Yesterday, I published an article about why some artists may not social dance all night at parties. Several dancers responded, and said they felt it was a near-mandatory part of an artist’s job because social dancers are their “employer”.
Some also felt that it wasn’t an obligation, but not social dancing makes you a ‘dick’. Others stated that since it can be a highlight for attendees, artists should do it.
I can understand where these feelings come from, but this is why I disagree with these ideas.
“Social Dancers are the Artist’s Employer”
Social dancers are not the employer.
I know that social dancers are the backbone of our community. But, they’re not the ones ’employing’ the artists. Being the consumer of a particular service is not the same as being the employer. That’s like saying a retail sales associate is ’employed’ by the customer.
They’re not; they’re employed by the company that owns the store. The people who pay them for their services. Not the customers who buy clothing.
But, if you’re paying for a private lesson, then you’re in more of a contractor position with the artist. You’re still not their employer, but you’re a heck of a lot closer to it. You are now giving them money for their services.
“Without Social Dancers, there Wouldn’t be Artists”
Well, yeah. But, without artists, event organizers, and DJs, would we have a community like we do today?
We’re part of the same ecosystem. We all contribute to it. Trying to say that social dancers are the only important part of the ecosystem and that everyone else must consider their needs first is a bit overboard.
They may be the blood. But, they’re not the skeleton – the artists are. They’re not the muscles – that’s the organizers and leaders. All parts need the other parts.
So, we need to take care of our artists and organizers with the same care we say needs to be paid to our social dancers.
“It’s part of their job!”
When you say that an artist should make themselves available to dance with attendees in all circumstances, you are asking them to do extra work for free. It may be fun work, but it’s still work.
So, if top artists should do extra work for free, we’re saying they should social dance “for exposure” (or, in the social dance case, “for reputation”).
If they social dance anyway, that’s great! But, it’s an extra they choose to do for one reason or another – not part of the job.
“I work full-time and still dance after workshops!”
Your job isn’t dancing. Theirs is.
When you go to a weekend, it’s your vacation. You get to choose exactly what you want to do, when you want to sleep, and more. Yes, you pay to attend. And yes, you may have a stressful job.
But, being a dance instructor is easily also a 40-60 hour a week commitment. That’s excluding the social dancing.
Yes, they chose this. But, being tired and on vacation is very different than being tired after finishing a 14-hour work day. Imagine if your boss insisted you go out to dinner with your clients every day after work.
“Artists MUST love social dancing to be artists!”
You can’t just demand an artist enjoy a social dance. If you could just demand that certain people like certain things, I’d really like math.
Heck, even things I do like (for example, reading) can’t be demanded. I don’t like some books. I fell asleep reading Lord of the Rings. That doesn’t mean I’m now a bad reader and writer.
The reason that many professionals spend at least a couple hours each night dancing is because they love to dance. They probably wouldn’t be professional dancers in a social style if they didn’t enjoy it.
But, it’s hard to enjoy things when you’re exhausted, “on the clock” but not getting paid, and viewed as a consumable good. Even if a pro usually likes social dancing, not everyone enjoys every social night. Give them the space to not be ‘into it’ for a night.
“Artists who don’t social dance are dicks!”
It’s fair to assess that the artists which go ‘above and beyond’ get a reputation for being awesome. This is great – and they deserve having a reputation to match their commitment!
But, the problem is not the appreciation of artists who go above and beyond.The problem is when we make artists who don’t go above and beyond every night into a ‘snob’ because they only danced for an hour or two at the party, or preferred the company of their friends.
Artists don’t deserve being forced to ‘find time’ to social dance after a 14-hour day. They don’t deserve to be told they should give up income from privates in order to social dance. They’re not indentured servants.
Actual Behavioral Issues
In all of the discussion surrounding the last article, the theme of the “Badly Behaved Artist” kept coming up.
As many responses pointed out, rude artists will get a reputation for rudeness. So will the always-drunk artists. These artists tarnish their own reputation. It’s totally reasonable to be angry about the pro who is rudely disengaged with all the new, non-instructor dancers.
But, this is different from understanding the pro who goes to bed early, or enjoys dancing for part of the night with other pros. And, it’s very different from feeling that the pros ‘owe’ you something because you like their work.
As one person pointed out, it’s about finding balance.
A Radical Idea
If artists going social dancing is important and we want to support our communities, should we pay them to social dance?
I guarantee you that many artists would be thrilled to be hired for social dancing instead of workshops and shows. If an organizer told me “I’ll pay your normal fee and expenses to come and social dance 6 hours a night for four nights”, I’d so be down.
If an event has 20 artists and wants to mandate that each one of them dance 4 hours each night at a fair rate of $100 per hour, that’s an extra $24,000 for a standard 3-night event.
Let’s say that event has 200 paid attendees. Are you willing to pay an extra $120 per pass to compensate the artists for their extra time on the clock?
This idea that all artists must dance with everyone at every event because they ‘owe it’ to the social dancers needs to stop.
We need to learn how to respect our artists as people – not as magical dance entities. Yes, their work as artists is incredible. It’s great to admire that work – but we shouldn’t use it to idolize or dehumanize them.
We need to stop looking at great dancers as a synonym for being a great person. We need to hold artists accountable for their bad behavior. We can figure out how to appreciate great skill, without placing the person on a pedestal.
But, we also need to remember that artists aren’t machines. They are doing a job. This is their profession. They deserve fair compensation for their work, and they should be allowed to have fun in this world they help support. They should be able to take time to look after their personal needs and wants.
Let’s look to finding a bit more balance in our expectations of pros, and ourselves. Let’s remove the idea of the ‘always on’ pro, and understand the difference between someone who’s just really not feeling it – and someone who actually has bad intentions.