Plans for action
Dancers on low incomes can struggle to see the benefit of joining the union. That may change with the sweeping campaign the MEAA is undertaking under the banner of “Know Your Worth”, a galvanising hashtag spawned by the AFL controversy. It aims to change the playing field for dancers.
“I think the 2020 AFL Grand Final became a moment in history where the dance community went ‘Does it have to be like this?’” Equity’s National Director Michelle Rae says.
On Valentine’s Day – with the slogan “Love the Arts Love Dance” – MEAA launched an industry survey on social media open to all dancers, not just union members, and hopes to receive 1000 responses within three months.
“The purpose is to find out what needs to be improved and changed, and what they are prepared to do. Those who came forward about the AFL were the dancers who had seen that brief and gone, ‘I’m not applying for that, that’s wrong’. And in actual fact, the dancers that we need to be hearing from are the dancers who think that’s where they have to be,” she observes.
“There are people being told by dance teachers, ‘Oh you should do this, they’re not going to be able to pay you but it’ll be good for you’. All schools are different, but that is actually part of the history of dance which obviously isn’t something you’ll eradicate overnight. ”
Aside from pay, the survey will cover working conditions and experiences such as harassment, bullying and body shaming. The result will be the basis for forums open to everyone, and a new separate union with its own website, Dancers Australia.
Slated for mid-May, Dancers Australia “will establish the standards professional dancers expect and be a safe place for dancers to interact,” Rae states.
Membership will include professional indemnity insurance, and industrial support such as contract checking and representation for payment and personal safety issues. A similar model has been successfully implemented with Musicians Australia, which established a $250 minimum payment for gigs supported with government funding.
What is certain is that there has never been any better opportunity for dancers to empower themselves.Two other possible initiatives are a gig rating section, where dancers could share experiences such as whether they were paid on time and if a dressing room was provided, and a rate tracker for sharing what employers are paying.
To have your say, go here.
WHAT THE MEAA IS DOING TO HELP DANCERS
- On February 14 the MEAA launched a national dance survey on pay and conditions, including harassment, bullying and body shaming, todetermine areas for change and improvement. This is open to all dancers whether members or not.
The MEAA plans to
- Establish of digital community for discussion and education.
- Establish a dance activist group who will meet regularly.
- Establish public forums on topics raised through survey.
- Mid-May 2022 – Launch of report based on survey results.
- Mid-May 2022- Launch of Dancers Australia union to define professional standards, pay and behaviour, and provide a safeplace to interact.
For around $7/week (TBC) Dancers Australia benefits will include:
- Contract review
- Representation for pay and personalsafety issues
- Professional indemnity insurance
Find out more here.