Contributions and thoughts of the Ethics Committee

02.04.2024

What is Germany's "dance paradise" like?

There are 63 dance and ballet companies in Germany. 10 of them consist of more than 30 dancers and are among the most renowned in the world. This art form has developed enormously over the last 40 years, both artistically and in terms of dance technique. The physical and psychological demands are very stressful and often result in a very short career. Dancers therefore need protective regulations to protect them from injuries, accidents and mental stress.

One of these protective regulations is the collective labour agreement NV-Bühne. In this set of rules, a distinction is made in various special regulations (SR) between solo dancers and group dancers. While SR-Tanz contains better working hours and payment regulations for dance group members, SR-Solo contains far fewer regulations for dance soloists. Dance group members are granted one working day off and one half day off per week - which may not fall on a Sunday morning or a public holiday. The SR-Tanz also regulates pay groups that are at the same level as opera chorus members and are based on orchestra pay in the respective theatres. For dance soloists, the regulations on days off and pay are much less favourable.

These differences represent a contradiction. The soloists in particular, who have more workload and responsibility, receive a smaller fee and have fewer regeneration phases. Before 1990, the companies consisted of approx. 75% dance group members and approx. 25% dance soloists. Today it is the other way round. For the most part, only solo contracts are awarded, with the obligation to participate in group tasks. Employers claim that these types of contracts are artistically necessary, as the nature of choreography has changed in recent years and there is no longer a hierarchical distinction within a company. The fact is that the cutbacks implemented since the 1990s have hit dance the hardest. Employers pay soloists lower salaries and can command more of them.

In most cases, the solo dancers are used as group dancers. This allows the theatres to save money at the expense of the artists. It is precisely the area with the best occupancy rates and great popularity with audiences that is the worst paid in the theatre. Theatres are quick to get rid of dancers when their performance is limited due to injury or age. This is very often followed by retirement. Great admiration from audiences and poor treatment from employers are closely linked. The poor conditions remain hidden, as these are inexperienced young people in this profession who do not know their rights and remain silent about the abuses for fear of not being extended.

Now the dancers are well informed about their rights by Dancersconnect and the stage union (GDBA). This has led to an astonishing development. While there were just under 200 members of the stage union (GDBA) in 2017, there are now more than 870 dancers. 

No matter how much admiration and recognition the dancers receive, only they themselves can improve their situation. According to the motto: "you get what you negotiate and not what you deserve". Dancers should connect with allies for ethical treatment - such as the GDBA, the Ethik-Kommission Tanz or Dancersconnect. The aim should be that there is only one special regulation (SR) for dance, which includes solo and group dancers. This is the only way to achieve fair pay and reasonable working hours. Orchestras in the artistic field could serve as a role model here, as they have shown that working conditions can be significantly improved through their solidarity with one another.

Adil Laraki, March 2024

06.12.2023

Newsletter Contribution of the Ethics Commission

Introduction and context:

It is very difficult to fully grasp and understand the events in the Middle East. We struggle to find the 'right' words and at the same time know that they can never be the 'right' ones for everyone. We too have not been able to reach a clear consent...
Nevertheless, we do not want to remain silent.

Thoughts of the DTD Ethics Commission on the Middle East conflict

We are deeply shocked and concerned by the inhuman violence in the Middle East. Our sympathy goes out to all those who are victims of the escalating violence caused by Hamas terror attacks and by the Israeli armed forces in Gaza. The resulting hardened, polarizing and hostile reactions on our streets and on social media are disturbing and challenge our pluralistic society.

We as the Ethics Commission of the Dachverband Tanz Deutschland ask ourselves what art and dance can do to encourage discourse and deal with ambivalence. Our attention is drawn to the human body.
National, ethnic, religious and cultural assumptions and labels are often attached to the body without reflection. As an artistic medium, dance in its many forms can shake up categorizations so that each individual is seen as a human being.

We would therefore like to take action and use the next Traveling Salon as a platform for further exchange. We want to listen to dance professionals from different backgrounds, religious orientations and physicality who live in Germany and are directly affected, and consider together how and what dance in particular can contribute to creating respectful human coexistence.

 

09.11.2023

Newsletter Contribution of the Ethics Commission

The Ethics Committee of Dachverband Tanz Deutschland DTD

There are no power-free spaces - not even in dance. As an art form in which the body is at the center, dance requires special attention. It is therefore essential to deal with the issue of power and the abuse of power in dance.

The Dachverband Tanz Deutschland (German Dance Association) has recognized the problems of abuse of power, transgression of boundaries and discrimination (such as sexual, racial, ethnic, body, contracts). It installed an ethics working group four years ago with the aim of drafting documents for a future ethics commission. In November 2021, the Ethics Commission was officially established.

The committee consists of eight members, elected equally by the MA and the DTD Board, a liaison to the DTD, and a DTD team member who provides administrative support. The members bring important different expertise: legal, theoretical-scientific, medical-psychosomatic, mental and physical health, dance artistic (urban, classical, contemporary and African dance), trade union, dance pedagogical and dance research. All work on a voluntary basis; they receive a meeting fee.

The first task was to conduct research: To what extent have working conditions in the field of dance already been researched? What personal and professional rights do dance workers have? What studies are available on ethics, abuse of power and dance? The various expert opinions were very helpful for this research. This resulted in topic areas that were systematically worked on in subgroups. Concrete ideas flowed into the commission meetings and were further worked on together.

In June 2023, the commission was able to go public with its first result: the online portal was launched. Central to the commission are its ethics guidelines (see www.dachverband-tanz.de/ueber-uns/ethik-kommission). The online portal is currently divided into six sections. The Materials section contains information material on legal, structural, contractual bases as well as practical instructions for action and a collection of valuable sources.

Research has shown that the degree of institutionalization in training institutions is particularly high and can lead to conflicts. With an online test, the commission invites self-assessment, which dance organizations can use for in-house development of low-discrimination structures.

Under Good Practice Examples, institutions and their respective concrete measures of discrimination-sensitive, democratic and employee-friendly structures are presented in an approx. 15-minute video.  The videos, which will be posted at regular intervals, contain a brief introduction to the topic and its legal and political implications, as well as an interview with an everyday expert.  The focus is on the application and practice of discrimination-sensitive measures, challenges and approaches to solutions.

The list of industry-specific, national and regional contact points will show which counseling options already exist; the list will be continuously expanded.

The forum opens a space for own experiences as well as the exchange among dance-interested and concerned persons.

Finally, events around the topic of ethics and dance are announced under dates. The "Traveling Salon" is currently being set up, a format to promote respectful exchange and discourse in the scene in an informal setting and at regular intervals at different locations on a selected topic.  

With its work, the Ethics Committee strives to contribute to increased transparency. It wants to lay the foundations for conscious ethical action, in order to sensitize for inadmissible border crossings or to avoid them and to increase the appreciation of all those active in dance. The challenges will be to ensure protection and anonymity as well as to enable a low threshold for those affected. Last but not least: the topics that are opened up by the Ethics Commission must also be served and managed with its own resources. Therefore, it cannot take on the function of an advice center itself, but can offer useful information, sources, references and suggestions.

Margrit Bischof, August 2023