The dance field isn't immune to the "gig economy" that's disrupting everything from buying groceries to getting a ride to the airport. "We're seeing more people identify as freelance dancers, and more people deciding not to start their own companies, because they've seen how that model works or, rather, doesn't work," says J. Bouey, dancer and founder of The Dance Unionpodcast. "Even major companies are hiring more often from project to project."
At the same time,the cost of living continues to skyrocket in dance capitals like Bouey's Brooklyn. So it's no surprise that artists feel anxious about making ends meet. But this can also be an opportunity to discard old ways of doing business. "We've made gains, at least in terms of people recognizing what their pay should be," says Lisa Davies, a former rehearsal director at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal who, five years ago, founded the organization Danse à la Carte, which supports Montreal artists. "I never had the level of comfort dancers have today in discussing payment with their employers, even in my full-time jobs."
Everything was not business as usual at Tuesday's Kennedy Center gala for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The party was missing an integral piece of the annual celebration: the dancers themselves.
The news was shared online yesterday via the Washington Post, which reports that the dancers are in the middle of renegotiating a three-year contract with their union, the American Guild of Musical Artists.