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Dancing at a Workshop Showcase

Don't call it Pay for Play: a showcase is part of a larger event that has to pay bills. Keep up with a FREE subscription to the BABA YAGA newsletter.
Sometimes bad feeling erupts when a workshop sponsor requires dancers who want to perform in the event concert to also take the workshop. The dancer sees herself being asked to perform for free at an event that has 50 or 100 or more paying customers, with the greedy workshop sponsor keeping all the money for herself. The sponsor sees the concert as one part of a larger event that incurs additional expenses (space rental, performance fees for the headliners, sound and light equipment and technicians, insurance for the event, publicity), but which might turn a profit that balances out another part that runs in the red.

The January 1990 edition of Middle Eastern Dancer magazine printed a complaint-and-response in their monthly Opinion section which reads like it was written yesterday. On one side, the same complaint about being used' on the other, the same worries about going into the red instead of breaking even.

Complaint: A dancer sees a problem reaching epic proportions in her region: weekend workshops that have become solely a money (profit) making scheme. She singles out an event called BellyFest for criticism. The requirement to enroll in a workshop as a student before she can perform in any of the shows is described as open greediness, tacky and totally uncalled for. The event is supposed to be fun for the dancers and entertainment for the general public, and the writer is now ashamed to be associated with the dance in her region. She also claims that she persuaded twenty-seven friends to avoid the event because of she herself could not perform because she could not afford to pay for the workshop.
Response: The sponsor of BellyFest states that she is not wealthy and cannot afford to be a patron of the Arts. In addition, she has been unable to find teachers who will pay their own expenses and teach for free, or a facility that will offer free space; therefore she has to charge for the seminar, and, "When dancers want to be showcased, I feel they should be willing to support the overall effort... Sponsoring a seminar is a gamble, involving a great deal of time (starting in January for an October seminar) and headache. Most sponsors do it because we love the dance and our dance friends, and we are fortunate if we do not lose money." The sponsor then suggests that if a dancer wants to dance for the general public that she stick to outdoor festivals, since workshop showcases do not tend to attract the general public, and that the dancer should not expect others to subsidize her desire to perform at a workshop concert.

The only thing I can think of to add is: if a dancer thinks she is enough of a draw to attract paying customers to a workshop event, call the sponsor and negotiate. You are a professional whose name will draw customers to the show? Then get the money you deserve. Otherwise... enjoy and support the ENTIRE event.

For your edification and delight: the cult classic thread Draw and Deliver thread on

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Maura Enright, Proprietor
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