PYRO SPEAKS STANDARD RATES
Pyro sat down with us for a discussion on standard rates and the challenges we face when asking for our fair value for performance. Before we engage this topic, to understand where our value comes from, I want to give you some context. Dancers spend years developing their value. We can never express all we have been through in an invoice, but our history demands we respect our own value – and after all the battles we have had just to create at the professional level in dance, we constantly get asked for rates below our value. How can we not demand a fair wage when living costs still rise and our investment in our craft and quality of work is so high.
Our dance culture didn’t have a model for ‘industry value’ built into it, it was something we had to develop over the years by fighting for every gain or just to standing our ground. But moving forward is what we are good at. And this battle made artists like Pyro stronger and equipped to take the dance to new places.
I remember at one of the earliest bboy jam series ‘Back to da Underground,’ Pyro and his crewmate Goose had a call out battle with my crewmates. The battle happened because both crews had a similar routine and in the breaking community, you protect your copyright on the floor. The battle was intense and instantly following the battle, we started hanging out regularly because we shared a common value for each others dance and a mutual respect for the culture.
I have known Pyro since the early 2000’s. Islington Community Centres’ open practice session was one of the first spaces to break for free on a weekly basis in Toronto – and the only place with DJ Grouch dropping live tunes for 3.5 hours. Myself & Pyro frequented this practice spot almost every friday for years. This space and others like it helped build a whole generation of dancers and strengthen connections we have as a community. This was at a time where spaces to dance were so uncommon we regularly travelled to the farthest east or west regions of the city just to practice. But with no guarantee of a professional career, we would invest our time and travel to keep our dance moving forward.
Culture doesn’t always provide you a working model for professional work. Battling to claim what is yours is a key value in Bboy culture. But what can you do when when the craft must go out of the community and into a work space. When negotiating contracts is a battle for our respect that means something else. When dealing with a producer or client we must show our value in a different way. Explaining to someone who hasn’t spent years in the dance industry the value of a 10 minute show isn’t as simple as one might think.
In the current climate so much being contracted out, we frequently deal with new representatives of brands, theatres, events and festivals. Not everyone gets our value. Pyro has a deep understanding of this ecology as one of the hardest working performers in Toronto.
Pyro has been a force in bboying, popping, locking and a diversity of styles that few artists can navigate as seamlessly as he does. Now imagine the amount of times in contract discussions he must have explained the difference of these styles to a producers – no, ‘pop lock’ is not a style – no, I cannot perform a 60 minute solo with no rehearsals – no I will not do 3 performances for $75. Saying no isn’t easy – getting producers to say yes to fair wages is even harder.
To work as much as Pyro, you have to navigate respectfully educating producers about the forms, how they are presented and especially the value of the work. Having industry standards mean a great deal to this conversation, as not only does it add norms your can reference for in your work, they also mean you have less obligation to constantly educate the range of producers simply to receive fair wages and conditions.
Pyro, thank you for sharing your thoughts on standard rates. Equity shares your thoughts on moving standard rates forward and enforcing them in our industry. We are announcing our new OPEN dance policy series for short duration performances, competition & judging – and we want dancers direct feed back and thoughts on standard rates for the wide variety of dance practices happening in our community.
We are listening, sharing and changing in response to the conversations we are having with dance artists. If you are inspired to share your story or thoughts please send us a quick message HERE.
See more artists in our Dance Equity ‘DANCE VOICES’ Video Series. Please keep the conversation going by tweeting @CanActEquity with #STANDARDRATES thoughts – don’t forget to hashtag #DanceEquity #LiveDanceChangeTogether