An important factor in the career of a professional dancer is the worker’s union.
Membership in a union offers the dancer a wide array of benefits including:
* trade regulations (including overtime pay, safe working conditions, sick leave, resolutions of arguments, etc.),
* aid in negotiating prices,
* communication between employers and workers, and
* other resources specific to each union.
Depending on where you will be working, you may actually be required to be a union member. For example, you must be a member of the Actors’ Equity Association in order to be seen for the majority of auditions on Broadway.
One downside to union membership is that union rules can also limit you from accepting work from a production that does not have union contract.
Dancers choose a specific union based on what medium they perform in. The main dance unions are:
* American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA),
* American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA),
* Screen Actors Guild (SAG),
* Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), and
* American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA).
These are all “sister” unions and members of an organization called the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (4As).
The American Guild of Musical Artists, AFL-CIO, is a labor union that represents the artists of dance companies and other performing organizations. AGMA is a crucial union for professional ballet, opera, or modern dancers who work with a company. The dance company in which you are employed may be a member, but AGMA also represents individual dancers. Applications are available online; there is an initial fee of $500 and a $78 annual fee.
If you are employed as a dancer for televised performances or plan to perform professionally on television, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists should represent you. The initiation fee is $1,600 and $63.90 for minimum annual payments. Downloadable applications are available online, or you can contact the main office.
Dancers who work in film are eligible for membership in the Screen Actors Guild. To be eligible, you can either be employed in a production under a union contract with SAG, or be a member of one of the sister unions listed here and have worked in a specified period of time. Upon mailing this information to the SAG office, they will mail you an application. The initiation fee is $2,227 and the annual fee is $116.
Professional members of musical theater belong to the Actors’ Equity Association, AFL-CIO. Eligiblity for the AEA is similar to the other unions being employed under union contract or being a working member of a sister union. The initial fee for the AEA is $1,100 and $118 annually. Downloadable applications are available online, or you can contact the AEA office.
American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) represents performers in venues such as circuses, Las Vegas showrooms and cabarets, dance revues, theme parks, and arena and auditorium performances. Artists offered work (or those already working) under an AGVA contract are eligible to join. Some states do not require artists to join AGVA, even if they are working under contract. Dues are calculated on a sliding scale, based on yearly earnings. Forms are online at the AGVA website.