Value your work and empower yourself – meeting led by Konstantina Skalionta and Lucia Schweigert
At our sixth professional development meeting we talked about the fact that often emerging choreographers take unpaid or underpaid opportunities to show their work. While we believe there should be adequate payment, for this meeting we decided to work with the current reality and explored how, under the given circumstances, you can make sure you receive what you need and feel respected and valued at all times when accepting such opportunities.
Since we live in a capitalist society the value we place on things is usually measured in money. As independent choreographers, however, we must accept a different model. Our work is worth much more than the money we can make with it, which is often no money at all; in fact often we are paying to create and show our work, so we loose money.
First – Know your worth! Know your rights!
There are rules and recommendations laid out by British law, Equity, the Independent Theatre Council and One Dance UK. You must know that really you should be paid well, work no more than 43 hours per week, receive holiday pay and be able to start saving for a pension and pay for insurance. While we didn’t go into much detail, we endeavour to do so at a future meeting. So look out for that.
Second – Define your needs and wants.
In the absence of adequate pay you must ensure that you receive valuable returns. Having your work performed live in front of a paying audience is a great start, but in order to develop artistically and progress your career, you need more.
Exercise – what do you need and what do you want from an opportunity that will help you develop artistically and progress your career?
Take 15 minutes to brain storm and then define your list. Make sure you save it and keep it handy for the next time you accept an opportunity. Then check back to it.
Some examples could be:
- Sufficient time to apply for or organise funding
- A time slot that suits your work
- Rehearsal space provided in-kind by the organisers
- Professional footage of your performance
- Meeting special invitees
- Opportunities to speak to the organisers
- Opportunities to connect with other participating artists
- Building lasting relationships with other artists and with the organisers – e.g. meetings to reconnect after the event
- Promotion and marketing support, resulting in a new audience for your work
- Sharing resources
- Box office split
- Permission to photograph and film your work
- Efficient communication with organisers
The result should be that you feel respected and valued by the organisers.
Third – Negotiate.
Look back at your contract (if you don’t have one, get one) and check if you get those things. If not, ask! You are an independent artist and no one else is going to do it for you. Maybe try to join forces with other artists participating. Ask kindly but firmly for what you need and negotiate where necessary. Again, look out for our upcoming meeting, where we will also talk about negotiating contracts.
Exercise – looking back at opportunities you have had; can you think of a time where you felt you didn’t get what you needed? How could you have taken control of the situation and empowered yourself to get what you need thus improving your experience?
Take 15 minutes to think or talk through your experience and figure out, with hindsight, what steps you could have taken to improve the situation. Do this next time you find yourself in a similar situation.
Adhere to professional practice, e.g. whether money is involved or not, always sign contracts with everyone outlining time commitment and what everyone is obliged to do and entitled to get.
You’re a professional artist and despite having to accept not being professionally paid, at times, you should never accept not being treated professionally!
We believe strongly in these points and hope you do, too! Keep creating, keep working!
Thank you to Chantal Guevara for joining us and contributing her in-depth knowledge of the industry and many thanks to all attendees at the meeting for their generous sharing and valuable input.
This post was written by Lucia Schweigert.