Thursday, September 20, 2012

Equity: Am I NOT Adequate?

Everyone deserves benefits, right? In the professional dance world, or any means of professional work, we all want benefits and protection, because reality is, we live in a "dog eat, dog world". So how are dancers protected in the industry? With equity! And what exactly is equity?

Disney’s NEWSIES The Musical (Photo courtesy Disney)
Equity is a union for stage professionals, including actors, singers, and dancers, that has set regulations to protect such performers. For example, under an equity contract, rehearsals require a certain amount of time for breaks. Another example of protection is the amount of pay for each performer. And a great perk of equity is being guaranteed a chance to be seen by casting directors at auditions. In other words, equity is the bodyguard for stage professionals, who are often underappreciated by the public within the entertainment industry. There are a few ways to get an equity card: one of them is being in a Broadway production, because every Broadway production works under equity contracts. Sounds easy, but again, we live in a "dog eat, dog world", that happens to be very competitive and sometimes cut-throat when it comes to Broadway auditions. So it might not be the "easiest" thing to land a gig on Broadway, but you can also pay monthly fees for an equity card. But what if I cannot afford to pay for a card, and I haven't made my Broadway debut? What's so special about "equity-call" auditions?

In my eyes, equity-call auditions really mean "must have experience and must be better than any random dancer off the street". I feel that just because I have not yet landed a Broadway gig, does not mean I am a "bad" dancer or haven't had professional experience or haven't worked with recognizable dance figures. So, if I go to an equity-call audition, and I am not seen by casting directors because of my status as non-equity, I miss out on the opportunity to perform in that production. I was not adequate enough to audition because of the label "equity" rather than me proving myself through dance and performance skills. It gets pretty frustrating! I mean, you don't want to take away from those who have earned an equity card and have had grander experiences and absolutely deserve to have equity. However, what about those of us trying to get our name on the marquee? Any thoughts about equity auditions?


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