Our Wish List for the Next Decade of Dance
By: Jennifer Stahl
There are lots of gift guides floating around the internet this time of year. But the end of the decade has us thinking about more than presents.
As much as the dance world has evolved over the past 10 years, there’s still a lot of work to do. So we started pondering: If we could ask Santa for our wildest wishes, what would we want to him to bring us in the ’20s?
All dancers are asking is for a little respect—from pop culture, from the mainstream media, even from their own directors. Can we please make the ’20s the decade that everyone stops belittling dancers?
Enough with celebrities and models faking their way through a pair a pointe shoes. Enough with equating dancing to “being sissy.” Enough with treating dancers like disposable goods just because there are so many hopefuls out there vying for jobs.
How we can make this happen: By continuing to speak up. After Lara Spencer mocked Prince George this summer on “Good Morning America” for taking ballet, the reaction from the dance community was not only fast and furious, but effective. With so many voices all crying out together, it was one of those rare instances where it felt like we were really heard. Let’s keep up the advocacy.
2. Access to a Full Dance Medicine Team
Sure, many major companies have a physical therapist on staff, which is great! But in a dream world, dancers would also have access to a psychologist in the studios to help with mental health and performance strategies. And a registered dietitian to help them meet their nutrition goals. Maybe even a chiropractor, an acupuncturist and a Gyrotonic studio. Basically, all the resources that major sports teams take for granted. And as long as we’re dreaming, these wouldn’t just be reserved for company dancers, but available to freelancers, too.
How we can make this happen: Admittedly, access to medical professionals does not come cheap. But the good news is that the dance medicine field is growing, as more and more students with serious dance backgrounds pursue various specialties. And most of these experts are incredibly devoted to helping the field they love.
That means there are more resources available than ever before—and likely more than what most of the field is currently taking advantage of. Over the next decade, we’d love to see more strategic partnerships between dance organizations and hospitals or clinics, and more easily accessible information about what’s offered in local communities.
3. Another Zero (or Two) at the End of Dancers’ Paychecks
Of course, dancers don’t go into this field for the money. But they still have to eat and pay their rent. If only Santa could somehow climb down the chimney with livable wages for every dancer who’s ever been offered to perform “in exchange for exposure.”
How we can make this happen: We need to figure out how to better convince the wider world of the value of dance. What if college dance majors were taught how to navigate our capitalist system more like entrepreneurs? What if grads had the same confidence to ask for money as tech start-ups?
4. No More Preying On Dancers
Unfortunately, the #MeToo movement is all too real in the dance world. The stories that have come to light over the past couple of years—of billionaires targeting dancers, teachers abusing students and even celebrated company members taking advantage of their colleagues—have been devastating. It’s time for sexual predators to stop preying on dancers (or anyone else, for that matter).
How we can make this happen: By holding offenders accountable so they know they won’t be able to get away with their actions. And by making dancers’ safety the highest priority, which starts with being sure they can report any incidences of harassment without fear.
5. Proper Recognition
People, please stop stealing choreography. Choreographers, please give your dancers credit when they’ve been major contributors to your creative process. Relatives, please stop asking dancers when they’re going to get a “real” job.
How we can make this happen: The root of all these problems goes back to the issue of respect. We need to change the perception that what dance artists do is just fun and easy, and not actual “work.”
6. Affordable Auditions
We know it might sound a little crazy, but don’t you think dancers should be able to apply to work without having to pay for it?
How we can make this happen: We know, we know. Budgets are limited. But if companies want to make sure they’re not taking advantage of aspiring dancers, they’re going to have to get used to considering recruitment expenses as a cost of doing business.
7. For All Dancers to Be Able to Dance
For too long, too many professional dance jobs have been limited to a privileged few: the white, the able-bodied, the slim-bodied and those with wealthy enough parents to afford the steep price of training. Slowly but surely, this is changing as casting becomes more inclusive than ever before and outreach efforts become more serious.
How we can make this happen: Let’s keep up the momentum, and continue working to make sure everyone with passion and talent can find a place to share it. Keep on opening up dance’s doors.