Magazine article Dance Magazine

One Dancer, Two Jobs: At Several Small Companies, Dancers Doubling as Administrators Is the New Norm

Magazine article Dance Magazine

One Dancer, Two Jobs: At Several Small Companies, Dancers Doubling as Administrators Is the New Norm

Article excerpt

The mechanics of arts administration have historically stayed outside the studio, with dancers responsible for doing the dancing, and little else. "There was a massive separation between 'church and state,' so to speak," says Uri Sands, choreographer and co-artistic director at TU Dance in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

But today, small dance companies seem less likely to lean on traditional nonprofit staffers and instead offer dancers secondary administrative roles. This creates opportunities for professional development, while giving dancers a greater sense of ownership in the company and full-time salaries as an incentive to stick around. Plus, companies get to keep the payroll small, and spend less time scheduling rehearsals around the dancers' third-party employers.

But are there hidden costs in turning dancers--some with little or no experience behind a desk--into staff members? "To some degree," says Sands. "With this generation, I think to straddle those worlds is much easier. Keyboard skills, for example: In 1980, that was something that needed to be taught, but, today, even 6-year-olds have them. Certain things we just don't have to supplement, training-wise."

Choreographer Kyle Abraham calls his company's full-time dancer-admin approach the Dancer Development Program, designed to "build the company's capacity and infrastructure while giving its dancers full-time employment, providing them with tools, information and skill sets" that will serve them beyond Abraham. …

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