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Salary, Wages, Pay: Dancers and Choreographers




Median annual earnings of salaried dancers were $21,100 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $14,570 and $34,660. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $53,350.

Median annual earnings of salaried choreographers were $29,470 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,590 and $43,720. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $14,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $57,590. Median annual earnings were $29,820 in other schools and instruction, which includes dance studios and schools.

Dancers who were on tour received an additional allowance for room and board, as well as extra compensation for overtime. Earnings from dancing are usually low, because employment is part year and irregular. Dancers often supplement their income by working as guest artists with other dance companies, teaching dance, or taking jobs unrelated to the field.

Earnings of many professional dancers are governed by union contracts. Dancers in the major opera ballet, classical ballet, and modern dance corps belong to the American Guild of Musical Artists, Inc. of the AFL-CIO; those who appear on live or videotaped television programs belong to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; those who perform in films and on television belong to the Screen Actors Guild; and those in musical theater are members of the Actorsí Equity Association. The unions and producers sign basic agreements specifying minimum salary rates, hours of work, benefits, and other conditions of employment. However, the contract each dancer signs with the producer of the show may be more favorable than the basic agreement.

Dancers and choreographers covered by union contracts are entitled to some paid sick leave, paid vacations, and various health and pension benefits, including extended sick pay and family-leave benefits provided by their unions. Employers contribute toward these benefits. Those not covered by union contracts usually do not enjoy such benefits.