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An overview of AGMA: My Journey and Insights

Robert Fulton - Sept. 12, 2023, 11:53 p.m.

We’ve received some questions in our discussion group, Ballet Scout: Auditions, Training, and Jobs about what AGMA is like, so here is some more information!

Stepping into the world of performing arts can be as exhilarating as it is challenging. Like a demanding choreography, it necessitates precision, commitment, and an unwavering passion for the craft. As someone who has been immersed in the professional world since 2019, I have found that being a member of the American Guild of Musical Arts (AGMA) has been instrumental in shaping my journey, providing both security and opportunities that have elevated my career in ways I hadn't imagined.


In 2019, my company took a decisive step and joined AGMA.  Even though I was unsure at first, I soon found myself at the heart of the initial unionization efforts at my company. From being on the negotiating committee to becoming a delegate, the journey has been both rewarding and enlightening.  We have come so far, even through the pandemic, and have established a very collaborative relationship with management.  Together, we better the company!  Here, I'd like to share some of the pros and cons of being a part of the union, based on my personal experience.


The Benefits: Protection, Progress, and Prosperity

Negotiating Better Contracts


Being a part of AGMA essentially means that you're pooling resources to have legal experts at your disposal, aiding in negotiating contracts that are beneficial for all.  For the very first contract, the focus is on establishing a status quo to prevent abrupt changes that could affect the company negatively, paving the way for improvements thereafter.  You re-negotiate the contract every 3 years.


Improved Working Conditions

At my company, our efforts have materialized into substantial improvements such as the implementation of a 5-day work week, a departure from the earlier 6-day schedule, scheduled breaks, and increased salaries, enhancing the overall morale and well-being of the dancers.


Support and Representation

AGMA provides a representative who acts as a pillar of support, guiding you through various situations and offering assistance when needed.  There are also multiple in-house comittees made up of dancers.  There are delegates, dancers who act as the overall liason between the Union and the dancers, a Joint-Comittee, a negotiating comittee, and any other comittee that needs to be established.  


Enhanced Protection

For those who are actively involved in the union, there's an additional layer of protection. Cases of union busting, if any, can be dealt with more effectively, providing a safety net for members.  Furthermore, you can always request a representative to attend meetings with you.


Access to Additional Benefits

Membership in AGMA grants you access to a slew of benefits including opportunities for further education, like pursuing a bachelor's degree for just $10,000 – a venture that several dancers at our company are currently undertaking.


The Challenges: Investment, Involvement, and Interaction


Cost of Membership

Joining AGMA comes with a price tag - a $1000 initial fee, coupled with a 2% wage contribution and an annual fee of $100 from the second year onwards. Newly unionized companies get a discounted rate of $500 for the initial fee.  Furthermore, the financial commitment can be eased with payment plans that allow for a more manageable integration into the union.  Many dancers in our company pay $50/month and are considered full members.  


Building Relations with Management

Initially, fostering a cordial relationship with the management can be somewhat intimidating. But, with time and persistent effort, it evolves into a mutually beneficial relationship where both parties work harmoniously towards a common goal: the betterment of the company and its artists.


Community Engagement

A successful union requires active participation from its members. From mobilizing support to getting involved in negotiations, it requires time and dedication, fostering a community that stands united in its pursuits.  It only works if everyone is on board, so one must be committed to holding company meetings and caucus on their own time. 


Utilizing the Union

Once your initial contract is established, you will set up a Joint-Committee where you come together with management and discuss issues that can be improved upon.  These are not violations of the contract, but other issues such as improving communication, company morale, or bad teachers.


You are always welcome to voice input to the Joint-Committee, or report directly to a delegate or Union rep.  A delegate is the dancer representative of AGMA.  They are the liaison between the company and the Union reps.  They do not have the individual power to make any changes, but they can report to the reps.  Your reps are the negotiators in charge of your company.  They can help you take immediate action and you will always have an email to contact once in the company.


Taking the Next Step with AGMA

If my journey resonates with you and you're contemplating joining AGMA or simply wish to explore what it entails, don't hesitate to reach out to the union through their official page. A representative will be at hand to guide you through the intricacies, helping you make an informed decision.  You can reach out to a representative here:



Being an AGMA member has been a rewarding voyage, laced with lessons of solidarity, progress, and the pursuit of a better, more nurturing environment for artists. While the road had its share of bumps, the outcomes have been overwhelmingly positive, fostering a community where dancers are more motivated, and the company genuinely cares for its most valuable assets - its artists. Together, we dance towards a brighter, more prosperous future, one step at a time.