4 Questions You Should Ask About Performing for Exposure

A lot of memes and posts dealing with the debate on what dancers should be paid and the merits of “performing for exposure” have been making the social media rounds. In case you aren’t familiar, performing for exposure means you won’t make any money for your time, creativity or technique, but supposedly, working a particular gig is going to let so many people know about you, the boost in visibility will cover your pro bono performance.

*me when I hear about getting paid in unlimited exposure

You’ll probably encounter this type of gig more than once in your dance career. Rather than shut the exposure gig down with a fast “no,” I thought it might be better to ask a few questions to get a better grasp on how performing “just for exposure” can really help you along as a dancer.

So read on, DanceTopians, for the 4 questions you should ask the next time someone offers you exposure in exchange for a performance:

Are you available to explain exposure to my landlord/utility provider/bill collector?

Anyone you owe money will definitely want an explanation when you write a check for 1,000 exposures, so make sure whoever hires you is on hand and ready to explain how exposure converts to American (or wherever you’re from) currency, so you don’t get evicted from your apartment or have your lights/water/internet shut off.

Are you okay with me not taking class/rehearsing?

If all you’re getting is exposure, a space to rehearse and funds to take extra technique/conditioning classes aren’t going to happen. The creative director (or whoever’s curating your performance) clearly doesn’t care about shelling out for quality, so it shouldn’t matter that you may not be pulled up and on your leg, or are possibly improvising.

How will this compare to being on MTV?

If exposure is enough to cover the fact that you aren’t making money, this gig obviously blows dancing for an awards show, going on a cruise ship or touring with an artist out of the water. Before you take the stage, ask how your notoriety and career will take off after you perform for free. It’ll give you something to look forward to while you’re leaving the venue empty-handed.

Can I bring anything?

Listen, if they can’t pay you, they might struggling in other areas. If you can, see if you can help by bringing some chips, dip or even a DJ who’s also willing to work for exposure.

So, the next time someone asks you to learn, choreograph or perform a routine for nothing but envious looks from audience members and possibly a free meal, run through this list of questions while you’re drawing up the work agreement. It might just give you a deeper understanding of just how beneficial exposure really is.

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