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The American Guild of Musical Artists, or AGMA, is the labor organization that determines minimum salaries for operatic, choral and dance performers in the U.S. It is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and is a branch of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America. It negotiates pay with each performing arts company individually, such as for the principal dancers of the New York City Ballet as of 2009. Principal dancers are designated as such by the employers, and are essentially the stars of the ballet. They may or may not be the most senior members of the company.
Minimum salaries for principal dancers of the New York City ballet are highest for weeks when artists perform in front of an audience. These ran a minimum $2,341 per week. For rehearsal weeks, minimums dropped to $1,980 per week, or 50 percent of the individual contract salary, whichever was higher. These salaries are greater than even the minimum $1,905 per week granted to the most senior performers, who have been with the company for 10 or more years.
For five-day weeks, performers who rehearsed more than three consecutive hours, or more than six hours per day, get overtime compensation ranging from $22 per hour for straight overtime to $88 dollars per hour, which is quadruple time. (This latter rate is meant to penalize employers for demanding extraordinary work effort, such as for rehearsing after performances.) For six-day weeks, overtime compensation is applied for rehearsals over three consecutive hours or over five hours per day. During performance weeks, overtime compensation is applied to any rehearsals, starting with $22 for the first hour, and rising to $66 for the fifth and sixth hours.
For vacation pay, artists receive eight percent of their basic weekly contractual wages. Dancers were not required to rehearse or perform on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, and typically, July 4th and Easter. Performances on these days entitled the artist to an extra free day, which was a day that the artist could not perform any service for the employer. However, legal holidays that fell on Sundays did not grant an extra free day for that same week if the dancer received a free day at a later time. Dancers also got sick leave of at least 21 days per contract year. However, if dancers missed rehearsals or performances for a continuous two weeks, the employer could have her examined by a doctor and had the right to terminate her after paying full compensation for the two-week absence.
Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not break out the salaries of principal dancers for the New York ballet, it does show average salaries for all dancers in the U.S. as of May 2010. Mean wages for these performers were $16.55 per hour, which, when multiplied by 40, was equivalent to $662 per week. This was far lower than the minimums in the AGMA contracts. Further, the BLS only showed hourly salaries, since it contended that dancers were paid far too irregularly to determine compensation for longer periods.
Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.