Too often, I have heard people complain about the costs associated with Latin dance, whether it’s bringing in professional dancers for congresses or paying the cover for a social. I recently saw a discussion online about how much European dancers get paid to come to the States to teach and perform. The rates vary, but this discussion referenced the professionals getting $3,000, plus travel expenses, for a weekend. It might sound like a lot, but remember: the pros are getting paid to travel across the Atlantic Ocean, bring their decades of combined experience, and spend a grueling weekend teaching workshops and private lessons, performing, and social dancing.
To some, $3,000 for a weekend of work is a lot of money. But entertainers in other industries are making way more than that per gig— for example, celebrity DJ Tiesto can average $250,000 for just one night.
The “big name” performers at congresses and festivals are the Latin Dance world’s celebrities and rock stars. But they aren’t getting rock star salaries.
This whole exchange about how much professional performers should or shouldn’t get paid illustrated one of the biggest pitfalls in the Latin Dance world, something that everyone from the casual social dancer to the congress organizer needs to remember: Your dollar is your vote.
By paying trained and experienced professionals to perform, teach, and inspire, organizers are voting for a higher quality of dance. Professional dancers dedicate their lives to dance. They have invested thousands of dollars and hours in learning, training, and perfecting their craft, and should be paid for their experience. This is how dance is passed on to the next generation. How it grows, evolves, and improves.
Social dancers who attend any event, whether a local social or a national congress, need to remember as well that their dollar is their vote. We live in a capitalist society. There is no way around it. Everything costs money. Socials cost money to put on—whether they’re at a rented venue space or bar, none of these spaces pop up for free and must be supported, with money, or they will go away.
In my area, a Latin band used to play weekly at a local bar, and there was no cover charge to come and dance. It was packed every week – you could barely find room on the dance floor. But after a year or two, the servers at the bar got tired of not making any money on such a seemingly popular night. Dancers would come and just order water, and eventually, the bar stopped hosting the band. The dancers forgot that their dollar was their vote. They forgot that if they didn’t support the venue, the venue could not afford to cover its costs and continue to put on the event.
I’ve heard of the same thing happening in other communities—dance events not lasting at bars because the dancers don’t buy food and drinks, venues shutting down socials because of low attendance, events being cancelled because of insufficient ticket sales.
So no matter who you are in the Latin Dance world—a first time dancer, an instructor, an event organizer, an avid social dancer—remember that your dollar is your vote. And that every vote counts.
If you want to have somewhere to dance in your community, go to the socials and pay for them. If the events are at a bar or restaurant, buy a drink or an appetizer and tip your servers. If you want to benefit from quality dance instruction, pay teachers for it. If you want to be able to keep going to congresses and festivals, buy tickets to them. Don’t assume that other people are going to keep a venue, an event, or a dancer afloat. Do your part. Your dollar is your vote.