The Best Ways to Help Dance Artists Who Are Out of Work

March 23, 2020

The dance world as we know it has changed practically overnight. Many dancers are out of work, missing out on income they’d counted on and wondering how they will pay for necessities in the coming weeks and, possibly, months.

For those who still have work—and, odds are, some newfound free time—it can be hard to know the best way to help the many artists who are suffering.

We asked Dance/USA and Dance/NYC about the best ways to support dance artists right now—whether you have money, time or resources on your hands:

Donate your ticket money back. 

If you had planned on attending a show that has since been canceled, odds are you were given the opportunity to donate your ticket money back to the venue or company instead of getting a refund.

Dance/NYC is currently conducting a survey of how the pandemic is affecting artists and arts organizations, and thus far, organizations have indicated that salaries and cash flow are their biggest needs.

“If ticket buyers ask for a refund, the workers are not going to get paid,” says Dance/NYC executive director Alejandra Duque Cifuentes. “If it was an expense that people already planned to make, they should make it and not take it back. The organizations and the independent artists are linked.”

Some companies, like Sacramento Ballet, are even allowing supporters to buy event vouchers, good for a seat at a future performance.

Make thoughtful donations. 

If you’re interested in making a direct donation, there are an overwhelming number of options. Dance/USA executive director Amy Fitterer suggests starting close to home, and reaching out to those in your network who might need financial support.

If you’d like to donate to an organization, choose one that’s meaningful to you, she suggests. Just make sure your gift is unrestricted, so that it can be used to fill whatever needs are most immediate—most likely paying staff and artists.

If you’re donating to a relief fund, make sure it’s legitimate. Some reputable options that have emerged so far are: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’s COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund; NYC Low-Income Artist/Freelancer Relief Fund; The Dance Union podcast’s NYC Dancers Relief Fund (which prioritizes undocumented and nightlife workers who may be left out of other relief efforts); the Boston Dance Alliance Dance Relief Fund and the Arts Leaders of Color Emergency Fund.

Reach out. 

It could be that members of your dance community—or wider community—need other forms of help.

Artists in your network could be lacking the laptops, cameras or software they need to work remotely. (Duque Cifuentes says many organizations have expressed that they need laptops in Dance/NYC’s survey—she suspects that many arts workers are using their personal computers to work remotely.) Artists may need mental health support, or for someone healthy to buy them groceries or other necessities.

“Start with who you know and find out exactly what the people in your world need,” says Fitterer. “We can be most effective by starting in our own networks and building out from there.”

Contact your representatives. 

One powerful option that doesn’t require any money: contacting your federal, state and local representatives to advocate for dance. “The art world needs to be loud and accurate in its communication,” says Fitterer.

Call your local legislative offices and tell them you want artists included in any relief they are considering. “Even if you just leave a message, that counts,” says Fitterer.

You can use this form to get in touch with your congressional representatives. While the Senate is negotiating the stimulus package, you may want to give your senators a special call and demand that it includes relief that will be relevant to artists—specifically an item that would expand unemployment insurance to freelancers and gig workers. If you’re nervous to call, use this script.

“It matters, they care about what their constituents are asking for,” says Fitterer. “We need quantity. Congress needs to hear the numbers, they need to hear how this has already impacted you.”

Tell your story.

If you’re a dance artist who has been impacted by the pandemic, sharing your story could help others.

, Dance/NYC and Americans for the Arts each are conducting impact surveys, which they will use to advocate for the needs of the dance community to government and funding stakeholders.

“This is the very painful sword we have to fight with,” says Duque Cifuentes.

Got other ideas about how we can help dancers during this time? Let us know what we missed.