Rewarding Students for Dancing

Duvet

Member
If you are a teacher with a student group who perform with you at fetes, festivals or restaurants, and if you get paid for those gigs, do you share out the money with the troupe? Or do you view them as volunteer dancers who are gaining experience and having fun, and besides, there are too many of them to get a share and still leave enough for you? What do students think about this?

If teachers allow or expect students to perform in public for nothing – because its ‘fun’ – what message is that giving students about the value of performing properly? There are times when professional dancers complain about amateurs undercutting them at restaurants, or dancing for free and giving bellydance a poor image because they are not very good dancers. But if you encourage your students to see it as ‘only fun’ that ‘anyone can do’ and doesn’t actually need to be very good to be seen in public, how are students meant to understand that a performance before the general public has to be worth seeing and needs to keep certain standards of technique and style?

Do you have certain levels that a student knows that they must pass before they can perform at a hafla, a fete, a festival, etc, and then reward those students accordingly for dances well done? What would students like in return as way of encouragement?
 

Bast

New member
I think for me there are two isues there. One is about reward for dancing and the other is about the quality of the dancing for public viewing.

I am a student and I dance for free and love it. I treat public performances very seriously, and I practice hard for them even though I have alot of fun doing it too.

Occasionally our teacher has been paid for public gigs that we have danced. I have never expected her to share any of it as I feel she has used her networking to get us that spot and also her time to attend on the day and organise it. Saying that though, if we do the Royal Show we get free entry to the show which is always nice :) and last time my teacher was paid for a festival we did, she paid for all of our parking.


The quality issue is one that really bugs me. Pretty much anyone in the class can do public perfomances. There are a core group of us that really care and get together in our own time to practice and it is very disheartening when others clearly don't practice at all outside of class. I would be really happy if my teacher had stricter criteria for public performance even if that meant I didn't make the cut at times.
At the momment it feels like our hardwork is for the nothing because the public see the group as a whole and sadly I am sometimes embarrassed of our peformances.

ETA I didn't see your question about what would students want for encouragement. For me, I like to hear my teacher say you did great today, but only if it is true. I also love that my teacher videos our performances and at the end of the year we can buy the DVD. It is nice being able to see which performances were great and learn from those that were not.
 
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Jane

New member
If you are a teacher with a student group who perform with you at fetes, festivals or restaurants, and if you get paid for those gigs, do you share out the money with the troupe? Or do you view them as volunteer dancers who are gaining experience and having fun, and besides, there are too many of them to get a share and still leave enough for you? What do students think about this?
I think like everything it depends on the situation. Every time a student performance is held, the audience should be fully aware that they are students. Most of the time, audiences are wonderfully supportive of students. A community event usually won't pay much. The teacher deserves that money for creating a good student opportunity by writing the choreography, setting up the music, finding and coordinating the event, holding rehearsals, etc. If the community event organizer throws the teacher $25, she should keep it. Any tips a student dancer might receive are theirs.

If it's a student night at a restaurant, same thing applies. I'm not a big fan of students dancing in restaurants though. There are much more gentle venues.

If teachers allow or expect students to perform in public for nothing – because its ‘fun’ – what message is that giving students about the value of performing properly? There are times when professional dancers complain about amateurs undercutting them at restaurants, or dancing for free and giving bellydance a poor image because they are not very good dancers. But if you encourage your students to see it as ‘only fun’ that ‘anyone can do’ and doesn’t actually need to be very good to be seen in public, how are students meant to understand that a performance before the general public has to be worth seeing and needs to keep certain standards of technique and style?
Everyone has to start dancing somewhere. I started dancing "out" for free at nursing homes, for friends, at haflas, community charity events, and other free venues where none of the performers were paid and it was made clear to me and the audience that I was a student and not a professional. I danced for free where it was appropriate to do so and it was always made very clear that I wasn't worth paying to see yet.

Next I moved up to accompanied balloon deliveries (the teacher was paid not me even though I danced) , then did them by myself (I was paid). Then I did the whole process again with parties. I spent a short time with a troupe, and then struck out on my own. Then I started teaching and now I get to bring my students to nursing homes :D

Do you have certain levels that a student knows that they must pass before they can perform at a hafla, a fete, a festival, etc, and then reward those students accordingly for dances well done? What would students like in return as way of encouragement?
Nope, everyone even student's non-dancing friends are free to get up and boogie. My haflas are actual parties, not student showcases. When students are ready to take on more, and need a little push, I ask them if they want to take on more and only when the right thing for them comes along.

Reward students who are paying me to teach them? No. I don't see a need for that. I simply tell them how they're doing- good or bad. I've never thought of performing, paid or not, as an encouragement. A lot of students have no interest in performing and they still want to excel. The reward isn't performing opportunities, it is simply the joy of dancing and being one with the music.
 

Daimona

Moderator
Many good points here already.

If you start paying once, there will be an expection that you will pay them later as well.
If the pay is good, you may help covering their expenses (such as parking/bus tickets or perhaps studio rent), or if it is really good invite them for dinner. After you have covered your expenses and you want to share what is left, you may also make a fund for students covering expenses for hiring troupe costumes or helping paying the students expenses for future, less paid gigs where your students are performing.

Around here, community festival performances only pay a rather small amount to cover "expenses for instruction", which is rather symbolic. My first paid gig was at a community festival, and my teacher (who got me the gig) got half the money and me and a friend who substituted her got the other half. I would have done it even without the pay just to get the experience performing and was thrilled that my teacher asked us to perform.
 

indrayu

New member
I seem to have a different view to the others who have replied :)

After expenses have been covered, of course the pay should be shared among those who have done the work! Often here, the only work on top of the normal running of the school that the teacher has had to do to get the gig, is say yes and bring the CD. The gig is a form of promotion for the teacher and dance school; the teacher's choreographing and networking time, and specific operating expenses such as telephone, are a normal part of running a business and all the students have already paid for that with their term's fees.

Everyone involved would (should!) have done some extra work rehearsing and preparing costumes, plus spent money on costuming, makeup etc.

If the pay amounts to a very small amount, it is more useful to put it into a fund for troupe expenses. I personally prefer that to not having a choice about the reward e.g. "free" dinner.

Community gigs aren't likely to get Actor's Equity pay rates, but I do think it is important to take everyone's contribution seriously. I wouldn't walk around handing out leaflets promoting a business without being paid (actually, I wouldn't do it at all unless reposession was threatening :lol:) so why work for a dance teacher for free? We dance for fun and strive to do our best, but professionalism also includes the business aspect.
 

Stephanie

New member
I think the intermediate students (who are still relatively new and are lucky to be performing at all) should be reimbursed for gas. For them, it's mostly about experience. And maybe a small percentage of the cut just so they have a little something. And the rest should be shared among the more experienced dancers.

Look at it like a concert. People are coming to see the famous person/group, but they often get a lesser-known band to be their opening act. Most of the money goes to the main person/group, but I'm sure the opening act people get a some money, too. The intermediate people are like the opening act and the experienced dancers are like the main show because they have more skills.

Another good way to determine is: how long was each person performing? Because I think the intermediate students (new performers) wouldn't have as many skills so they wouldn't be on as long. And the advanced/experienced students would take up more time because they have a bigger skill set and can show off more. People who are on longer get a bigger cut of the money.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I don't accept paying gigs myself and I don't arrange paying gigs for my students. Anyone wishing to dance at pro bono/community events is responsible for turning up regularly at practice and for getting themselves to wherever the event is being held.

Should I ever lose my mind and commit to a paid performance again, the fee gets split between all performers AND the dear student who turns up and helps out at all performances whether she dances or not.

There are times when professional dancers complain about amateurs undercutting them at restaurants, or dancing for free and giving bellydance a poor image because they are not very good dancers.
WARNING: UNPOPULAR OPINION ABOUT TO BE EXPRESSED :cool:

Once you're dancing for pay, you've crossed the line between amateur and professional whether you're 2012's Fifi or trip over your own feet trying to do a drop lick. Professional does not equal good dancer and amateur does not equal poor dancer.

Dancing is a business and no dancer is obligated to step aside in order for another dancer to have a job. A good dancer with good business skills knows that being undercut by lousy dancers is occasionally going to be an occupational hazard but so is competing with good dancers who charge less because they are just starting out.

It is one thing for a relatively unexperienced dancer to say, "Fire her and I'll dance for half the price" but why should a good amateur not cross the line to professional at a reduced fee? Had I as a newly minted paralegal insisted on receiving the same pay as the firm's senior CLA I wouldn't have been offered a job. The better CLA I became, the more money I could demand. Dancing is no different.
 

Aziyade

New member
Once you're dancing for pay, you've crossed the line between amateur and professional whether you're 2012's Fifi or trip over your own feet trying to do a drop lick. Professional does not equal good dancer and amateur does not equal poor dancer.
Exactly.


I have a "student troupe" -- we do not perform (as a student troupe) for money. We do small community events and nursing homes, but I would never think to hire this group out to do weddings or big gala events. They are STUDENTS and they dance like students. Plus it's a no-cut group which means no matter what your skill level, if you show up for class and practice, you can dance.

In my case, I do not have a "professional troupe" and when such a troupe is requested, I have to either refer out, or sell the client on having just me.
 

Aniseteph

New member
If it's primarily the teacher providing performance experiences for baby dancers then IMO the performance is the reward. If it's teacher out publicising herself and/or her dance school then the students are doing her a favour - expenses and a cut of any fees are appropriate. If it's more of a communal group collective thing rather than under the teacher's wing, split everything. (there ya go, sorted ;))

Of course in practice there are grey areas, but it's another situation where IMO you save a lot of grief if everyone is clear about what the group is about BEFORE you get to the awkward questions.
 

Stephanie

New member
I was reading a review of one of the belly dancing studios in my area. Some people were complaining that the dancers only got $25 for the night, and that amount of money barely covered their expenses. And then another dancer who has been working at the studio for several years said that $25 is for the beginners. And the more experienced dancers got to choose which restaurants they performed at and made a lot more than $25. She also said that the people who work for less, choose to do so. And of course there are still other people (from other studios) who come in and dance for free.

I think a lot of "going pro" should depend on how much experience you have. People who just started out have no business performing at restaurants, shows, etc. because they simply do not have enough experience to do anything. It might even make belly dancing look bad and make people not want to hire belly dancers, because these people don't really know what they're doing.
 

Duvet

Member
When a teacher takes a troupe out to dance at a fete or a festival it is usually done with at least a large element of advertising in mind. I’m not including haflas or charity/community events here – they are a matter of good will and the dancing is a form of donation to the event. And if the teacher chooses to dance solo for free, wherever, in order to advertise their classes and skills, fine. But asking students to perform will involve them in a degree of extra commitment to learning choreography, acquiring a costume and make-up, and getting to the venue, which is above and beyond normal class, and should be acknowledged as such. I understand when teachers don’t like students expecting extras beyond the class time contract (e.g. personal dance notes, DVD reviews, out of class resources, advice on suppliers) so why should it be expected from students?

I would understand if the teacher were running a mentoring service or an apprenticeship, and dancing in public was part of the contract of learning (in which case, those students in the class who didn't get to dance would be getting short changed), but I'm not sure how common that is.

If a teacher doesn’t think it is necessary to divvy out the proceeds, that’s a personal choice, and between them and their conscience. But I think teachers need to be clear and up front when they are getting paid for a group effort, whilst letting the students know that they are voluntarily giving a free advert and extra revenue to the teacher. The teacher is the one who should be grateful if the students then say yes to performing.
 

mahsati_janan

New member
When a teacher takes a troupe out to dance at a fete or a festival it is usually done with at least a large element of advertising in mind. I’m not including haflas or charity/community events here – they are a matter of good will and the dancing is a form of donation to the event. And if the teacher chooses to dance solo for free, wherever, in order to advertise their classes and skills, fine. But asking students to perform will involve them in a degree of extra commitment to learning choreography, acquiring a costume and make-up, and getting to the venue, which is above and beyond normal class, and should be acknowledged as such. I understand when teachers don’t like students expecting extras beyond the class time contract (e.g. personal dance notes, DVD reviews, out of class resources, advice on suppliers) so why should it be expected from students?
If I have booked a performance for my student troupe, it is most certainly *not* mainly about advertising. It is about giving them the opportunity to dance in public for the experience. It can be quite difficult to find venues and events that are willing to have a student group perform outside of haflas and dance community events. No one is forced to perform, it is an optional service that *I as the teacher* have arranged for them to give them this opportunity. If I receive payment for a performance where my students were allotted a space, it is generally payment for me because I had to barter my own performance to get that performance space for the students. Paid performance opportunities are not like haflas - these people are paying for a pro show. If I can sell them on allowing my students a few minutes as well, then that is to benefit the students -not to advertise me.

The teacher is the one who should be grateful if the students then say yes to performing.
From the teacher's point of view, I always appreciate students who follow through on their choice to perform, but am not upset by those who choose not to do so. The student should also be grateful for the choice of the opportunity. Without the teacher working for that opportunity, the student wouldn't have the option to choose whether or not to perform. Student performances are part of the learning experience, so I work to provide them to best prepare my students. They are part of my commitment to my current students, not some sort of advertising plan for students I don't have yet.
 

shiradotnet

New member
Only skilled dancers who are well-rehearsed should be performing in paying gigs. Dancers who lack the polish, confidence, and stage presence to perform at the pro level shouldn't be doing paid gigs.

So, assuming the student performers are skilled enough to be performing at the professional level ... if they're good enough to perform for a gig that pays, then they're good enough to be paid something.

I'm comfortable with the idea of the teacher getting the lion's share of the pay, because teachers do a LOT of things that can be very time-consuming - creating choreography, scheduling rehearsal space, making decisions regarding which choreos will be done in each show and determining the order, creating the playlists or CD's for rehearsal and performance, and so on. A lot of students don't realize how much time and energy this all can take.
 

Jameelah

New member
The way my school runs its fetes and fairs dancing is:

If the school gets paid then the dancers get paid, it gets spilt between the dancers who danced that day. Mostly we don't get paid but we get to practice dancing in front of a large audience. And only those who do free gigs know how priceless professional dance practice is.

I often have this argument with my husband who thinks we should be paid everytime we dance in public. And sometimes I agree but not always.

We also get discounted lessons if we have a heap of free performances which is always nice.
The main reason we don't get paid every dance is that we are not all professional and the only way to become professional is to dance and as I said before professional dance training and practice is priceless.
 

Munniko

New member
As a student and especially a new one, I would rather have the opportunity to perform in front of people and get used to it than get paid. I like the way my teacher does it where if there is a performance than she will hold free performance rehearsals outside of normal class time and we do not pay for them in exchange for not getting paid. I got to perform recent and I was just happy I got to borrow a costume and get used to the idea of dancing closer to people than I am used to:dance:
 

walladah

New member
I think that things are simple:

If the performance is made in a venue which charges an entrance fee for the show, then all performers should be paid: teachers and students.

If the performance is made in a venue which does not charge an entrance fee, but it is a performance that the teacher would ask for a payment for herself, then she should ask for the entire troup AND share the extra income with them.

Cases where the performance is a professional level-show and the teacher, to get the job, asks only for her payment and she does not ask for her troup ("they are students, they are not going to ask for money"), using/exploiting her students' fervor to dance are not decent, not only for ther students but also for her as a teacher.

Cases where the show is for charity purposes, i understand that in case the teacher get payment for expenses (f.ex. travel costs), so it will be for students. For charities where the teacher undertakes all expenses, then students would not be paid either.

I really hate arguments like "being prepared for the show is like a lesson for which you do not pay, so you are not going to get paid at all". At the end, rehearsals and learning a new choreography is what the show is paid for by the venue owners, so the students should be paid somehow.

I understand the cases where the show is a school show, then there is a rent to pay for the theatre/venue the show will take place in. In that case, i think it is fair, professional and ethical to let students know that you pay for the rent, so it will be deducted from the income. Same for other expenses, like costumes, expenditure on props, lighting and sound experts, etc. In case the teacher asks however, to pay for the show expenses, then she should share equally the show income!

As a student i have performed for free in some shows my teacher has organised. She never mentioned what the arrangements with the venues have been, but rumours were that she got paid for the entire show, i.e. for the students' performances as well.

I stopped participating in her shows once she started asking for the dancing students to pay the same entrance fee as the audience. THat happened around 2nd or 3rd year, i really do not remember, but i had already been very mean in terms of when i can and when i cannot peform without pay, exactly because i was eager to have the experience but not at the expense of an entire community.

Unfortunately, given that my teacher is the matriarch of the bellydance industry in Greece, this policy has created an entire generation of bellydancers with no or low education in collective agreements, keeping prices at decent levels and with no consideration about ethics in professional or even amateur conduct (i mean, it is not ethical to label yourself amateur and undercut professional dancers by asking for very low or no pays). Therefore, i stopped taking part in performances which do not pay the dancers while they charge the audience, and this means that most performances are like this, as bellydancers think this is so common that they should not stop it somehow.

This is why the trade unionism in bellydancers, although it started some years ago with very good intentions, never managed to protect the union members and the entire industry, as very few bellydancers were conforming with the effort not to undercut. My own experience is that those who were really professional in terms of this, have been outcasted from the performances and the entire industry - i mean, to be considered as a bellydancer, you need to be working as a slave to the famous organisers-teachers or venue owners of the industry.

I think that teachers who do not pay their students for their performances who are paid anyway, just destroy the entire industry by creating an entire community unable to understand that performing is work and art needs to be reproduced in terms of food, heating, housing, not just only costuming or dance lessons... but even for those (i mean dance improvement expenses), someone has to pay to become a better dancer.

And yes, i agree with the comments that in case a student is not good to perform, then she should not perform at all, not just reduce the entire community into unpaid low-quality dancers. This is what i said to my teacher "if i need to pay to perform, then i am not good enough yet, so better not to participate in your show". If i need experience in front of audience, i can do it for charity - not for businesspeople looking for cost-cuts.
 
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Yshka

New member
The way I see it, students and inexperienced troupes participating in community events and low key student level events do not get paid, unless there is room for a possible refund of travel expenses, etc. It is not just accepting the gig and bringing the CD. It is acquiring said gig and preparing for it, including the work that goes into said CD, that involve a lot of work many people don’t seem to ‘notice’ or just happen to take for granted.

Students pay for the regular dance classes they take, for which money they get decent dance education in a safe learning environment and the opportunity to make up for missed classes if given notice of their absence. That is all the reward they can expect.

Those who want to perform join the student troupe but they have to make an effort. Rehearsals are free, in which the students get guidance for performances, choreographies which are the teacher’s creative work, help on aspects of professionalism and staging, responding to audiences and situations, etc. The students receive the teacher´s own time and effort, and teachers invest their own money into buying music, editing, transitioning, creating all the choreographies, hunting down well priced costumes, buying costumes and props for the troupe to use on certain shows and going after performance opportunities for them to gain experience, plus hiring the venue for them to rehearse in. One cannot expect to be paid for dancing without said experience or without having done the work. We’ve all done it, and the performers that will follow out of my teachings will do so as well.

What stands out to me after quite some years now of participating in ballet- and contemporary dance events, is that while the buzz in our community seems to be about professionalising the dance as an art and it being taken seriously, many dancers do still take a lot for granted. Students of ballet and contemporary dance around here PAY for rehearsals, PAY for costuming items for obligatory shows, their parents sew nights in a row to get their outfits done without being paid, they PAY to get to the venues and classes, PAY for the music they have to posess for practise and on top of that, perform their act 5 or 6 times a day in a typical modern dance student showcase setting WITHOUT receiving pay in return. Afterwards, they even PAY for the DVD of their shows. Yes, the audience pays a small fee to come and watch. Why? Because in order to make all of the above possible, teachers pay a lot more that goes unnoticed.
Once one is good enough to do the work themselves and be hired as a teacher, choreograher, or dancer in a performing, high class dance company, one gets paid. The road there is the student’s responsibility. This happens in ballet, jazz and many other forms of professionally and generally accepted performing arts, on one hand because subsidies are rare and teachers need all the income they can get, but it also teaches the students that in order to get somewhere, you need to invest, and not everything will be handed on a silver platter because large amounts of said silver platters are simply unaffordable to your teacher.

For bellydance it should be no different. The student is responsible for her progress and what he/she does with the tools given. Pay for class = receive good, quality dance education. Want to be better at what you do = practise at home and invest your own time as well. Show up regularly to FREE rehearsals in which teachers invest a great deal = getting decent guidance towards performing and being given performance opportunities, which have taken quite a bit of effort to get without the teacher receiving anything in return for the work. Free advertisement is a reason way too overrated: teachers don't get much out of their students performing. Most times it doesn't bring in new students, and many more times it doesn't bring in more performance opportunities either.

That said, we only bring student-performers to events that are suitable for students and where it is stated that they are students. They do not perform in professional gigs, we have hard working professional dancers for that who have done the work before starting out as paid pros.

If any pay is involved at all for these student-level shows, it goes towards teacher's expenses. The student in return gets feedback and coaching on those shows in order to grow as dancers. If enough pay is given, the students get refunded their travelling expenses. However, as a student troupe that has not yet gained enough experience and has not yet made a name people recognize to be of quality, one simply doesn’t GET a big amount of pay, and one cannot expect to be paid in full for their work and the performing students, as nobody, and I really mean NOBODY, will pay what it takes to cover all the teacher’s expenses AND provide a decent pay to hire student performers who are only just starting out and are unknown wether or not to be able to provide something worth the big pay.

We do however arrange a lot of conveniences and possible freebies in many other ways to help the students on their way.

Many years ago, the troupe we had at the time split up because some of the dancers thought we were making ahellofalottamoney out of their shows. They thought that all the freebies, reduced costuming prices, free/reduced workshops with guest teachers, reductions on materials we'd buy, free of charge coaching and our driving to venues and arranging the actual shows + necessary music and props were all part of ‘normal’ situation and the fact that they did not receive actual money in their hands after student shows we were not getting that much for in the first place, except to cover our own investments and sometimes enough to refund them small amounts for travelling to the venue, they saw as us ripping them off and getting rich on their behalf. If that is so, how come we aren't lounging in the Bahama's yet? :confused:

So yeah, that may sound a bit harsh, but this gets to me. Working with a student troupe not just takes a lot of work and effort, but it takes an emotional toll on the teacher as well being closely involved in the process.
 

Duvet

Member
Yshke, I agree that if the teacher is providing free rehearsal time, free advice and guidance on performance and presentation, free music and free costumes, then all those are enough, and more, as payment to students. But how normal a practise is that for teachers?
 
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mahsati_janan

New member
Yshke, I agree that if the teacher is providing free rehearsal time, free advice and guidance on performance and presentation, free music and free costumes, then all those are enough, and more, as payment to students. But how normal a practise is that for teachers?
Duvet,
I am sorry for whatever experiences you have had with teachers, but this is precisely what most of the teachers I know do. I keep a supply of costuming items to loans to students for performance. I only charge for studio time rather than my teaching time for their rehearsals. I give free advice and help to my students constantly because I want to help them to improve. I learned this from my teachers who learned it from their teachers. It is part of being a teacher and mentor.
 

Yshka

New member
Simply because all of those are rewards they wouldn't even have had if the TEACHER didn't put in that time and effort in the first place. Mind you, in many parts of the world artists need all the income they can get. The teacher is giving a LOT of time and effort in working and preparing for troupe things she would otherwise be spending on her own work, her own development, her own practise and more importantly, time that she could have spent working by herself to sustain her income. Student shows don't bring in much money to begin with. The experience is invaluable and without knowing where to start will not be acquired. They are students, students don't get paid in any form of dance, neither in professional life. You have to learn and put in the work yourself, too. One cannot expect the teacher to do all of it, for which she looses business rather than receiving it, and then has to pay the students money on top,of that for something that they are supposed to learn from and was pretty much prepared and layed out for them. And yes, even when they have to acquire certain props, music and costumes themselves sometimes. This is how we've all been raised by our teachers before us, and how most of us, if not almost all, will pass it on.

As Mahsati wonderfully put it, it is the normal practise, and precisely what a teacher should Do. It is part of being a mentor and teacher and part of helping your students grow up to be confident, worthy and truthful dancers and performers.

I do feel sorry if you had a bad experience with thus before, but this is the way it us supposed to be. I give my students my all, and I love nothing more than to see them grow and surpass me, but to perform and work towards becoming a professional, the student needs to be passionate about her art, and willing to invest loads and loads in order to gain from it, for herself as well as for our beautiful dance.
 
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