Good News For Vancouver’s Ballet BC And Dancers’ Paychecks

THE LARGEST GIFT IN Ballet BC’s 37-year history will go toward full-year contracts and salary increases for its dancers.

Founders’ Council member Jane McLennan made the $2 million gift through the Ballet BC Capital Campaign, providing major funding for Ballet BC’s Dancer Investment Fund over a 10-year period.

The new 52-week contracts for the dancers were a longtime goal of the company—a “rarity in our industry”, Ballet BC board chair Laura Cundari said in today’s announcement. Previously, the dancers’ paid contracts were only for 48 weeks of the year; the remaining four weeks each summer were unpaid, and many of the artists have to hold down secondary jobs. “We are extremely proud to be able to set this precedent in the hopes that it will galvanize other companies and philanthropists to provide greater support for dancers,” Cundari added.

Across North America, dancer contracts are often seasonal or less than 40 weeks. In 2022, for instance, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater unionized dancers successfully fought for guaranteed work weeks to be increased from 35 weeks to 43 weeks; part of the argument centred around keeping the performers’ bodies in top condition during a long and physically punishing season, and the relative shortness of their careers.

Dancers here face the additional burden of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. The new security for performers at Ballet BC also stands out in a field where dancers across the country—many of them working independently—regularly make the lowest or second-lowest median income of Statistics Canada’s nine categories of arts occupations.

McLennan is a longtime donor and passionate supporter of the company, even hosting an annual pool party in honour of Ballet BC’s dancers.

“This gift provides sustainable employment for our dancers and ensures that their health, livelihood, and vibrancy reflects the value and respect they deserve,” Ballet BC artistic director and longtime dancer Medhi Walerski said today, adding of McLennan’s donation: “Because of her generosity, Ballet BC can continue to be a global leader for our art form.”

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