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Usually, in the Spring, both Pointe and Dancemagazine have special issues in which US and some European companies list the starting salaries, number of weeks, and benefits. This could be a good reference. Generally, I have noticed that the "mid-range" reginal companies usually are able to offer a minimum of 30-36 weeks, starting around 400-500 dollars, along with some form of health insurance.

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I realize that whether a company is union or non-union makes a big difference in pay scale. Also, the city in which a company is located can make a big difference in pay scale, i.e. Tulsa vs. New York City. One would think that gate receipts would also impact pay scale from one company to another. But in our city, this does not seem to be the case. For example, the pay for the Artistic Director of our local financially struggling ballet company is well into the six figures. Starting dancers with the company receive pay on par with what another poster listed for Boston. In sharp contrast with this is the reported (Indianapolis Monthly) pay for the Artistic Director of a highly successful local modern dance company. His income is listed as being in the mid $60s. Does anyone know how Boards of Directors go about determining payscale for artistic staff and dancers?

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Louisville Ballet is $400 a week for corps and has roughly a 33 week contract...could probably be eligible for low income housing. They are not offered any type of retirement plan, which is also disturbing. Soloists and principles only make maybe a couple hundred more a week. Most of the "corps de ballet" seen on stage actually consists of "trainees" which are only compensated for shoes, and donate all of their time and energy in hopes of receiving an apprentice contract for $300. These numbers have not changed in the past five years, so let's keep in mind inflation too and the rise in the cost of living. It is a disgrace what dancers earn and the fact that they can't even be employed for a full year and are forced to draw unemployment during layoffs throughout the season and summer. The question is, where does all of the $ go?? Most to pay off previous and current debts, a large chunk also goes to administration and directors. The ironic thing is, when you go to a ballet, who do you go to see? The dancers of course, the ones that are slaving, starving, and pushing their minds and bodies to limits that are not compensated fairly!!!

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What about European Companies? Anyone here work for Stuttgart (I have heard they have very good pay and even better benefits and job security). Royal Ballet? ENB or the like. What about Artistic Directors Salaries? Any figures on those? Are they connected to a union? :off topic:

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The following page on the web site of "Pointe Magazine" includes some information about salaries in various non-US companies.


I remember that in her solo ballet by Jerome Bel, the Paris Opera Ballet dancer Véronique Doisneau said that she earned 3500 euros (which would be about 4250 USD) a month. (In general in France people talk about monthly salaries, not weekly ones). At the Paris Opera Ballet the salary is paid for 12 months;

also all "normal" French jobs include a pension plan, health care and at least 5 weeks of paid vacations (so comparing salaries between countries is, as GWTW, a bit like comparing apples and oranges, also the cost of life can vary a lot depending on the country). She is a soloist with the company and it was her last year (she was 42) so I guess it probably is among the highest salaries (except for the principals). But I have no idea what really is included is that figure, for example POB dancers might get some extra money if they have many performances every months, or some extra rehearsal time besides usual hours... So I don't know what is included exactly in that 3500 euros/ month figure.

By the way, what is the difference between an "union company" and a "non union company" ? Such a difference doesn't exist in France.

[Edited to add]

I found some information about ballet dancers salaries in a book published in 1997. Of course such figures would have to be re-evaluated, and converting the currencies is difficult, as the figure are in French francs and the conversion rates have varied quite a lot in that period (I believe 1 USD was about 5.5-6.5 French francs). Also the salaries which are listed are "brut salaries" so it does include some sorts of compulsory taxes and pension-related things and so it isn't what people do receive at the end of the month.

Quadrilles (the lowest corps de ballet category): about 12900- 14900 francs/ month.

Coryphées: 14700- 17000 FF/month.

Sujets: 17400- 20100 FF/month.

Premiers danseurs: 20600- 23800 FF/month.

Etoiles: depending on their contract.

Those figures do not include the extra salaries for many performances, long hours, etc.

Here are also the figures (of 1997 or a bit earlier) of the dancers of the Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse, there were then four categories of salaries depending on how long they had worked for the company:

1st (< 3 years in the company): about 9000 FF/ month.

2nd (between 3 and 7 years): about 9350 FF/ month.

3rd (between 7 and 11 years): about 9500 FF/ month.

4th (more than 11 years): about 10050 FF/ month.

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What about European Companies?  ....ENB or the like. 

My daughter and I are friends with a corps de ballet dancer at ENB. She started there 2 years ago. Her salary for one week is more than what my daughter earned in a month with the Estonian National Ballet, which equaled around $600 Canadian. The starting pay at ENB is excellent and there is extra remuneration on top of it, like allowances given while on tour.

By contrast, another friend of ours danced with Universal Ballet for 3 years, from 2000. She was paid about $250 U.S./week.

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From the Sept. DANCE MAGAZINE (Joseph Carman, "The Silent Majority: Surviving and Thriving in the Corps de Ballet):

QUOTE: "No one goes into dance for the money, but corps dancers often get shortchanged, given the workload. First-year corps payi for Houston dancersw for the 2004-05 season was $714 per week; at Boston Ballet, it was $697. (Salary does increase with seniority.) NYCB ranks first with $956 salary, but try finding a tiny studio apartment in the Lincoln Center areea for less than $1600 a month. And ABT guarantees only 36 weeks of work per year, leaving the dancers to scramble for guest dancing or teaching work in the off-periods."

QUOTE: " ... the elephant in the middle of the studio remains the issue of who gets promoted. ... 'You try to figure out who's getting promoted or not, who's getting pushed, who's a contender," says [ABT corps dancer Julio] Bragado-Young. 'At ABT, you see people who have done many solos, but were never promoted. You also see people who have never danced at ABT who are hired as soloists or principals. We talk about it. [Karin] Elllis-Wentz, a union dancer's representative, said the new ABT contrct provided for regular dancer evaluations with the management to encourage frank career discussions."

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At the recent meeting of Dance/USA, in a session about dancers transitioning out of performing and into second careers, a dancer from Ballet Austin spoke about a "Job Bank" program they have matching dancers skills with temporary jobs during their layoff periods (everything from manual labor and car washing up to more skilled work) His comment was that it made his career as a performer affordable.

The saddest thing about this whole discussion, to me, is that classical artists who have spent as many years training in their field as a surgeon have to resort to taking side jobs washing cars to make ends meet. Does anyone think this country will ever see a time when classical dancers can realisticly expect to be hired to perform year round?

Well said Anne74, in fact you aren't the only one who felt this way. I believe this program at BA has nearly stopped or at least changed greatly because of the direction it was going. I think many of the dancers didn't want to be given jobs that they felt a twelve year old could do (no offense to twelve year olds, but I was washing my parents cars for money even before that...) when like Anne74 said, some have spent as many years training in their field as a surgeon. I think the program might be being revamped to gear it towards using connections through the ballet company to pursue possible career transitions. Using the opportunity not only to supplement current salaries as dancers but as investing in a second career.

As for continuing the discussion on salaries. Most of my experience has been with non-union companies, and in that experience they can vary greatly.

Did I dance for free? Yes, especially when you're initially trying to get your foot in the door you take what you can get. When a position says "Trainee" it is more often than not an unpaid position. Some apprentice positions are also not paid, but most receive something.

There is truly a huge range in non-union companies. They can vary from 20 weeks of work to 35+. Financially having those extra 15 weeks of work can really add up at the end of the year. Going from one non-union company to another my yearly salary nearly doubled because of not only a substantial pay increase, but an additional 4 weeks of work. And of course the cost of living makes a huge impact on how far that salary goes.

One constant that I've seen is the supply of pointe shoes. In most non-union companies it's a shoe allowance. With one company it was a certain dollar amount you were allowed for shoes, so if your shoes were cheaper than most everyone else's you were in luck. In other cases it's a certain number of shoes per year, like around 40 or so.

When touring, per diem is a pretty standard thing. Common to most areas is $35 a day, but that can go up if touring to more expensive locations such as NYC.

Health Insurance with non-union companies I think is always an issue. I've seen absolutely NO health insurance, just worker's comp benefits. To the company paying 50% of the premiums and also having a physical therapist on site several times a week. This is probably one of the weakest points of most non-union companies, because dancers have no choice but to maintain their physical condition, alot of times that means massage therapy too, which can get extremely expensive.

But I think there is something to be said for non-union companies. I don't know about recently but I know the Louisville Ballet dancers in the past have brought in an AGMA representative to get information, but voted amongst themselves not to be union. And did anyone read that 'blip' in either Dance Magazine or Pointe Magazine about the Washington Ballet cancelling their tour of Italy last summer because they couldn't agree with the union about either the dancers' salary or per diem. How many of those dancers do you think probably wouldn't have minded a little bit of a pay cut to tour to Italy. And hey, it's still an extra couple weeks of work...

All that said, in general dancers in the U.S. are SEVERELY underpaid. I think the term "starving artist" applies to many an artform... In my apprentice days I used to joke that that was the real reason dancers are so slender. I have a friend that after the financial struggle of moving to where his first dancing job was located, got MSG poisoning because all he was eating were those packages of Ramen Noodle Soup, because it was all he could afford. In my personal experience, in my most recent non-union job I'm better off. I'm never hungry, I have a cute comfy fully furnished apartment, a pet, and I have a car (and can afford to put gasoline into it.....) Should I make more money, of course. What I make now doesn't leave a lot of breathing room, or the ability to save alot, but at this point in my life it works. It just makes me want/need to plan for the future a bit more and watch my pennies.

Edited by Pointe1432
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I'm an apprentice in a small non-union company. This is the first time I've ever worked with a professional company. Shoes are reimbursed and all classes at the school are free. As far as I know, performances are not compensated, but that's OK by me for now. My roles are not terribly demanding, but I am getting some time on stage which is very valuable to me.

I was spending a BIG chunk of change in NYC for training, so am actually able to save a bit as an apprentice and receive the type of "finishing" to my training that I *really* need at this point. I'm continuing to work on the things I need in class to be better, and am able to essentially "work" with the company all day long during productions. I've already learned more I ever could have gotten simply in technique classes about a wide variety of things.

I have external sources of income ( 5+ years experience in graphic design/programming/ type of work). Right now, I'm actually still receiving a salary and benefits (vacation time for NUT) and am returning to work in NYC after the show ends (long enough so that I can earn my pension...two months to go!). Am kind of nervous about Spring season. Most likely, I am not going to be offered a contract with this company in the Spring, but would like to continue apprenticing and relocate to the city where the company is located. I'm actually seriously considering a night job as a waitress or bartender. I have a Master's degree and don't *need* to bartend. But I know that there's good money in it at the right places. I will try and find freelance work in graphic design too but would like a few options to make money. Teaching ballet is one option as well. The exhaustion factor is huge. Just so many hours in the day and just so much I'll be able to handle. Especially as an apprentice, I will need to focus on improving and get stronger. I can't cut back on the training now.

I guess one has to see "ballet" as the career, and making money as making money... Even when and if I get offered that coveted contract, I'll need some extra sources of income. During the season, it's *just* enough to live on. I'm not a kid, and have gotten accustomed to a nice standard of living (with health insurance). It'll be a change. I also have a friend who's a massage therapist. But I'm *very* worried about what will happen if I'm injured and need an MRI and/or treatment. Or if I (god forbid) fall ill. It's scary, but I can't dwell on it (too much)

Hey, ever here of an apprentice in classical ballet with a pension and 401K? And 19 year olds try and tell me that they're "too old". You should see the looks when I tell them my story (and age) :wub:

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ABT recently voted to join AGMA so when they draw and ratify a contract it should be available online, probably next fall or winter.

I think there are two things the union provide salary wise that are often overlooked at non-union companies in contract negotiation.

There is an expectation that ever artist at every level will receive an increase in salary for inflation each year, very important over a 5+ year period if you are expecting long term employment.

secondly, men and women of the same rank are compensated equally.

In my experiance at the mid-size regional level salary is based hugely on the directors perspective. Some pay to bring in great rep that will draw an audience and dancers to their company this leaves little money for the dancers. Others think that they should first pay their dancers and then find the rep, those pay better.

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I recall that, about two years ago, New York magazine's annual "Who Makes What in New York" cover story reported that the salary of an ABT principal is $177,000. It didn't say (1) whether that applies to all principals, or (2) whether that includes everything they make, even when guesting with other companies, or just for ABT appearances - and the number of ABT appearances varies widely depending on which dancer it is. Some principals opt out of the fall City Center season, and others don't tour to certain cities. And, even within a season - say, the Met spring season - not all principals dance the same number of performances. So it's entirely unclear what the $177,000 represents.

On the one hand, it sounds like a lot, compared to what most ballet dancers make. On the other hand, it's about what a first-year associate at a New York law firm makes - the difference being that the associate's salary will go up over the course of a career that will last for another 40 or 50 years, while that represents the short-lasting peak of the ballet dancer's dance-related income.

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Following up on Adam's recollection of New York magazine's estimation of an ABT principal's salary; it seems realistic to me; having been in several conversations with some of the principals about tax strategies and hearing them mention that they made too much to have an IRA.

Caveat all the $$$ are not from ABT, it would appear that it involves guest fees with European companies, run outs to Japan, endorsements, as well the regular contract stipend from ABT.

ABT's contract rates (at least from a period when I knew the details) tend to slightly lead or slightly lag behind NYCB depending where each company is in the life of the contract. Principals have a contract base rate but negotiate, usually annually - and the success of the negotiation depends on box office, talent, and number of the principal's performances.

My information on the Royal is very out of date...but at one time it was slightly more than the ABT contract rates...but for fewer performances. Guesting in Europe for both Americans and Europeans is very lucrative.

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...ABT recently voted to join AGMA so when they draw and ratify a contract it should be available online, probably next fall or winter.

ABT had been a member of AGMA however left AGMA, forming their own union years ago. I am not clear on the history of when it joined and the exact year it left AGMA. My guess is 1980 something when it left AGMA. I can still see the photo of the dancers carrying picket signs in the NYTimes. It is interesting to read that they have voted to return to AGMA under an administration that voted to leave it.

Oh the circle of life! :(

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I remember that too, and thought the time frame was earlier, but this comes from a December 1994 article by Robert Johnson in Dance Magazine:

The dancers and stagehands of American Ballet Theatre (ABT) have made a daring move that is sure to be recorded in the annals of the labor movement in the United States of America. Taking their fate into their own hands, the dancers have broken with the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) to form their own union, Independent Artists of America (IAA).

The change was made following an election last summer, in which the members of ABT's bargaining unit voted to leave AGMA and join IAA. The vote was thirty-eight for IAA, versus three for AGMA, with fifteen votes contested. Fifty-six members of the seventy-five-member bargaining unit participated in the election, which was held the week after ABT's Metropolitan Opera season closed in June.

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My memory is that in 1980 or so the ABT dancers went on strike...that was when the Labor Day march was led by danceers and the photo appeared in the Times. There was a lot of grumbling that the union didn't support the dancers to the level expected.

Later the dancers decided to form their own union. It was the 1980s action that began the upward climb in salaries, per diems, etc. I seem to remember that another item on the agenda was the care/cleaning of costumes. At one point the dancers reps hung costumes in the room during bargaining and the session ended early because of the power of the smell.

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Thanks to Ed McPherson and others for reviving this thread. I'd like to thank sz as well, for including information about one of the smaller companies.

I'm not suprised by the high earning potential of the top principals of New York's leading companies -- or the protections and guarantees that lower-ranked dancers in these companies are now achieving. They dserve it all -- and mroe.

It's the many dancers in smaller companies that worry me. Such companies (and there are many of them) not only have difficulty raising funds -- they have to try to raise funds consistently, year after yeer, which is a requirement for long-term budgeting commitments.

Any information (official and verifiable, of course) that you can give us about the position of dancers in these less prominent, less financially secure companies would be appreciated! :(

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