Author Topic: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers  (Read 4665 times)

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LexieTaylor

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Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« on: Sep 22, 2015, 01:03 pm »
Hi Everyone!
I have been working in the ballet world for about a year and a half now, and I am working on researching what my position "should be" as far as hours, pay, work load, etc. goes. There are definitely things that my company wants to change, but I don't think that any of us know yet how or how much.
I find it easy to research what comparable jobs would be in an Equity setting, but the ballet world seems to be a completely different monster. I know that I am getting paid about what an Equity ASM at a comparably sized company is, I do not have a laid out contact, I only have an ASM in studio for one week before techs, and I work too many hours with no added compensation.
So, I suppose here are the questions that I am posing to other Ballet SM's:
Are you a member of a union? AGMA?
Do you work under a contract? 
What kind of terms are in your contract?
What kind of hours do you work?
Who is involved in your production team? Do you have ASMs? Do you have a company manager?
What determines how much you are paid?
How are you paid? (as in per production, weekly salary, annual salary, hourly, etc.)
Do you get overtime pay?

I know that a lot of this is sensitive information, so I understand if you don't want to give too much away.
Any advice or information that you can give to help me research would be awesome. Please feel free to post or PM.

Thank you!!

dance stage manager

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Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« Reply #1 on: Sep 22, 2015, 10:45 pm »
Hi there,

The ballet company I work for is larger than Milwaukee Ballet, so making a direct comparison of some conditions and terms would be unfair, but here are some basic answers to your questions, based on my situation.

I am a member of Canadian Actors' Equity Association, as are all the dancers in my company.  CAEA is officially a professional association, not a union (except in the case of it's members in Alberta Ballet - long story), although it engages in collective bargaining.

I work under an annual renewable contract, the terms of which are set out in the collective agreement between my company (the Engager), and CAEA.  Terms include salary, work schedule, additional service billing (overtime), responsibilities, etc.  In Canada, most mid- to large-sized ballet companies have agreements with CAEA, and dancers who are members.  The collective agreements that CAEA has with these companies are publicly available.  I would recommend you have a look at a couple of them, as they would probably give you a good idea of not only the scope of defined terms, but also what some of the terms imply as far as working conditions go.  You can find the agreements at http://www.caea.com/EquityWeb/EquityLibrary/Agreements/Dance/DanceLibrary.aspx.  I think the agreements you should look at are the ones for Alberta Ballet and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, as they are closer to the size of your company.

I have two basic work schedules that I can generalize about: the rehearsal period, and production/performances.  When the company is in rehearsal, I tend to work  an 8 or 9 hour day, sometimes adding evening or weekend hours depending on whether I need to do some additional work at home - lets say about 48 to 50 hours a week.  Our rehearsal week is generally a 5-day week, Monday to Friday.  Once we are in a production/performance period (either at home or on tour), my work week can be 6 or 7 days a week for up to 4 weeks at a time, and work days can be 10 to 15 hours long.

Our stage management team consists of two stage managers working full-time for the company, and we hire an ASM for a total of 15 weeks per year, dividing the weeks up based on repertoire or schedules that are most demanding (always for Nutcracker, then wherever else makes sense).  The company hires one more stage manager to support a small group of dancers that do a series of educational performances.  Company management responsibilities are handled by a couple of staff (strangely, we don't really have a single person with that job title), and as a stage manager I have virtually nothing to do with company management-related responsibilities.  When I have worked for smaller companies and independent dance artists, this is definitely one area where the lines between stage manager and company manager blur.

My pay is determined by the terms of the collective agreement I work under, which is a minimum scale agreement.  There is a grid that indexes positions with number of years in that position, and results in a minimum fee.  Anyone working under the agreement is welcome to negotiate above scale.  All dancers and stage managers with my company are paid a weekly salary.  Depending on how long an individual artist has worked for my company, some annual contracts are 46 or more weeks a year, and some are full-time, or 52 week contracts.

According to the terms of CAEA's collective agreement, all artists (dancers and stage mangers) are entitled to bill the Engager for 'additional services' (overtime) when certain conditions are met (rehearsal hours exceeding maximum allowable, overnight rest infringement, etc.).  The terms in the agreement are more specific for dancers than for stage managers, and historically, dancers are more likely to bill for additional services.

I hope this is a bit of help.  Reading through some of the collective agreements I mentioned above might be the best framework for you to adapt to your needs.  I don't know how accessible AGMA agreements are, but here's an expired one for San Francisco Ballet, which includes their stage management staffing: http://www.musicalartists.org/agreements/sanfranciscoballet.2010-2013.pdf
Are any of the dancers in your company members of Equity or AGMA?  I definitely think your work hours should be one of the first things you define with your engager; how many they expect of you, and how you will be compensated beyond that.  I would recommend that if you don't already, start keeping a daily log of your work hours, so that you will have a clear record to refer to.  Working without some kind of contract of letter of engagement is a recipe for acrimony and recrimination.


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Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« Reply #2 on: Sep 23, 2015, 03:03 am »
I've been with my company going on my 13th season, and I'll say the struggle is universal when trying to convince your management when you really need an ASM season-long. It's been a fight I've been fighting for 6 years and finally won. For some quick answers to your questions:

The SM Team at our company is not AGMA, but our dancers are. This is my personal choice, as my job, like yours, encompasses more than just SM work.

I didn't always have a contract - my first two season with the company were verbal agreements. My contracts now are very slim and list dates, compensation, who my boss is, insurance/benefits and termination (by either party) language.

The hours I work match the dancer's hours. Because they are AGMA, our specific company contract states that they rehearse Monday-Friday 11:10am-1:30pm and 2:30pm-5:30pm, with an optional class from 9:30am-11am. So I work Monday-Friday 9:30am-5:30pm. (My ASM works 10am-6pm.) Tech and performances are just that - you work 12 hours+ every day because that's what the schedule is. Every AGMA company has different hours, so it's hard to compare. Granted, the AGMA dancers get a 30% pay increase during theater weeks and I don't. But neither does anyone else at my company. (I also put in hours at home in the evenings and on weekends, if I feel I am behind - but I don't really factor that in.)

When I first started there was myself (the ASM) and a PSM. There was a "TD" but he lived across the US and we only saw him for tech/load-in. In recent years I've taken on aspects of CM work, I am the PSM now, I have a season-long ASM, a PA that comes on 1-2 weeks before a show and a year-round Director of Production (who works on my floor). This company I work for has been large (in they heyday of the arts in the 80's they had a full time 4 person SM team), shrunken down, and is only now on a very slow upswing. It really depends on the financial stability of your company. (And since I joined, there was a Company Manager for 1 season of my 13 season career.)

As far as pay, I think you need to look at the hours you work and how much you value your time, and compare against others in your area in similar work. Using AEA is a good reference. Right now I'm arguing for my ASM to have a higher salary, and I use our own dancer's salaries as comparison.

For 12 years I was paid weekly with the dancers, but management decided to change that recently, so I am bi-monthly - and salary. It still makes it odd, as they have to figure out my salary to a daily rate when I work less than a regular pay period at the end of my season. One would think it would've been easier to keep me weekly, but I don't do payroll.

Overtime can be tricky - if you're hourly, then it's easy. I am salary and always have been. However, I've gotten into discussions lately and management has agreed - if I have to do something that has nothing to do with my regular SM job, it creates the need for me to come to work when it is not my regular working schedule (aka, when dancers are not present), and I can't swap out time with my regular work, then an hourly OT rate is created (based on my salary).

By swapping out time, I mean treating it like "Flex Time." When we hold an audition on the weekend, I come in early to prep the building, run registration but once the audition gets started, I have to wait 2 hours until it's over to close down the building. During those 2 hours I can work on my SM paperwork, etc. So I treat that time as flex time and take it off during the work week (making sure my ASM can fly solo without any issues). On the weekend, if I have to run a supernumerary rehearsal or come speak to parents at our ballet school, that means I can't work on my own work during that time, so I get paid OT. Of course, this is an agreement I have with my management. Figuring out OT needs to be discussed when a contract/agreement is made between you and management - because an OT causing event should be something not normally part of your job duties, or outside your regular work schedule. (So be careful what you agree is "your job.")

If you want me to elaborate more, just send me a PM.


LexieTaylor

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Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« Reply #3 on: Sep 23, 2015, 11:56 am »
Dance Stage Manager:
Thank you for the information. It sounds like in Canada the standard is for ballet SM's to be Equity along with the dancers, is that pretty accurate? Here it seems to be more of a personal and/or company choice as to whether SM's residing over AGMA dancers are in the union or not. (Yes, our dancers are AGMA. There is nothing in their CBA regarding stage management at this time.)
Right now I have a letter of agreement that does not outline much. I am sort of floating in limbo between a seasonal contracted employee and full time. Right now I am treated the same as the full time employees, but I am engaged for 44 weeks and renewed annually. I do track my hours as they are usually over 40, which is the standard for other full time employees. I know that it's the nature of my job to have to work extra, but I do want it to be acknowledged.
Thank you for the agreements that you have pointed out, they are a great starting point for research and potentially building a contract for my position at some point.

Bay Area SM:
Do you work full time or are you seasonal? Do you have an ASM every week that you are on? And do you have a company manager?
Out of curiosity, what responsibilities does your ASM have after you leave for the day that they are there for another half hour?
If you would be willing to send me a copy of your contract, I would love to have a look at it. I understand if you're not comfortable with that though.
Thanks for your help!

dance stage manager

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Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« Reply #4 on: Sep 23, 2015, 05:59 pm »
In Canada, most mid- to large-sized ballet companies have dancers and stage managers who are members of Canadian Actors' Equity Association.  There are many smaller companies with artists who are not collectively represented by CAEA, but if an individual is a member, they may be able to work for a company on a Guest Artist's contract (that goes for dancers and stage managers).  When it comes to modern dance companies, CAEA has no significant presence, but again - individual artists may be members. Working on a Guest Artist's contract doesn't refer to a collective agreement - all the terms of the contract are contained in the contract itself.

What are your thoughts about/options for becoming an AGMA member?  Would AGMA and your company support the addition of language dealing with Stage Management in the AGMA agreement?

BayAreaSM

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Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« Reply #5 on: Sep 24, 2015, 01:13 am »
I work seasonally - from September 1 through June 6.

As I said before, I just got my ASM to be season-long this year. For the past 6 years my assistant has only been on a per-show basis.

As I said before, I've only had a company manager for 1 of my 13 seasons. We haven't had one in over 3 years, as I perform some CM duties.

Mostly clean up and paperwork turn over (schedules, sign in). We both work the same number of hours, I just cover the morning and she covers the evening. I have a son and like to leave as close to 5:30pm as possible, when it's possible.

I don't have an e-copy of my contract to send. Like I said before, it outlines dates of work, who I report to, my salary, insurance/benefits and termination language. There isn't anything else. If you want, I can type up a template of mine, and leave all of my personal info off, if that's what you're asking for.

LexieTaylor

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Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« Reply #6 on: Sep 24, 2015, 10:37 am »
I am not sure of my thoughts on becoming AGMA. It sounds like my company is against the idea...I don't know if it's because they think AGMA will demand more than I will or why. I think the more important thing for me is to try to create a contract or become a full time employee. I don't feel like I am being mistreated or that I need outside representation to have these conversations with my bosses. I think more things just need to be put in to writing.

BayAreaSM, sorry if I asked sort of re-worded things that you had already specified, and thank you for the clarification. Having the list of what is included in your contract definitely helps. No need to create more work for yourself.

Thank you both for your help!

BayAreaSM

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Re: Calling All Ballet Stage Managers
« Reply #7 on: Sep 24, 2015, 11:11 am »
AGMA is union protection, and they will want you to be paid at least the minimum of what you should be paid. AGMA would be your voice and will demand a raise during theater weeks, health insurance, benefits and put limits your work hours - or at least be the one to say when OT kicks in. It can also say that the ASM is required to be AGMA and must be there season long. (Granted, all of this has to be agreed to by both parties during contract negotiations.)

Because you are in the same situation as I am, not only working as a SM, but also as a Company Manager, having restrictions on your hours is difficult for the company. Also, the company may not want to have what they consider a regular company position to have fluctuating pay. I personally have not joined because I do more than SM and I feel that AGMA can't protect me (and it would hinder me from doing my job). However, if I was working for a company that only wanted me to do SM work, then I would totally join AGMA to be protected within the scope of my job duties.