Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Dancer/Musician War

I have come across a lot of craziness in the arts but none so much so as the constant misunderstandings and misinterpretations between dancers and musicians. I honestly wanted to structure this like my producer/artist blog, where both are equally responsible for weird pushes and pulls, but with dancers and musicians here in the US, and probably in India for some of it as well, there is a GREAT deal of walking all over a dancer.

Let me outline a few of the massively unprofessional and crazy things I have seen:

1. Claims for random things AFTER a performance with no understanding prior that the dancer who had hired the musicians were apparently responsible for such claims. (Sending invoices for parking receipts, or gas mileage for travel costs).
3. Lateness (coming 2 hours late to rehearsal with not so much as a phone call. No matter what the emergency is, find a way to communicate it).
4. Agreeing to rehearsals and trying to weasel your way out of them.
5. Asking for more money after dancers have given musicians a number.
6. Copping out midway through a set of shows because something better has come your way.
7. Copping out midway and not even finding a replacement.
8. Demanding payment anyway after said cop out.
9. Musicians demanding so much money that most of the time a dancer makes no money - or much less than the musicians, though he/she has hired them and also gotten them the job.
10. Telling us - especially when it comes to technical things such as number of repetitions or mood of a program - that they know better than the choreographer as to how it should go.
11. Not being able to pay dance involved in a show because musicians won't take any less even though we probably put in at least 10 times as many hours for that given show.
12. Telling us you work really hard so we should be paying you more. Seriously??? WE ALL DO. That is the most insulting statement a musician can make. Do you think we're holding back on the amount of money we can give you and sitting high and rich on our laurels????
13. Agree to a number, start rehearsals, and then ask for more money.

Mostly it seems to come from two things: one, that dancers have money spilling out of their ears and two, some kind of notion that because being hired for dance won't help their reputation as musicians that it is okay to treat it like a very idiotic opportunity. Or because normally with music there is less coordination required to complete a piece after it's been composed? (I have no idea if this one is true but am assuming it is because once artists get the gist of a song for dance seem to think they no longer need any rehearsal).

I would like to point out that there is some gross kind of misinterpretation of audience numbers and money given for performances going on. I can't remember the last time I was actually paid as much money as the live musicians were or the composers for my own pieces were. Most of the time after paying everyone else, myself and every other dancer I know are not getting anything at all, and not because I'm not budgeting myself properly, but because the artists will literally refuse to do it for a smaller number and we get stuck with no other creative choices between copyright licenses, lack of resources, and the like.

Which confuses me, because we in fact do give them performances that help provide them with money for their life as artists. If in fact you are doing so well that you find the amount of money we are giving you too little for your work, then say no! Not only will they not refuse and demand more payment, but will do so without providing a number that they would do it for. Essentially, from all the conversations I've garnered, had, and negotiated, they probably will do it for that first number you've given them, but are trying to see how much more they can squeeze out of you. The conversations end up being a sad, manipulative, and unprofessional way of getting more money that results in musicians not having a clue as to what kind of damage they wreak on the people providing them with opportunities.

The sad part of all this is the people that it hurts are the patrons. Dancers cannot afford as many good programs, and frankly, I usually barely break even on the programming I do when musicians are involved even when they bring in the most revenue. Yet, I make the most profit when I work with dancers, who will work with less - and not because I'm taking advantage of that but because there is some kind of understanding that I am giving as much as I possibly can and dancers do not push the fact that they may be the only ones with the skill set necessary for a particular project.

We're all struggling here and it's crazy to me to see this unprofessional behavior.

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