AFL: Can I have a minute of your unpaid time?

I won’t beat a dead horse because lots of really great points have already been made as to why the AFL is exploiting the dance industry. However, one thing I haven’t seen anywhere is that it’s not their job to determine if a performance opportunity is a good opportunity; because that job belongs to us!

My job, and for hundreds of thousands of dance professionals around the world, is to literally prepare dancers for performance opportunities. That’s literally my job. Do I need to say that again?! And I know it might be hard to believe, but the dance industry has created its very own dance appropriate training opportunities that expose dancers to the experience they need to gain actual work :O From that training they get work. That’s how jobs work. So although I’m sure the AFL thought long and hard about how to help our dancers gain performance experiences we surprisingly have performance exposure opportunities covered as part of our daily training activities.

From the second a dancer starts learning dance they are learning to perform. And, since I’ve spent over 3 decades learning how and when to offer certain performance opportunities based on the physical and mental development of each and every dancer in order to build a HEALTHY RESUME; I’d like to take this moment to educate you, the AFL, as to why your ‘opportunity’ for non-professionals is no opportunity at all:

  1. A massive crowd that is there for footy will not be supportive in the ways a non-professional dancer is use to in a dance only environment. Lack of audience support can crush a non-professional dancers’ spirit which can cause long term training issues. Therefore, we as educators need to prepare students for those types of responses and this doesn’t happen overnight.
  2. They are developing dancers. So responses to making mistakes, which is already difficult enough, will be exaggerated. Simply taking dance classes or winning awards doesn’t mean they are automatically ready to potentially fail in front of thousands of people.
  3. Professionalism in even the most focused students can become scarce when under these conditions making the experience less than enjoyable. I have been a paid cheerleader for the NFL and know how much practice and waiting comes with this type of job.
  4. Imagine hearing how your friend made $150 for a day of serving fries at the footy while you spent upwards of 20 hours training and performing for free. What message does that send?

You see, we carefully create performance opportunities that are going to support development and push boundaries safely. Not crush spirits and thrust children and young adults in to situations that they aren’t ready for.

If you have made it this far then I commend you for staying with me. Now is the time to add that I have a son who just finished working full time for a year as a professional dancer. He is 12 years old. I’m not only an expert in the field of dance but I’m a mum who has experienced what it’s like to tour the country with a working dancer. Preparing him for this opportunity took 6 years of 20 hours plus a week of training; not exactly everyone is right for your ‘opportunity’; and those who are should probably be paid regardless of age because they are at a level that required serious training and commitment. So, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge Louise Withers, her team and Universal for treating not only the 21 strong child cast of Billy Elliot the Australian Musical like absolute superstars but for treating the parents like we mattered. They set a prescedent that my son will remember and he knows from a young age his true worth. If I ever received an invite like the one by the AFL or the management company’s involved I would know not to get involved because we have been treated with the utmost respect for what we do and wouldn’t accept anything less than fair and legal work conditions. This kind of ‘opportunity’ would belittle my dancer and erase the confidence that so many have worked to instil in him. So AFL, as an educator I know that your opportunity is not an opportunity at all. And since exposure in our industry is actually called training I would like to inform you that dancers don’t need non-dance professionals to provide more training. So news anchors, tv personalities and AFL organisers I will not attempt to educate your up and coming AFL talent as to what will help their futures and you can stop telling our dancers what will help theirs . In light of all this I would suggest one of two courses of action: Hire professional dancers; or hire first time professional dancers; because I am pretty sure McDonalds or Coles don’t get people to work for free just because it’s their first job.

So unless you guys would like to come play at my 40th birthday party for free, I’d suggest reconsidering your gross request for free entertainment.


Published by everythingdancewithashley

Ashley Grottoli is an award winning dancer and choreographer who has helped thousands of students achieve their personal and professional goals. "Teach a dancer tricks and they are impressive on Instagram; Teach a dancer to harness their mind and body’s full potential and they can become anything they want to be" says Ashley.

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