all other positions. The company incurs the cost to post all other jobs, go through resumes, perform phone interviews, carryout in-person interviews, check references and so on.

If you charge a fee and consider it a master class, then it's not an audition. It's not a job interview. It's a workshop, which has very different intentions. They are important for sure, but not the same thing.

I ask you to consider that unless all new hires in all areas of your organization are asked to offset the cost it takes to interview them, then please treat dancers with the same respect and let them interview for you like an adult, with dignity.

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