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What should I look for in a Ballet Contract?

Robert Fulton - April 23, 2023, 6:44 p.m.

Discussion Question:

Hey, everybody,

Almost signed my first contract without really thinking much about it. But before I give it back, are there things I should look out for? Can you even negotiate about anything? Should you?


When you are offered a contract with a ballet company, it can be tempting to sign right away, and for the most part, that is what will happen.  The sad reality is that there isn't much that you can negotiate in your contract, besides salary, but it is still essential to carefully review the terms before signing.  Here are some of the important factors to consider when looking at a ballet company contract:

Contract length and renewal terms:
Review the length of the contract and any clauses related to contract renewal & termination.  Make sure you understand the terms and conditions for extending or ending the contract.  Look for the following:

1. How many guaranteed weeks?

2. Can they end the contract at any time? For any reason? If given specifics, what should you do to make sure you get re-engaged?

3. Can they add weeks at any time? For any reason?

This will help you avoid uncomfortable circumstances like (true story) planning a vacation during your layoffs and then having more weeks added last minute, not being in-town for the rehearsals, and subsequently getting let go from the company.

Salary and benefits
Understand the salary and any benefits that are included in the contract, such as health insurance, pension plans, and paid time off.  Salary is the most negotiable section, if you feel up for it.  Your very first few years you may not have as much leverage to negotiate the salary, but you should always state your case and keep politely reminding the director of why you deserve more.  Look for the following

1. Starting pay

2. Guaranteed yearly raises

3. Seniority/promotion raises

4. Health insurance: How much would I owe? Is this worth it for me or should I look for another insurance?

5. How many personal & sick days do I get?

Rehearsal/Performance schedule and expectations
Review the performance schedule and any expectations for rehearsals and performances. Ensure that the schedule aligns with your personal and professional goals and does not conflict with any other commitments. Look for the following:

1. How many hours/week will I rehearse?  How many days/week?

2. Is class mandatory?

3. Is there a time limit for performance days? Or should I expect to be at the theatre for 12+ hours/day.

Workload and responsibilities
Understand the workload and responsibilities that are expected of you as a member of the ballet company. Review any expectations related to choreography, teaching, and community outreach.

1. Am I comitted to outreach activities?

2. Am I comitted to other non-dance artist activities?

3. Is there extra opportunity & extra pay to attend these?

Travel and housing
Review any provisions for travel and housing, especially if the ballet company tours. Understand any reimbursement policies for travel expenses and whether the company will provide housing, gas money, and other travel expenses.

Termination and dispute resolution
Review the provisions related to termination of the contract and dispute resolution policies, including any conditions for breach of contract or termination.

Intellectual property and publicity rights
Understand the ownership and use of your intellectual property and publicity rights, including your name, likeness, and image.  Look for the following:

1. What is their social media policy?

2. Can they use any pictures of me?  Can I post any pictures from the company?

3. Am I able to get video footage easily?

In conclusion, reviewing a ballet company contract can be a daunting task, but it is essential to ensure that the terms and conditions align with your personal and professional goals. You may not be able to change much with your initial contract, but through a number of different means you could tailor it to fit your needs.  Remember, signing a contract is a commitment, so take your time and make an informed decision.