The freelance dance life: U.S. versus overseas


As a U.S.-based freelance dancer, I’ve usually questioned concerning the alternatives and life-style of my European counterparts. Interviewing freelancers from France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland gave me a helpful glimpse into the European dance world, which in some ways capabilities fairly in another way than dance right here in the US. Learn on to seek out out extra!

Axelle Chagneau – France

In France, there’s a system referred to as intermittence du spectacle, which acts as a type of assured compensation for employees who don’t qualify for annual or everlasting contracts. Many of those employees are artists. To enter the system, you could earn a sure variety of cachet yearly, that are every composed of 12 hours. When you attain 43 cachet, or over 500 hours from the proper sorts of contracts (some contracts function extra beneath the desk and don’t earn you cachet), you obtain “employment” by the federal government and are safe for the yr. The minimal month-to-month wage in France is round €1,100, and beneath the intermittence du spectacle, the federal government offers artists €1,300 a month even when they don’t work throughout that month so long as they fulfill their yearly cachet requirement. The federal government primarily fills within the hole of no matter firms didn’t pay dancers to achieve their minimal wage for that month. Whereas this standing is initially troublesome to entry, it will get simpler after the primary yr as a result of dancers are sometimes provided the identical contracts the next yr, and lots of firms in France, particularly smaller firms, are very loyal. (Larger firms care much less about loyalty and are much less more likely to renew contracts.) Rehearsals solely rely towards cachet if they’re paid, so for some firms they rely, and for others they don’t. Outdoors the federal government, there’s additionally an affiliation that may assist out with issues like medical insurance in addition to grants to attend workshops and pursue studying both in your subject or to work towards one other job.

Ballet dancers are sometimes in a position to full all their hours in three months as a result of they’re working day-after-day and paid every time they work. With up to date dance, then again, you would possibly solely be paid for performances; when you have solely three reveals within the yr, you technically solely have three cachet. One flaw of the intermittence du spectacle system is that it makes it very troublesome for brand spanking new firms and choreographers. If an organization desires to pay dancers in cachet, it prices extra for the corporate than paying in cash as a result of it requires a particular license, which is dear. In case you are a dancer in France, it is advisable be in an enormous metropolis for lessons, auditions, and so on. On the finish of the day, all of the dancers are within the massive locations –– primarily Paris, but in addition in different main cities like Bordeaux.

There are 15-20 massive firms in France that get some huge cash from the federal government. Due to that, these firms are required to provide jobs to French individuals. Oftentimes, round 1,000 individuals apply for an audition, 300 get invited, and of these 300, just one will get a spot. These properly funded firms are generally required to carry auditions even once they don’t want any new dancers so nobody will get employed from the audition. Tiny firms have auditions rather more usually, and people are those it is advisable hustle for. The smallest, latest firms usually make use of younger dancers who’re okay with not getting paid. Extra established small firms are getting their first grants for tiny productions with two to a few dates, and people jobs don’t actually allow you to get in sufficient hours. Then probably the most profitable small firms which have gotten a number of years of grants can really afford a full manufacturing.

Axelle Chagneau is at the moment dwelling in Bordeaux, and touring so much to make her hours come collectively. Whereas smaller cities pay much less, they typically pay for facilities so bills are decrease. This yr, she is working with a number of firms on the identical time, and he or she attends 10-15 auditions a yr. She is in 1) Paris Opera Ballet, an organization she auditioned for and had no earlier relationship with; 2) a cabaret firm, one other job which she secured by way of an audition; 3) a hip hop firm whose choreographer she knew upfront and who noticed her carry out with one other firm; 4) Opera de Bordeaux; and 5) a up to date firm in Bordeaux whose choreographer can be her pal. She takes ballet class day-after-day, and if she works so much can generally work to meet three contracts in someday. Despite the fact that it’s loads of work, she loves it and claims that that is the great thing about freelance. Chagneau by no means will get bored as a result of she is uncovered to a wide range of kinds and inventive concepts. Her contracts normally solely cowl a brief time period, and the longer ones final round three months with some type of engagement day-after-day. She says that working with sure larger profile firms permits her to additionally do work that’s unpaid, and that dancers get into small and medium sized firms extra usually by networking than by auditions, whereas working for giant firms requires attending extra open calls.

Be aware: Through the COVID lockdown, each dancer was paid for 2 years with out having to construct cachet as a result of they couldn’t work.

Lauriane Nabet – USA

I additionally spoke with Lauriane Nabet, a French dancer who has been primarily based in New York Metropolis for the previous couple of years. She notes a number of variations between French and American freelance tradition.

Lauriane Nabet.

“The freelance world of New York has much less of a way of loyalty, and, because of this, you’re all the time hustling, all the time working in your community,” she explains. “In France, you try this extra firstly of your profession, however then it will get simpler. There are extra tiny initiatives taking place in New York, although, extra alternatives to construct your CV and a greater diversity of issues to do even when most of these issues are unpaid. In France, even while you attend open calls, it usually looks like issues are determined upfront; firms already know precisely who they wish to rent because of the robust community that some dancers and choreographers have. It’s exhausting to know break into that community, and persons are so much much less chatty than they’re in NYC, so no person shares that type of info. I additionally really feel that the NYC neighborhood is much less judgemental; in France, it’s extra about becoming within the field, attempting to match the choreographer’s imaginative and prescient precisely, although generally (in contrast to in NYC), firms don’t specify precisely what they’re on the lookout for once they maintain an open name.”

Nabet continues, “France additionally strikes me as rather more closed than different nations in Europe. There are loads of guidelines and laws, which could be troublesome to handle. For instance, dancers who’ve handed the EAT (examen d’aptitude approach, which is a observe examination taken whereas pursuing a diplôme d’État, a demanding diploma that’s not even acknowledged in different nations) are sometimes seen as extra helpful although the take a look at is just not straight associated to being a great performer. French employers usually place loads of emphasis on a dancer’s stage of educational research although the work is normally not tutorial in any respect. I feel it’s because French society seeks consolation in guidelines and ranges, tangible reference factors that give them a way of management. New York doesn’t appear to function with the identical stage of rigidity. At the least that is how I felt 5 years in the past. Perhaps issues have modified since I left, however I do know that NYC’s dance surroundings is a greater match for me and helps me really feel extra free.”

Nabet is at the moment dancing with 1) Response Dance Firm, a hip hop and Bollywood firm she joined by way of an open name audition; 2) Lyoness Dance Firm, a cabaret/burlesque firm whose open name somebody referred her to; 3) Borne Dance Firm, a up to date firm she joined by way of an open name; 4) Reza Farkhondeh, a painter who works with dancers doing improvisatory up to date dance (somebody referred her to take a last-minute spot three days earlier than the present); and several other occasion firms for gigs like weddings and events.

Giorgia Lolli – Italy

Giorgia Lolli is working as each a dancer and choreographer in Italy and overseas. As a choreographer in Italy, you’ll be able to apply to the federal government’s Ministry of Tradition for funding after being established in a collective or firm for 3 years. (People can’t apply for funding from public funding our bodies straight except they’ve an organization. Another choice is to get funded residencies by way of festivals and manufacturing homes.) It’s important to show that you just’ve made a sure variety of productions, employed a sure variety of individuals and had a sure variety of performances, they usually calculate how a lot cash you get primarily based on how a lot work you do. Funding is just not merit-based however as a substitute determined by how a lot you produce, which forces individuals to continually be making new works. There may be additionally a push to make use of younger individuals beneath 35.

Giorgia Lolli.
Giorgia Lolli.

One perk of the European dance world is that touring between nations is straightforward (though it has been sophisticated by COVID). That is particularly the case for nations in central Europe like Germany and Italy, and fewer true for northern European nations like Finland. One of the best cities to be located in are Amsterdam, Berlin, and London (though it’s a bit harder with Brexit since you now want a Visa), nevertheless it’s additionally potential to dwell exterior massive cities due to how simple it’s to journey. Moreover, most of the greatest dance colleges are European so there are ample alternatives to check beneath nice academics and choreographers. Bachelor’s levels and postgraduate efficiency firms supply many beneficial skilled connections.

“Freelance dancers are just about on the backside of the pyramid,” Lolli says. “As a dancer, I used to attend loads of auditions listed on massive web sites like Dancing Alternatives and This tactic didn’t work as a result of I didn’t know the work of the individuals I wished to work with. I’ve since modified instructions as a result of I don’t suppose attending these auditions are sustainable for the surroundings or for my psychological, bodily and emotional well being. Now, I work on getting jobs by way of connections, sending direct emails and so forth. The scene in Italy may be very conceptual, and the artist is seen as an mental, however I choose extra physique work and physicality on stage. It was that you just needed to go to sure locations in Europe for particular varieties of work, however now issues are extra fluid and unfold out in all places. International locations like Germany, Switzerland, and Finland have more cash, whereas Italy, Spain, and Portugal are extra just like the underdogs of dance.”

Lolli continues, “In Italy, you get extra ‘factors’ within the Ministry rating when you carry out in locations the place there are much less cultural alternatives (like Sicily, for instance). Every area has its personal regional community, and by getting in contact with these networks, you possibly can acquire efficiency alternatives. I received into the nationwide community this yr, which gives a wage of €50 a day after taxes for rehearsal and efficiency days. Artists are assured minimal wage whereas working and may also apply for personal foundations and different funding. Web sites like On the Transfer supply fellowships for makers and mobility grants, and there are additionally competitions that assist artists acquire extra visibility and are barely extra business. These are useful if you wish to be a repertoire choreographer.”

Mareike Jung – Germany

How do you discover the dance and humanities scene in Berlin? Is it extremely aggressive, or is there sufficient work to go round?

“I’ve been dwelling in Berlin for 11 years, and doing my bodily theater training right here helped so much. It gave me a place to begin to get into the dance scene, and having a background considerably exterior of dance has labored in my favor as a singular promoting level. Berlin’s unbiased scene is extremely various, and I admire the unstated expectation for inventive works to take care of socio-critical matters. The dance scene is tremendous aggressive, and assembly dance colleagues who introduced me into it was instrumental. In Berlin, you not solely have to be a tough employee, however it is advisable be keen to get to know individuals so you can begin getting direct suggestions. To attain success within the subject, it is advisable work with recognized artists or massive theaters or simply get very fortunate. Should you apply for funding, you would possibly apply 30 occasions earlier than your software is profitable. When you get your first funding alternative, nevertheless, you can begin to herald bigger grants, and it’s a lot simpler to earn cash as soon as you’re established. So many dancers transfer to Berlin and are misplaced for years as a result of there are many nice dancers right here. Salaries are low for dancers as a result of if somebody says no to low pay, there can be 50 others who will do the job free of charge.”

Do you attend auditions?

Mareike Jung.
Mareike Jung.

“I don’t go to auditions. I don’t really feel comfy with the elbow-each-other perspective and the necessity to show myself in a single hour. I’ve gone to some auditions for enjoyable and to find out how they’re functioning, however I actually don’t like them. For my job with the Philharmonie, somebody beneficial me after which I used to be invited to a customized audition, after which I received the job. Due to that job, I received a suggestion to educate the principle actress of a film (by an award-winning director) in dance. I do know individuals who go for therefore many extra auditions than me and get a lot much less. In my profession, I’ve been lucky to have taken some essential steps on larger levels, which makes my portfolio look skilled and helps my possibilities at securing extra jobs.”

How does the inventive course of typically perform for you?

“I’ve had excellent experiences with project-based work that happens inside a restricted timeframe. For my latest solo work, I had a block of two weeks and a block of three weeks for rehearsals. In fact, I used to be considering in between, however what works properly for me and what I see right here within the scene is intensive time intervals of working day-after-day that allow you to delve additional into the analysis. The frustration is much less since you’re actually in it and concerned. Additionally it is simpler in your schedule as a result of you possibly can plan round the entire thing upfront reasonably than having to take time right here and there to create your work.”

Are you able to discuss a bit of bit concerning the overlaps between dance and bodily theater?

“My ‘bodily phantasm’ firm, inback, is regular revenue for me and pays all year long, nevertheless it additionally entails loads of unpaid work. While you actually break it down, it’s little or no pay per hour. Proper now, it makes up a 3rd of my yearly revenue; I might push it extra by touring extra usually, however that’s not what I would like. I’ve realized so much from operating my firm about issues like shopper communications, technical riders, manufacturing and what’s essential to look skilled, and what I’ve realized by way of inback interprets into the dance scene. As a freelancer, I fill many various roles; generally I carry out and choreograph, generally I’m a choreographic assistant, and generally I direct and work with a dramaturg. I’ve completed some business work prior to now, however I’m now working primarily within the freelance scene.”

Is it simple to journey and work throughout Europe? What about exterior the EU?

“I’ve toured extensively with inback; we virtually by no means carry out in Berlin as a result of the market is oversaturated and so many individuals are keen to carry out free of charge. I produce my work in Berlin after which take it on tour, and it’s potential to seek out festivals in locations just like the Netherlands and China. Touring round Europe by automobile or practice is straightforward and taxes and Visas are additionally made easy by being a member of the EU. It’s more durable to journey with a full size present that comes with loads of props and set items as a result of then you definately want a theater and a technician. Normally, we tour items which can be round 20 minutes lengthy, and we carry out them round 3 times per pageant.”

Is there any authorities help for freelance artists in Germany?

“Künstlersozialkasse or KSK is a social insurance coverage fund for artists. You begin by calculating what you’ll earn for the yr within the arts. Should you say, for instance, ‘I’ll earn $15,000 this yr,’ then KSK will calculate how a lot it is advisable pay in each month. It may be one thing like €100. Then they pay your medical insurance, which might normally value rather more than that. While you retire additionally they provide you with cash for retirement and different advantages as if you had a ‘regular job.’ The extra you produce your individual artwork, the extra funding you’re eligible for. Should you get one funding alternative, then you definately usually tend to get the subsequent. Doing your individual work additionally makes it extra seemingly that you just’ll get to work with different individuals.

Here’s a breakdown of presidency funding that I discovered on-line: ‘The Senate’s cultural administration helps Berlin’s cultural panorama with round 600 million euros (as of 2020) per yr. About 95 p.c of the price range goes to over 70 completely institutionally funded cultural establishments. Round 5 p.c is spent on particular person and undertaking funding.’ Whereas cultural funding could possibly be distributed extra pretty and there are different points with the humanities scene in Berlin, I feel that, total, German artists are fortunate as a result of there are numerous alternatives in comparison with different nations.”

Léna Bagutti – Switzerland

What’s it prefer to be a freelancer in Switzerland? Is there any authorities help?

“Sadly, in Switzerland, we nonetheless don’t have the ‘artist standing’ like in Belgium or France. Half of the individuals I do know who work within the arts are freelancers whereas the opposite half are unemployed, which implies that once they don’t have work, they obtain assist from the federal government. This provides a way of safety for certain, which freelancers don’t have, however our standing as artists is just not formally acknowledged, so we have now to be registered for ‘regular’ unemployment, which isn’t actually tailored to an artist’s life-style.

There are various simply accessible associations for up to date dance in Switzerland that present loads of info to artists and may direct you when you have questions on contracts, freelancing or constructing your individual firm, which may be very useful. As a result of Switzerland is just not full of individuals in the identical means that many different nations are, there’s loads of room to make your individual initiatives and if the place to seek out cash, there’s cash obtainable. It doesn’t rain from the sky, however when you discover ways to current your work and who to ask for assist, then you will discover cash. It’s a full-time job, although, and takes up time that would in any other case be spent within the studio.”

How do you get most of your jobs? Do you attend auditions or is it extra about networking?

“I feel I can say that, usually, it’s extra about networking. In fact, it takes loads of effort to construct your community, and going to auditions is one a part of that course of. I’ve utilized for auditions and gotten a few of my jobs that means, however as soon as your community is constructed and also you’ve already been employed for some jobs, they have an inclination to current themselves to you rather more simply. Folks name you again or they advocate you to somebody. I’ve the impression that the large struggle to enter into the skilled dance world is firstly of your profession.

Léna Bagutti.
Léna Bagutti.

I nonetheless attend auditions, even whether it is generally a irritating expertise. However I feel it’s essential to see the audition not solely as a course of the place choreographers choose dancers, but in addition as a strategy to get to know one other strategy to motion and to judge whether or not you wish to work with that choreographer or not. Additionally it is a means of studying extra about what you’re trying to find as a dancer, and a great way to satisfy individuals. I usually run into colleagues I met throughout my years of training, and I take pleasure in these encounters. Whereas I can’t say that I take pleasure in auditions themselves, they assist me to take care of a sure dynamic with myself and throw me out of my consolation zone. Additionally they encourage me to study new firms.”

What are most of your contracts like? Do initiatives typically final a brief or very long time?

“It relies on the character of the job. Typically, if it’s a creation course of adopted by a premiere in a theater, it lasts 5 to 6 weeks. Then there are possibly three dates of performances, and if different theaters purchase the present, it may be adopted by a tour. I’ve observed that the reveals which can be in a position to tour after the premiere are those that may be carried out elsewhere and settings and for various audiences. For instance, on the street, possibly in a shorter format, or reveals that had been imagined to be carried out in varied places like museums or night time golf equipment. There are such a lot of prospects.

I feel six weeks of creation is definitely a really brief time to enter a deep course of of labor, particularly if the group of performers/dancers are assembly for the primary time. When time is proscribed, the tendency is to take a protected path that can result in a safe remaining product, and I personally suppose that this isn’t a lot of a creation course of. I do suppose deadlines are essential and helpful, nevertheless it’s a pity in the event that they don’t let you actually dive into the surprises that creativity can convey. The issue is that firms don’t obtain sufficient subsidies to pay all people for an extended time period. 

That is how the standard contract works, however I’ve had different jobs that had been even shorter. 5 days. Eight days. For one undertaking, we met one weekend monthly over the course of a yr. The reality is that there aren’t any guidelines for the right creation course of, and generally not having sufficient time can result in wonderful encounters. I had a job for 5 days in Zürich with a Brussels-based Italian choreographer, and the expertise was wonderful as a result of the group understood one another in a short time.”

By Charly Santagado of Dance Informa. 


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