There has been much discussion lately about the practice of professional arts organizations charging fees for performers to audition. Sara Bibik's letter to Dance Magazine brought that conversation to the forefront of the dance community and gave me—and hopefully many others—an opportunity to revisit and reflect on something that's commonplace in our industry.
After careful review, Orlando Ballet recently made the decision to stop this practice. We will no longer charge dancers to audition for the professional company. These changes were effective immediately, and Orlando Ballet is in the process of refunding the audition fees for our most recent Atlanta and Orlando auditions.
Sara's argument that it's unfair that dancers are the only members of the company that have to pay for a job interview is a valid one. As she suggests, Orlando Ballet did not charge me $30 when I interviewed for the role of executive director last year. It only makes sense that all staff participate in the same hiring practices.
But issues with charging dancers to audition go much deeper. My greatest concern is that audition fees will create an even greater barrier to lower income artists who want to pursue a professional dance career.
At Orlando Ballet we celebrate the diverse and talented dancers that make up our professional company. Whether it be an audience member, a child longing to take ballet classes or an artist who has risen to a level of excellence, I want to make sure that ballet is accessible to everyone. Not every dancer will come from the same socioeconomic background and, thanks to our new policy, our audition process will have one less obstacle for aspiring dancers eager to join the ranks of Orlando Ballet.
As someone who has spent my entire career managing arts organizations, I wholeheartedly understand the financial struggles that come with the territory. It's something that challenges us on a daily basis, but our commitment to supporting artists from all backgrounds must take priority.
When I accepted the role of executive director at Orlando Ballet, I was thrilled to find a culture that embraced the community with so many programs dedicated to reaching individuals that normally would not have access to ballet. It's a philosophy I share and, as an organization, we will continue to make ballet inclusive and within reach to anyone who wants to experience this amazing art form.
Shane Jewell, executive director of Orlando Ballet