Columns, Opinion, The Perfectly Imperfect Human Condition

Let us not forget what we live for | The Perfectly Imperfect Human Condition

It’s official. The artists of American Ballet Theater, ABT, and the leadership of the American Guild of Musical Artists, AGMA, voted in favor of a strike authorization on Feb. 6.

What bothers me? No one is talking about it. 

AGMA artists of ABT have been working under an expired contract for the last eight months. With great disappointment, I write that even some of the finest dancers in the world can’t make a liveable wage. 

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

These dancers are working themselves to the bone out of their love for the art form and their willingness to see their company thrive, but at the expense of their physical and mental health and their financial stability. 

According to the AGMA, only 30% of ABT artists are able to sustain themselves with their income — which, for such a prestigious ballet company, is nothing short of devastating. In an attempt to resolve this issue, ABT proposed a 1% cost of living adjustment for any artists who have not experienced such an adjustment within the last eight years — the bare minimum.

ABT is also proposing salaries that would leave over 20% of the artists under the line for a liveable salary in New York City. To put this into perspective, ABT artists make an average base salary of $56,000 according to Glass Door. Also, one would need a salary of at least $100,000 just to get by in New York City, according to The New York Times. To say that these dancers are underpaid would be an understatement.   

The last time artists of ABT authorized a strike for similar reasons was in 2018 — not even 10 years ago. 

The fact that elite ballet dancers feel the need to strike again after a short amount of time is appalling in itself. But it’s also shocking how their financial circumstances have barely changed since that time. The main concern among ABT artists in 2018 was retirement benefits, which is still a concern as the company falls short compared to other companies in retirement contributions, according to the AGMA.

Professional dancers should be able to both live and retire comfortably. Yes, these dancers fiercely love what they do and create beautiful art, but what I feel many people forget is that this is their job. It may not be a mainstream occupation, but that doesn’t make it less valuable. 

It may also be a good idea to take a step back and look at our world from afar. Yes, we have made life so that making money is a priority, but in the grand scheme of things, an occupation isn’t the only thing we live for. Along with work life, we have culture above all else. 

That playlist you listen to when you walk to class in the morning, the book you’d give anything to read for the first time again, the film you laughed at with your family and even the texts you write telling someone you love them are all art. Those are the things that get you up in the morning and give you a reason to stay alive when you are at your lowest points. 

Humans were meant to create since the beginning of time, and only a few have stuck with creativity in the corporate world. Dancers are no exception. 

Because artists of all kinds — whether they be musicians, actors, designers or dancers — are so few, it is their job to be extraordinary for the rest of us who don’t create. This is no easy feat, especially when you are not supported emotionally, physically or financially. 

Dance may not be your forte, and that’s okay — but it is for someone else. And as one of the earliest forms of modern-day entertainment, dance is still relevant and will always be relevant. 

Let’s be honest, we all dance. You may have actually taken classes or maybe you went crazy with your friends in Just Dance. Maybe you even dance alone. Nevertheless, that’s art, and it’s how we go from existing to living.

Whether dance affects you directly or indirectly, the elite artists of ABT need to be heard and supported now more than ever. Even if you feel like you can’t do anything, the bare minimum that we all can do is to keep tabs on these artists, pay attention and listen. If the creatives can be extraordinary for us, we can be extraordinary for them.

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One Comment

  1. Nice job on the article I for one thought that so
    me of the top tier dancers earn onl9 $56,000. The dancers are really dedicated for what they do,too make the beauty of dancing 🕺 come alive.