Archive for May, 2009

I should know better than to read the arts section of the Times while sipping my Saturday morning coffee.  For many people, curling up with the arts section is a lovely weekend diversion.  For me, it’s a tug back into the whirlwind of conflicting opinions around the support of artists that governs my workweek.  This morning, an article on Contract Disputes in Dance didn’t just tug me back to work, it catapulted me full force:

First of all, I want to stress that everyone in the dance field feels under-served, underpaid, and under-appreciated.  By everyone, I mean everyone: choreographers, dancers, presenters, writers, designers, stagehands, everyone.  So, this continuing argument of “who has it worse?” and “who deserves the most pity or sympathy or extra-special treatment?” drives me insane.  We all chose this route, and yes, it’s unfair, but blaming each other does nothing to solve the problems of the field.  In fact, I’d wager that it makes things worse.

Second, the fact that, according the the article, an artist involved in a conflict over his contract with the 92nd Street Y, claims that Y’s decision to stick to their contract’s exclusivity clause, which limited the artist’s ability to perform at other venues within a specific span of time, was “appalling,” because the Y’s dance festival doesn’t have “a track record of being a festival that is well attended,” also drives me insane.  Think for a moment.  If you host a festival that is perceived as being generally not well attended, wouldn’t it be that much more important for you to drive as many people who are interested in the artists you are presenting to your venue to see them?  Wouldn’t it hurt your attendance even more if those same artists were performing concurrently in better-established, easier-to-reach venues?  And, if you are an artist who is concerned about your participation in such a festival, why would you sign that contract?

Last, and most important, I’m sick of hearing artists ask, “where is our power?” as another choreographer is quoted as doing in this same article.  As an artist myself, as well as an administrator who has worked for several arts presenters, this drives me most insane.  Artists have all the power we choose to take, and if we choose to give it away by signing contracts we don’t read, or trusting that by simply aligning ourselves with a presenter that our magical, financially-successful career will follow, or complaining about the state of dance criticism without once picking up a pen (or a keyboard) to write about the field ourselves, then we choose to give that power away.

Take charge, artists.  Self-produce.  Read your contracts.  Realize that dance is never going to pay your bills, and make your choices.  You have a lot more power than any of the venues, but it’s up to you to use it.

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