Vague promises of exposure used as cover for poor pay and insecure working conditions, Guardian told
Last year, one of pops rising stars was heading to London for a show and needed local dancers to accompany her. The singers management only wanted the best, a handpicked group who could live up to the high standards expected from the US entertainment industry. It was an amazing opportunity, with one large catch: the gig didnt pay.
Some dancers, however, jumped at the chance. Instead of payment you were going to get exposure, said Windy Tsoi, a dancer and choreographer, who says the story is typical.
Some dancers were going for that because it was a good opportunity and gives you more of a profile and helps to build your CV, but its not a good deal. Its not fair. At the end of the day we deserve fair payment.
Last week Emma Portner, a choreographer who worked on Justin Biebers Purpose world tour in 2016, made headlines by outlining her alleged treatment. Via a now expired Instagram story, Portner claimed she made less than minimum wage for the hours I invested and that she couldnt afford to eat [and] was sweeping studio floors to be able to practice my craft. Biebers management team declined to comment when approached by the Guardian.
None of the dancers and choreographers the Guardian spoke to thought what Portner described was typical, but all said that poor pay, insecure working conditions and cash-in-hand payments were part of the job. Andrew Hurst, the chief executive of the industry body One Dance UK, said things could change if performers were able to speak out.
Unfortunately, our research shows that freelancers are not always valued in the same way as those who are employed, he said. Dancers need to say no to contracts that offer unfair or unsuitable working conditions, and feel empowered to speak up.
But for those searching for work, speaking out may mean losing out on work.
We do get stressed, said Tsoi, who is the co-founder of the At Your Beat studios in London. Some months I get a big commission but some months we might not get anything so its stressful and you think: what can you do to keep the income coming in and keep those opportunities? It can take an emotional toll.
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