We are the Self-Advocacy Working Group of the Dance/NYC Junior Committee. A group of 5, we have committed ourselves to pursuing an explorative research project through June 2013 that will affirm or call into question the work practices of dance professionals in New York City, specifically as they relate to compensation (in its many forms).
This is where our conversation started: the Junior Committee’s Dance Workforce Census: Earnings Among Individuals, Ages 21-35 measuring dance workforce compensation in fiscal year 2010. Now: what are the individual narratives living below the surface of this data? We look to arm our demographic with the tools they need to advocate for professionalism and a better standard of living. We aim to extrapolate the most effective models to initiate conversation and inspire action.
Here are some questions that have prompted our research and exploration.
- Primarily, we ask: What are valuable forms of compensation? What is not zero sum, but builds synergy / is mutually supportive?
- Also: What is the relationship between payment and work? How much work are dance workers doing without pay?
- How does dance relate to other artistic disciplines with respect to payment?
- How do dance workers talk about compensation with their peers? With their communities? With their employers? What pre-existing resources and structures are available to frame and guide these conversations?
- Who uses unions? Who do the unions serve?
- What’s the cost to make a dance — what goes unreported?
- What are relationships between dance workers, recognizing that sometimes these relationships reflect fluidity when people embody multiple roles within the field?
At its core, this is a project about transparency: what can we name, unearth, cast light on, applaud, or provide feedback for? We recognize that talking about employment is sensitive, and we will do our darnedest to write with utmost sensitivity in mind.
As a group, we bring with us our diverse perspectives about what we face as individuals working in dance. But enough about us. Follow along through June and lend your voice to the ever-evolving conversation here on our blog.
This is how we do it. We meet for a two hour session to co-author a blog post informed by our individual research done outside this time. Each post will be a deep dive into one topic. We will address research, existing structures, symptoms. We will ask big questions, identify opportunities, and make recommendations.
Central to our work is the existence of outside mentorship in the form of an advisory committee, pooled from our own, trusted professional relationships. These advisors will act as additional editors and elevate our material.
Because this conversation, at its core, is about compensation, we should note that ours is not monetary. We will, however, be tracking other forms of compensation for our efforts through June, perhaps in the form of increased knowledge, professional development, self-empowerment, and the gratification of doing worthwhile work. Also, your engagement with this project will be a form of payment to us. The more you comment, share, and act as a thought partner, the more we “make.”
- Virginia Cromwell, Erica Frankel, Brighid Greene, Kaley Pruitt, & Mercedes Searer