Irish dance companies have achieved international success. But dancers in Ireland struggle to make ends meet – The Irish Times

Irish contemporary dance continues to see success on the national and international stage. Some Irish dance companies are regularly reviewed by Irish newspapers such as the New York Times. International manufacturers are increasingly attracted to Irish companies. Oona Doherty’s Navy Blue had 12 European and American co-producers.

But this obscures the everyday occupational poverty experienced by dancers in Ireland. A new report, Dance number, solidifies the hard data known about dancers’ working conditions. Fifty-nine percent of respondents reported a total personal income of less than 20,000 euros per year, and 60 percent reported a total family income of less than 40,000 euros per year; 18 percent said most of their work was unpaid. This is despite the fact that half of the respondents have studied up to postgraduate level.

„As the national representative body for professional dance in Ireland, we are part of ensuring that we have access to the demographics, data, information, experiences and needs of professional dancers working in the industry,” says Sheila. Greavy, chief executive of Dance Ireland, commissioned the report by Peter Campbell, Victoria Durrer and Aoife McGrath. „It’s really been a data-gathering exercise — some really robust evidence and data needed to be obtained — but we haven’t really revealed anything other than what we’ve heard from the dancers.”

Agreement on stable pay rates across the industry is important, but dancers need more than money

Greavy says the findings point to a clear path to improving dancers’ working conditions. “On the whole the dance resource organizations supported the dancers. But I think it highlights that there are a lot of funding systems that don’t really understand where artists are and what they need.

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Agreement on stable pay rates across the industry is important, but dancers need more than money. As a former producer in the UK, Greavy sees a gap in production and management skills in the industry here. Filling this gap can streamline the process from the rehearsal studio to dancing on several levels.

The international success of Irish contemporary dance highlights local deficits. “Forty-nine percent of dancers work outside of Ireland in a given year, and 71 percent agree that working outside of the island of Ireland is essential. So to enhance and export that quality in dance, we need to enrich it,” says Greavy.

„We are in a strong position as a sector right now and we need to seize that moment and really push forward. Trust the voices of the artists, trust the efforts coming from the sector and trust the expertise of those working in the art form.

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