Living Wages for Dance Artists

By Olivia C. Davies
  • Davies / Photo by Yvonne Chew

Living wage standards for dance artists are in transition. Dance artists working in contemporary practices are finding most professional standards documents to be outdated, irrelevant and/or difficult to apply to their careers. Those who are practising marginalized forms are even less able to make use of the professional standards documents because their practices are not defined or reflected in the language. These omissions are having a real-world impact on artists’ lives, resulting in diminished socio-economic returns. How can an artist ensure they are paid well for their time? They need to have the tools and resources to engage in negotiations.

I’m pleased to be a part of something big that’s happening through my affiliation with CADA/West as the board chair of that organization (CADA-ON is involved too). We’re working with curator and arts administrator Sadira Rodrigues to produce new professional standards documents and to share those documents with the people that hire, commission, partner with and present dance in a variety of ways.

Furthermore, research into new dancemaking modalities outlines a significant shift in the next generation of dance artists, who work within collaborative creation models, perform in site-specific or non-dance-specific venues and who do not aspire to the Eurocentric stage model of “research, creation, performance, tour” that characterized dance in the twentieth century. For instance, I see dance artists attempting to navigate visual arts organizations such as CARFAC (and its associated fees) to negotiate their gallery practices. But even then, they are not being adequately compensated for the movement training, production costs and pre-performance work that comprises dancemaking. There simply isn’t any clear guideline for various contemporary practices, and research suggests that more of this type of work will emerge in the next generation of artists.

The research and development project that I am working on with CADA/West will produce new professional standards documents that will ensure our practices are understood by a broad mix of presenters, gallerists, production technicians, new media artists, community centre directors, funders, video game builders, recreational parks programmers, and the list goes on …

I urge my colleagues to get involved in this discussion to ensure that all of the parameters and needs you have are being met in the new development. Contact either CADA office to get involved.


This article was originally published in the May/June 2018 twentieth anniversary issue as part of the anniversary feature “Provocations.”

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