“A Dancers Stance ” By Kamilah Sturton ( Ballet Kelowna)
The arts deserve a voice. Health support for the arts is not consistent across Canada!
Under British Columbia’s compensation, Dancers are considered to be workers, but for example, Saskatchewan does not. The act that defines a worker varies across Canada. Some may say, “Well you are a BC resident why isn’t that enough to cover you?” The brief answer I’ve learned is that the “company” has to have ties to [in this case] Saskatchewan.
This past summer while teaching and judging in Brazil, I had the honor of working with Vladimir Klos; Director of Stuggart Ballet, he verified what many dancers in North America hear. Dancers in Europe are treated like gold. Vladimir told me that if a dancer in his company, cannot afford a place to live, a vehicle, food, and extra money to live by; he is not paying them enough. Dance/art in Europe is part of their culture, and everyday lives. People take in operas, ballets, art exhibits, film festivals, concerts, etc. Yes as a country Canada is much younger than Europe, but it is difficult knowing that we as North Americans struggle to fill the seats of many performances with artistic relevance.
“Your child shows much promise” “If you want this and have the passion, you can make it in this industry” “You have what it takes” “You have what can’t be taught”
How many of you in the industry heard these or similar words of support. When did these words of belief and hope turn into mere memories of days when the ‘future’ seemed years away?
What happens to those words when you are finally in the ‘future’ and you realize you’re not only dealing with your own goals and struggles, but working against thousands of talented individuals who heard the exact same words, as well as giving the arts a voice in our artistically challenged North American society.
What happens to those words if you have one bad step, fall, or jump…do you all of sudden not have “what it takes”, and this is the end of dance as you know it? No.
When I decided to make dance my main FIRST career, I knew very well that I was choosing the life of an artist. Potentially struggling to make ends meet, not being accepted by broader society, and possibly having a short career. Unbeknownst to me, as aworker in the community, I would be invisible should an injury or sickness occur. I do not regret a single choice I have made. It is a bit frightening though that after these many years, and after this latest injury (resulting in inability to work for 4-6 months) I am left struggling to support myself.
Many Canadians don’t put much thought into their work safety coverage, thinking that since we are in Canada our health is all taken care of. This was my thought at least until this latest injury struck, Perhaps naive but I figured if a construction worker was taken care of, why wouldn’t I? I was wrong. Not only could I not receive coverage for getting injured on the job, while under contract, thus not being able to work. In the eyes of the Saskatchewan WCB (this is where my latest contract took place); I am not even considered a “worker”. The closest related job category is a theatre performer.
Dancers; you know what you are worth, know your coverage, read everything you sign, ensure the “Company” that wants to hire you pays into WCB and if so look into their provincial coverage towards Dancers, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will be in a better position in the long run, should anything unfortunate occur.
You define your own success, it is what you do with set backs and struggles that makes you stronger in the end. If your ‘ability’ to dance ends tomorrow, or 50 years from now, know that dance has given you more than most will learn or experience in their lifetime. An injury takes more than exercises, ice, and Advil. It takes patience, an optimistic mind, and believingthat dance will open up multiple doors if you stay open to all opportunities.