It seems like every other blog I’m ranting about my life as a performing artist. Many people ask me why do I do it. It’s simple; it’s something I love and something that I have a huge passion for. I’ve been dancing since I was in diapers, taking any classes I could since I was five years old. For years I’ve been giving my (and my parent’s) money to the performing arts, and only two years ago did I decide to reap the monetary benefits of that. Fast forward to now and I am a burlesque performer and GoGo dancer. Did I expect to be making millions off of this? No. Do I expect to be paid like other performers? Hell yes I do. Let me tell you what I mean.
Whatever you do as an artist; you’re spending money. Often you’re spending more than you’re getting back, and that’s perfectly fine. In the world of burlesque, costuming is EXTREMELY important. A girl can spend more money on her swarovskis alone than the rest of the pieces of a costume. Add in prop making, promoting yourself via photoshoots (which is an expense I can write off thanks to my boyfriend), and the time it takes to choreograph a piece from start to finish, and you’re looking at hundreds of dollars for three minutes of performing. This is the same for GoGo dancing, except instead of choreographing for hours, you’re dancing a 45 minute – 1 hour nonstop set. That being said; when I am billed next to let’s say, a band or a DJ, I expect to be paid in the same fashion. Sometimes, this doesn’t happen.
There are a few reasons why this happens, but from my view it comes down to the fact that either the producers/promoters don’t care about the dancers, or the venue doesn’t. To them; we are nothing more than girls in skimpy outfits there to tease the crowd. We don’t mix music, we don’t play instruments, we don’t sing so we’re expected to take a lower pay cut, or none at all. All we do is dance.
But it’s not.
Such as musicians create art with their voices and instruments, such as painters create art with their brushes, such as photographers create art with their cameras, we create art with our bodies. We are fluidity personified. We bare our souls in our movements. We show our strengths, we show our weaknesses. We train, we create, we critique, we sweat, we cry. We are entertainers, and when we get treated as less than, it is upsetting.
I don’t ever expect to come out with more than what I’ve put into my craft HOWEVER, coming out with nothing, when all other entertainers are getting paid, is disturbing. You wouldn’t expect a painter to paint for free, you wouldn’t expect a band to headline your venue for free, why would you think it’s okay to not pay dancers? What’s probably worse, is the notion that if you even bring up compensation of any sort (other than free entry/drinks/food), these people are so willing to overlook talent in favor of people who are willing to do something subpar for free. This is fine too; but when your patrons are coming up and asking why I’m not performing, I’m giving them the real answer. You get what you pay for, and when you don’t pay, you get nothing.
Now like I said before, this is only a small occurrence. I have worked with many venues and producers who have treated all of their performers with respect and kindness. I am also not saying never perform for free. I have performed many times for free and have came out with so much more experience and connections that have proved more valuable to me than any amount of payment. What I’m saying is; know what you’re worth and know the situation going in. Are there other performers? If so, are they getting paid? If they are, you should be too. If they don’t want to pay you, move on. Do not perform for free if others are not. Be your own advocate and find others who will advocate for you. It’s a hard knock life out here for dancers and performers, but it gets better 🙂