by: Olivia Clark, Georgia State University College of Law, J.D. expected 2016
Dear Loyal Readers: The Seay Firm LLC will occasionally post articles from guest bloggers. As the above byline indicates, the first one comes from Olivia Clark, a former merit scholarship pre-professional dancer with Atlanta Ballet, who has recently performed with Crossover Movement Arts. She has two BAs, one in English and the other in Italian, from the University of Georgia, and is currently pursuing her JD at Georgia State University. She has a strong interest in intellectual property and entertainment law, and is a recipient of Georgia State University’s 1L Intellectual Property Scholarship.
A recent study by Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., ranked dancers as the eleventh most stressful profession out of 747 different occupations listed by the U.S. Department of Labor. One main reason for this high stress level is the lack of job stability in the field. So when you do get that job, determine whether the contract contains what you want, and if not, then consider asking your employer to alter the agreement before you sign it. Here are a few points to consider when negotiating your contract:
1) Restrictions: Does the contract restrict you from auditioning for other jobs while employed with the company? If you want the freedom to seize new opportunities, ask for the permission to audition elsewhere to be written into the contract. If the employer is hesitant to do so, you could even ask for a shorter contract term that ends before audition season starts. A dancer’s career longevity is certainly not substantial, so make sure that you can spend your valuable time as you see fit.
2) Breaks: Keeping your body healthy is essential to getting the most out of your career. How much break time is scheduled for each hour of rehearsal time? Is lunch a separate break? Make sure your rest time spelled out in your contract.
3) Physical Therapy: Many employers offer to provide a certain number of hours of physical therapy to dancers per week. Have you had a recent injury or do you have a chronic one? Make sure that the physical therapy provided is adequate for your needs. If you want more hours or a different type of therapy than is specified, ask for it!
4) AGMA: Are you a member of AGMA? The American Guild of Musical Artists helps to advocate for performing artists and protect their rights. Dancers who pay dues receive benefits including health coverage and shoes. As an AGMA dancer, your contract should comply with standards that AGMA sets forth to protect its members from exploitation and illegal discrimination.
A contract is a legally enforceable promise, so your employer is held to its terms. Negotiating for what you want and need will only benefit you by helping to extend the length and quality of your career. Contact The Seay Firm LLC if you have any questions!