Magazine article Pointe

Dollar and Sense

Magazine article Pointe

Dollar and Sense

Article excerpt

Got an offer? Read the fine print before you sign the contract.

New York City Ballet corps member Gwyneth Muller admits that when she signed on as a company apprentice, she didn't even glance at her contract. Then reality set in. She had to move from the School of American Ballet dorms to an apartment and juggle living expenses, healthcare costs and the notoriously high NYC rent.

Beneath ballet's tulle and tiaras lies a profession. Dancers can be so excited when they get their first job that they overlook critical points of the contract. Understanding the fine print is key to making the art of ballet into a career. "It's funnywhen you start you're not even concerned with wages," says Muller, who now serves as NYCB's American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) delegate, acting as a liaison between company members and the union. She notes that any dancer who gets an offer- be it from NYCB or elsewhere- should look closely at the number of weeks the company spends in season, keeping in mind that they only get paid when they work. Dancers need to consider whether they can afford to live on what they will earn.

A beginner has little leverage in terms of salary. But each company offers different benefits, and it pays to take a look at what dancers will- and won't- be expected to cover themselves. While virtually every company has a shoe allowance, some do not cover offsite physical therapy, and-many offer only partial dental or healthcare.

Dancers at most of the larger ballet companies are represented by unions like AGMA. …

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