Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pet Peeve: Dancer Stereotype (Part 2)

I spoke about the stereotype of a dancer and why it bothers me in part 1 of this post. Literally minutes after finishing that post, I browsed my news feed on Facebook, only to be intrigued and soon infuriated by an article that a recently graduated senior from my dance department had shared. This article, from the Huffington Post, is entitled "The Poorest Art: Dance and Money," and unfortunately, I'd have to say I agree with all of the opinions stated.

Dance is poor. From what I gathered from this article, almost all dancers live paycheck to paycheck. Maybe 5% (probably less) have contracts with companies that provide benefits and paid vacation time like a regular job, but considering the cost of living, even these most highly paid dancers are barely living comfortably.

This brings me back to how society views dancers: before reading this article, I had thought America was getting a little better. The public is starting to see glimpses how dancers live and work. Unfortunately, these glimpses are barely getting dancers anywhere. The way Lightsey Darst describes the situation in this article, "we infantilize dancers and how, while we view other artists as masters of their craft and serious thinkers, we see dancers as mere talented bodies," 'we' referring to society as a whole. You might be thinking "but __(insert popular singer's name here)__'s songs have really shallow and ridiculous lyrics, I don't think of him/her as a master or thinker!," but then why is said popular singer making millions a year and in the news every other day?

I read another fascinating and well-written article on the same topic from Cassandra Lane Smith entitled Plight of the Sugar Plums. Again, dancers were pitted against elite athletes from popular sports, like football. Both professions require finesse, training, and specific body types. Both are used as entertainment for the public. The difference? An NFL rookie made a minimum of $325,000 a year, whereas rookie dancers are lucky to make $4,000 in a contract (Smith). I'm going to take it a step farther - why do I have to pay $70 to go to the ballet when I can turn on my TV and watch football for free? I know that those games have thousands of tickets sold to them, sometimes for hundreds of dollars each, but I don't see ballet on TV. If it is, it's a PBS broadcast of the Nutcracker in December.

Dancers aren't going to make much money. An average dancer holds 4 jobs in order to survive. But dancers do it to share their art, their expression, their ability to inspire and change lives. If I've truly inspired even one person at the end of my career as a dancer, I'll feel fulfilled.


  1. This is sad. One day I hope people will understand what dancers go through to get where they are

    1. Dance just isn't mainstream, accepted, or respected enough by society at large. Definitely hope that changes someday.