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How much do ballet dancers earn?


ZooZoo
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Apologies for the very blunt title to this thread but I have a genuine interest in the answer to this and no clue what the answer is.  I know dance is a vocation and passion and that dancers usually love their work and feel very fulfilled in their work, which is very important of course.  However, training is expensive.  If I was paying for my son to go to medical school, I would have a rough idea that at the end of it, assuming he was employed, he would earn enough money to have a decent lifestyle and buy his own home.  I feel in the dark about whether the same is generally true of ballet dancers.  What does the corp de ballet at the Royal earn for example?  Would a dancer in a company abroad receive free accommodation to enable them to save a little, for example?  I appreciate that this is a sensitive subject and I hope I will not cause anyone offence by asking.  I am happy to receive personal messages if someone can help but does not want to post on the open forum. 

Thank you

Zoo

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I believe that the starting salary for the Royal Ballet corps is around £25,000 pa. Might be more but I am sure that someone on this Forum will have the exact figures. It is London so even this doesn't go far if they want to live within an easy commute to the ROH.

 

My DS is with a national ballet in a Eastern European country. His basic take home pay each month is just over £400. Even those who are from that country say that the amount he earns gross isn't enough to live on in a capital city. There is an extremely complicated system for earning extra per month and this usually works out to anything from £25 to £100 net. No free accommodation so his rent, travel and living experiences far outstrip his income. He wouldn't be able to work there without our financial support. He has absolutely no chance of saving, even going out socially is a treat. This does get him down and he is fairly desperate about his financial future and the fact that he still has to rely on us. If he wasn't doing something he loves he would give up.

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I thought in smaller companies the wage was very poor but in bigger companies the wage improved. Starting out it seems that you would be lucky to be earning the minimum wage in Britain. As ever in the dance world, it is considered a real privilege to get into a company, regardless of wage. If my daughter gets into a company I know that me and her dad will have to continue to support her financially, otherwise how will she afford to live?

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" His basic take home pay each month is just over £400. Even those who are from that country say that the amount he earns gross isn't enough to live on in a capital city."

Gottokeepworking this is truly terrifying .... It costs as much to train a ballet dancer over 3 years in vocational school as a commercial airline pilot, and I know who work harder. 

It's such a shame that these beautiful people aren't considered to be worth paying a living wage - one wonders how ballet companies would fare if parents didn't continue to fund their offspring,at a time when they really should be considering funding their own retirement - which seems to be vanishing into the distance ....

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A starting salary of £25K is not bad at all for a 19 year old but I suspect that the RB pays more than all the other companies in the UK. The problem comes when dancers get a bit older and no longer want to house share and want to rent or buy their own place. However, these days, many other twenty-somethings are in the same position as wages have stagnated and housing costs have become so high.

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In one of the Agony and Ecstasy episodes, if I remember, some of the corps de ballet members were talking about one or two of their fellow dancers earning a bit extra dancing at night clubs. Not sure if it was lap dancing or pole dancing or just dancing, but apparently it paid better than ENB! But considering the hours the corps are already working - easily 12-hour days when they're performing that evening, and dancing in a lot more performances than the principals do - it's a shame they have to get second jobs to make ends meet. But that's not all that unusual in vocational careers, especially ones that tend to be predominantly female.

 

This might explain, though, why corps members who haven't been promoted through the ranks tend to leave the company by the time they're 30 or so, rather than staying an extra decade like the principals do. If you have a job that requires to you live in or near an expensive capital city and it doesn't pay anywhere near a living wage, there may not be much choice.

Edited by Melody
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" His basic take home pay each month is just over £400. Even those who are from that country say that the amount he earns gross isn't enough to live on in a capital city."

Gottokeepworking this is truly terrifying .... It costs as much to train a ballet dancer over 3 years in vocational school as a commercial airline pilot, and I know who work harder. 

It's such a shame that these beautiful people aren't considered to be worth paying a living wage - one wonders how ballet companies would fare if parents didn't continue to fund their offspring,at a time when they really should be considering funding their own retirement - which seems to be vanishing into the distance ....

Ballet companies do value their dancers but most simply cant afford to pay them as well as they would like. The touring companies especially need audiences but often struggle to fill theatres. Ive watched well known companies such as Ballet Black and Northern in half filled regional theatres and know from personal experience that all seats need to be sold in many cases just to break even. Even more so if musicians have to be paid too!

 

It frustrates me that even dance students and their parents rarely if ever go to a performance, so its not surprising that the general public outside of big cities will not go to see a dance production locally. Its a difficult one, if the dancers were paid more ( and as someone also having to help my professional ds I wish they were),the ticket prices would have to increase. Then even less people might venture into a dance performance. Resulting in even fewer seats sold. This in turn would mean a company possibly downsizing or even folding.

 

So yes, many dancers are woefully underpaid. But its not necessarily due to being undervalued by the companies they work for who are also struggling and having to come up with ideas such as sponsor a dancer in order to survive.

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In one of the Agony and Ecstasy episodes, if I remember, some of the corps de ballet members were talking about one or two of their fellow dancers earning a bit extra dancing at night clubs. Not sure if it was lap dancing or pole dancing or just dancing, but apparently it paid better than ENB! But considering the hours the corps are already working - easily 12-hour days when they're performing that evening, and dancing in a lot more performances than the principals do - it's a shame they have to get second jobs to make ends meet. But that's not all that unusual in vocational careers, especially ones that tend to be predominantly female.

 

This might explain, though, why corps members who haven't been promoted through the ranks tend to leave the company by the time they're 30 or so, rather than staying an extra decade like the principals do. If you have a job that requires to you live in or near an expensive capital city and it doesn't pay anywhere near a living wage, there may not be much choice.

 

One of the episodes did mention salaries. I think the starting salary was £23k for a member of the corps and it said that only principals can earn in excess of 60k. This was in 2010 so it will have changed by now although it was mentioned that they were unable to keep up with the rate of inflation and since the coalition government came in and the funding for the arts was cut.

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Slightly different,but when I was at the Moulin Rouge the weekly pay was £240 a week. This was 1987. We didn`t have to pay any income tax for the first year we were there. We had to find our own accommodation,but I was lucky because I lived with an ex Moulin dancer and her husband and child. I paid her £50 a week [or the equivalent in Francs], and this was for rent,electric, all my meals,everything. I was the only one of us new dancers who had loads of money. I bought £300 Gucci handbags,Dior silk stockings ,lots of luxury items. I didn`t save a penny while I was there. Had no intention of saving. Not bad for  just one morning of rehearsals every week, and often only one,one and a half hour show every night, 6 nights a week. !!

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I won't give exact figures for my son (mainly coz I don't know them!) but I'm happy to say that he supports himself in a small company in Europe. His salary is very low but so's his rent. We helped out initially with some money for things for his flat and we do pay any flights (when he comes home at Christmas and summer - mainly to ensure I see him lol) but he has also managed to save enough to pay us back and buy a few bits of furniture. He said lots of the others do have financial help from parents but they live in nicer flats and spend more - he's very frugal and I see nothing wrong with him living that way for now.

 

He was lucky that they got a decent pay rise after his first year.

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I did a bit of internet searching: see below. hope this is of interest! Btw didnt score any hits on other european (not UK) companies.... But only did a brief search...

 

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2002/aug/18/wageslaves.careers

 

Wages

The entertainers' union Equity has agreements with each ballet company for how much different grades of dancer earn. Members of the corps de ballet at the Royal Ballet earn £22,000 a year in their second year at the company. This rises by £1,000 every year they stay. Soloists earn £32,500, with the first soloist getting £39,000.

Dancers who hop from company to company as guest artists negotiate their own fee for each production. As they are basically freelances, they often employ an agent to manage their work and an accountant to keep the books.

 

USA info:

 

http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/world/the-5-richest-ballet-dancers/

 

When a dancer first joins a company, they form part of a group called the Corps de Ballet, and they typically start as ensemble dancers in the background. If a dancer is part of the union known as American Guild of Musical Artists (also known as AGMA), they have a degree of protection, in that they’re entitled to at least a minimum wage that is livable and at a set scale. The industry – as with so many of the capricious, competitive arts industries – is notoriously underpaid, with the majority of dancers working long hours for very little financial reward. Payscale cites the average ballet dancer’s salary as a tiny $15,080 – $26,419. Midlevel dancers, often soloists, could earn as much as $50,000-$58,000 a year. In the aspirational case, celebrated principal dancers can earn a couple of thousand dollars per performance.

 

Salaries

2010:

The median salary for a professional dancer as of 2010 is between $25,000 and $55,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On an hourly level, dancers make between $8 and $15 an hour, according to the BLS. The full pay range for dancers varies from $17,000 a year to over $67,000.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/info_7852060_average-salary-professional-ballerina.html

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Despite the low wages at some companies, I saw something very recently about how happy people in different jobs were. Ballet dancers scored highly, which surprised me as there are many frustrations and unfairnesses (injuries and vagaries of casting come to mind) in this profession - as well as the very long hours, the physical demands and the challenges of touring.

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Wages

The entertainers' union Equity has agreements with each ballet company for how much different grades of dancer earn. Members of the corps de ballet at the Royal Ballet earn £22,000 a year in their second year at the company. This rises by £1,000 every year they stay.

 

Which must mean that if there's increased financial pressure (and I'm assuming this would apply similarly to all companies) there might be a temptation to push dancers out after a few years in the corps and attract some school leavers instead?

 

I remember Iohna Loots in a documentary on the RB/School some years ago bemoaning the fact (I think) that she was never going to be able to buy her own flat on a dancer's salary - that, of course, is far more common for most young people now.  Not that long after, she got a promotion to Soloist :) (this was the same documentary in which Steven McRae said that if he didn't get promoted to principal by a certain age he'd be leaving - and again I think it was not long afterwards that *he* got promoted :) )

 

I've noticed recently that there seems to be an increase in the number of dancers modelling fashion as a sideline.  I suppose that's something they can fit around work a bit, and presumably it could pay quite well for not too much time expended.

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when a friends DD graduated she was really pleasantly surprised at her DDs wage as she had always thought a ballet dancer did not earn much but she said it was 'on a par with what a university graduate might expect for their first job'. This was for a UK ballet company. Of course this does not mean that a dancer's salary will increase along the same lines. Dancers has stated above might also get some modelling or advertising work and of course they may teach.

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These days a ballet dancer's wages compare very favourably with the wages of most graduates, who are of course a couple of years older (unless their degree is undertaken at a vocational school). I'm talking here about dancers who have a contract of employment with a company, rather than freelancers who are brought in for specific productions. I sincerely hope that companies don't start to adopt some of the bad practices which have become so widespread elsewhere eg zero hours contracts and no holiday or sick pay.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is such an important topic and I'm glad someone had the courage to ask! I trained at the Rbs and spent time at ENB, Royal Ballet and a smallish company in Germany. I earned the following:

 

ENB 1995-1997 £16,000 pa

Germany 1997-2004 £13,000 pa

RB 2004-2009 started on £31,000 as recognition of years of professional experience. Left on £42,000 after being promoted to First Artist 5th Year.

 

The salary levels of the Royal are the best in Britain and some of the best in the world. They are:

Artist - £26,500

First Artist - £30,500

Soloist - £44,000

First Soloist - £52,000

Principal - £65,000 for the first year then negotaiable year on year depending on roles and shows etc.

 

Those are salaries not including overtime and each year theres a small incremental rise to recognise years of service.

 

Whats interesting is that in the US the basic monthly salary is often good but they run on seasonal contracts. This means that you'll get a contract for nine months then you'll be laid off for 3 months before being rehired. This means that as its not treated as a "full-time" contract getting finance for a house etc is incredibly difficult and companies get away without proper pension provisions.

 

Basically, if you're very talented and hard working and reasonably lucky you'll do quite well. But you retire around 40 years old and you need another career for 25 years!

 

Hope that helps.

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Thanks for posting this information, CrystalBallet. How much is overtime likely to add to a dancer's basic salary at the RB? I'm surprised by the figure which you have given for a principal's salary. I had assumed that it would be quite a lot more than £65K and closer to £100K.

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