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"Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear"Inside the Land of Ballet


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#16 SandyMcKean

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 02:46 PM

I don't understand the question (I'm interested because I am currently reading the book).. Are you asking whether or not Manes is making this information up, and to prove that he is not, he needs to cite a source that can be verified? Could not this NY dancer simply shared her personal information? What's the issue here?

#17 puppytreats

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 04:07 PM

I can't imagine who would do that. I was not thinking that he made it up, although, I have no way of knowing; how would I? I was just wondering who would have shown him that. I would have liked him to annotate his note. If he did have private, confidential, internal information, how did he obtain it, why would anyone give it to him, and how could anyone know it was reliable? I was just startled to read that footnote.

#18 Helene

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 10:26 PM

If he said it was from a dancer's 1099, why would it need a further citation? He's a respected journalist and author who well knows the standards about sources in professional journalism.

#19 carbro

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 11:55 PM

It used to shock me how open some people are about their salaries. No more. If Manes got the figure from the 1099, I assume the dancer in question showed it to him.

#20 puppytreats

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 07:31 AM

With all the backstabbing and politicking discussed in various sources, and since the book is not about the ABT, one wonders if someone else may have shown it to him. He did not say she shared it with him. Also, journalists can be ethical but misled. I would like to know his source.

#21 SandyMcKean

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 09:26 AM

Perhaps there is some confusion about what exactly a 1099 is. In this ballet case, we have to be talking about what is known as a 1099-MISC (as opposed to 1099-DIV etc that are used in the financial industry). The IRS uses 1099-MISC as a way to attempt to track money paid to someone who provides services to you, but who is not an employee (employees get tracked via W-2s and have withholding removed from their paycheck). The most common occurrences of this that I know of is when you pay more than $600 in a single tax year to a lawyer or to an independent contractor while conducting business. I presume the relationship of a ballet dancer to the ballet company is that of an independent contractor (defined by the contract).

1099s exist in 2 places: the company that issues it, and the "vendor" to whom it is issued. So Manes could have gotten a 1099 from either source, but given the text of the footnote, it would seem he got it from ABT. There is nothing illegal, or perhaps even unethical, about showing a 1099 to 3rd parties, but I suspect that there probably is some sort of etiquette within the ballet world about showing 1099s. For example, I run a small business. I issue 1099s to lawyers that I've used from time to time. If an author came to me and asked how much I paid to lawyers while doing business in 2011, I personally wouldn't hesitate to show him/her the 1099s I'd issued during the year (I suppose I'd first have to think, why is this person asking).

Note that 1099s have nothing to do with salaries. If a 1099 was issued, then the dancer is essentially an independent business person, and as such gives up (in practice) some of the "privacy" that might attach to an employer/employee relationship.

#22 puppytreats

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 10:46 AM

Why would a principal dancer not be an employee and union member receiving a form W-2, then?

#23 sandik

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 02:56 PM

The label "principal dancer" is not a legal term as far as employment law is concern -- it is more of an honorary title. Different companies organize their hierarchy in different ways with different labels. At a company like ABT, where they have a long-term relationship with certain guest artists, the title "principal" probably refers more to the level of role they are assumed to dance than to a place in the employment hierarchy of the company.

In other, smaller, groups, dancers often work on a short-term contract that spells out obligations and leaves open their options to work elsewhere. You might perform as a principal for them in the three programs they have scheduled, but only be obliged to be exclusively available to them for three distinct periods. And many smaller companies still do not hire union employees.

Working in the arts, dance included, often means working outside the standard employment practices. It's difficult to fit into the paperwork matrix of mainstream employment, where one person has one employer all the time.

#24 Helene

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 04:45 PM

Per-performance contracts have been common at ABT. This is touched on in the film "The Turning Point", where Emma and Freddie were told that they wouldn't be doing the "Giselle"s the following year, and Emma comments that this will hurt him financially, because he's now paid on a per-performance basis.

#25 puppytreats

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 07:27 PM

The label "principal dancer" is not a legal term as far as employment law is concern -- it is more of an honorary title. Different companies organize their hierarchy in different ways with different labels. At a company like ABT, where they have a long-term relationship with certain guest artists, the title "principal" probably refers more to the level of role they are assumed to dance than to a place in the employment hierarchy of the company.

In other, smaller, groups, dancers often work on a short-term contract that spells out obligations and leaves open their options to work elsewhere. You might perform as a principal for them in the three programs they have scheduled, but only be obliged to be exclusively available to them for three distinct periods. And many smaller companies still do not hire union employees.

Working in the arts, dance included, often means working outside the standard employment practices. It's difficult to fit into the paperwork matrix of mainstream employment, where one person has one employer all the time.


The ABT artist in question is not a guest artist. I was focused on union issues from reading about PNB in the Manes book. I remember reading something elsewhere about a union in NY. Would individual dancers negotiate their own contracts and rates?

#26 SandyMcKean

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 09:51 PM

I was focused on union issues.....


Very interesting question.

I believe most dancers operate as independent contractors with the ballet company as their "client" (I am nearly certain that this is true for most ballet teachers and ballet schools). So for at least those dancers who are structured as independent contractors (getting 1099s), what exactly is their relationship to the union? Is the union a sort of "professional association"? Does the ballet company negotiate a contract with the union such that the company agrees to treat all the independent contractors in a certain way? Are the independent contracting dancers members of this professional association (i.e., union), or is the union separate from the dancers? Do the independent contractor dancers pay "union dues", or do they in some other way make contributions to the union?

Clearly in the world of dance, these "employment" relationships must be complex.

P.S. Beyond those questions, I wonder if all of these arrangements are driven, in the final analysis, by the reality that ballet dancers are regularly "laid off" every year after the season ends.

#27 Helene

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 09:54 PM

I thought NYCB Principals are not covered by the union contract, and each negotiates his or her own contract with management. They might still be employees and get employement-based benefits that corps and soloists get -- I'm not sure about this -- but the union contract covers the corps and soloists.

#28 aurora

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 02:23 AM


The label "principal dancer" is not a legal term as far as employment law is concern -- it is more of an honorary title. Different companies organize their hierarchy in different ways with different labels. At a company like ABT, where they have a long-term relationship with certain guest artists, the title "principal" probably refers more to the level of role they are assumed to dance than to a place in the employment hierarchy of the company.

In other, smaller, groups, dancers often work on a short-term contract that spells out obligations and leaves open their options to work elsewhere. You might perform as a principal for them in the three programs they have scheduled, but only be obliged to be exclusively available to them for three distinct periods. And many smaller companies still do not hire union employees.

Working in the arts, dance included, often means working outside the standard employment practices. It's difficult to fit into the paperwork matrix of mainstream employment, where one person has one employer all the time.


The ABT artist in question is not a guest artist. I was focused on union issues from reading about PNB in the Manes book. I remember reading something elsewhere about a union in NY. Would individual dancers negotiate their own contracts and rates?


I assume the dancer in question is named in the book?
Could we go ahead and just say who and what we are talking about? Reading this thread, for those who haven't read the book yet, feels like sitting in a room where everyone is whispering about something that THEY KNOW, but you don't. I realize we are trying to be discreet but as its published in a book I think thats being a bit excessive and it is a bit confusing to follow.

#29 puppytreats

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 06:22 AM

Julie Kent

#30 California

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Posted 14 February 2012 - 07:06 AM

This might be of interest: AGMA has a site with many current dance company contracts, including PNB and NYCB, although not ABT:
http://www.musicalar...ents_dance.html


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