• 3 May 2011
Dancers Alliance: The Voice Behind the Movement

Recently, there has been a lot of talk and hype surrounding Dancers' Alliance. Many of you may have come to events and parties or seen appearances by Dancers' Alliance representatives. Many of you have heard the term floating around but have no idea what it is. Well, it is simple: Dancers' Alliance is the voice behind the movement. It is a non-union organization created by dancers to elevate the professional dancer - past, present and future. If you are an aspiring or a working dancer in the industry, then Dancers' Alliance is you.

DA began in the early 80's with its generation of dancers seeking better rates and working conditions for jobs under non-union jurisdiction. Today, you may know those dancers as your agents, the photographer that took your headshots, or a choreographer you may have worked with. It was people like Julie McDonald, Michael Higgins and Liz Imperio, just to name a few, that paved the way by setting standards for dancers for much of the non-union work that dancers did. They, along with other dancers, became the voice for the dance community. Granted, at the time dancers were being paid $50 to do a music video, but through persistence, boycotts and a strong stance on working conditions and pay, that generation of dancers earned the opportunity to work under equitable rates and better conditions.

Over the next few decades, the power of DA began to dissolve. A new generation of dancers had come in and the movement lost momentum. However, between its inception and today, DA was recovered and sustained by a group of young, driven and eager professional dancers. Galen Hooks (Co-chair of DA), Kevin Stea, Becca Sweitzer, Danny Davalos and the late Tiffanie Washington were the backbone of the new generation's DA with much support and guidance from seasoned veterans Bobbie Bates and Sharon Ferguson, who are both active board members with SAG and AFTRA.

Today, DA is once again growing stronger. With nine board members and twenty-two core members, they have been making a lot of noise and the community is responding. A total of 791 dancers to date have signed up as DA members. Why is it so important to get the word out? Because DA is only as strong as its numbers, and right now they still need your help.

It is time that our rates reflect our relevance

The mission is to unify every dancer through education and solidarity. Case in point: A live performance was being staged and choreographed with twenty-five female dancers. Along the way, the artist's production team decided they also wanted to shoot a music video on the dancers' scheduled off day, which now gave them an opportunity to make some additional money. A representative approached the ladies and offered less than half of the DA music video rate. Some of the dancers were zealous in accepting the offer. Others knew the standard but were reluctant to turn the offer down or ask for the appropriate rate in fear of missing out on making the extra cash. After much negotiating amongst the ladies, one dancer was able to convince them all of the power in numbers. If just a portion of the dancers agreed to work at the non-DA rate, immediately the accord would be lost and the dancer devalued. However, if all twenty-five dancers took a risk and stood their ground collectively, they all could shoot the video at the greater rate. That is just what happened. The artist needed her video and needed the dancers. They paid the entire cast of dancers the Dancers' Alliance scale rate. True Story.

This is the type of strategy that Dancers' Alliance would like to see transpire in the entire dance community. It is understood that many new dancers are eager to get noticed and often at any cost (or no cost, rather), but it is this mentality that will keep dancers at the bottom of the totem pole. “It is time that our rates reflect our relevance”, said DA board member Dana Wilson. Although dance is not new to television, there is a renewed interest in dance. Today you will find that almost every network has dance programming. Dancing and dancers are in demand and now is the time as a community to stand behind the standards set by DA and better our futures.

So with your help and the new collaboration between DA and AFTRA, there are great changes coming in the near future for dancers. Dance is an art, more than likely a passion, and also a business. Educate yourself. Visit dancersalliance.org for many of its educating tools and register today if you haven't already. It takes nothing but your willingness to stay strong as a community. Be involved. Be the voice behind your movement.