So much is happening and evolving, and so very quickly, with Dance Your Truth. It definitely has a mind of its own as it evolves and shows me the next direction, the next focus. Most recently, I came across an article called “The Poorest Art: Dance and Money.” I should say articleS because it was in three parts. (See here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lightsey-darst/dancer-income-wages-lifestyle-_b_1556794.html)
The article actually ticked me off. At first. She really paints a pretty bleak picture of how little money dancers make, which I am aware of, but then the next part is what got to me. According to her assertions, dancers don’t make much money because the public doesn’t value dance as an art. But really, I was mad because SHE. WAS. RIGHT.
So why not? Days before reading this article I had posted the following on Facebook, so I suppose I was primed and ready for her write up:
“Deep dancer thoughts: I was watching a Q&A with an author I admire, talking about why he hasn’t published the next book in his series yet, and I got to thinking: Fans of an author will wait, excitedly, expectantly, impatiently, for YEARS, and stay up all night to get the first copy to read it. The same often goes for movies, new music albums, new plays, and even some visual artists. BUT, you don’t see that quite as much or as extreme in the dance world. WHY??? We have got to step it up – we have got to produce work that relates to the common man, the non dancer, that will keep them up at night waiting. I’ve said it a lot lately, but there HAS to be something more, and by gum, I will find it.”
Furthermore, dance is seen as more of a spectacle – the more at risk the bodies, the more horrifying the level of extremities in their performance, the more loved. Certainly dance and sexuality have been linked since probably the dawn of time, or darn near. People know dancers are poor and hold several jobs, and instead of being outraged, we think it’s just part of the package.
Why isn’t it more important? As I’ve thought and thought and thought and worn out my husband’s ear debating it (largely with myself), I’ve come to the conclusion that:
Dancers aren’t valued by the public because they don’t value THEMSELVES.
No matter how incredible the performance, no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears (buckets and buckets of them) are put in, they will never see themselves as good enough. Dancers will work for next to nothing – see the article, but high paying dancers are lucky to break 20 grand PER YEAR, and often, they really do work for nothing, and will hold down not one, not two, but an average of FOUR jobs to finance their art. Dancers, and I would add, directors, are working their TAILS off, just for a few glorious minutes on stage, to realize in their hearts after it’s all over, that most people don’t give a horse’s behind about them and whether or not they keep dancing.
This has been a heavy week for me to process all of this.
But it’s true. My own experience as a professional dancer, dance teacher, studio owner, and dance company director back up every single detail of her articles. It is a bleak bleak prospect, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of us, wear out our days doing it anyway, with no hope of compensation. We justify it by saying “It’s not about the money, I’m doing what I love.” That is true, but money is a way of putting a VALUE on something, and if we are not worth being paid a live-able wage, then we feel deep down inside that WE are the ones without value. And the public supports us in that.
I’ve spent hours talking and thinking about this. This post is a drop in the bucket compared to the waterfalls of thoughts and arguments and passion behind these realizations.
Give up? Quit? Put it in its place as “just for fun?” Complain? Post a whole bunch about it? Cry? Become bitter? All very real options, and every single one of them has run through my head.
Or change it.
Guess which one I picked?