Professional Standards for Dance

Section 1 - Introduction




1.1. About CADA-ON


CADA-ON was formed in 1986 in response to impending Status of the Artist Legislation in Canada and incorporated in the Province of Ontario in 1995 to improve the status and working conditions of dance artists. We are a grassroots arts service organization and work to empower and educate members towards self-representation. Our major sphere of activity is best practices and our guide, Professional Standards for Dance (PSD), is a living document responding to the sector. It was first published in 2003, Version 2 was published in 2009 and Version 3 is in your hands. We support our mission with resources including professional development tools and research and development in areas affecting artists’ economic status. The CADA-ON model reflects a community in which an artist’s roles are fluid amongst engager, engagee or member of a collective and is an alternative to the traditional labour/management model. We address the needs of a community in which the vast majority of artists are self-employed.

CADA-ON collaborates with many other organizations and increasingly functions as part of a community of practice and agent for change within networks. Our relationships include sharing our membership of individual artists through joint membership with Canadian Dance Assembly and acting for Status of the Artists issues within the Coalition of Provincial Arts Service Organizations (PASO Coalition).


1.2. What is the PSD?


Professional Standards for Dance, Version 3, PSD Version 3 and PSD V3 all mean this document.


This is a best practices guide intended to promote and support professional standards and conditions of work in dance. It provides basic guidelines intended for the members of CADA-ON in negotiating work agreements - others are welcome to use it. PSD provides suggested minimum standards regarding hours of work, fee standards and working conditions and outlines rights and responsibilities in work agreements.

These guidelines recommend minimums and do not preclude the negotiation of further terms of agreement as determined by negotiating parties.


1.3. Why should I use the PSD?


The PSD can help you develop contracts for working in dance. It can help you determine when a work environment is acceptable or unacceptable. It is a standard that you can use as an authoritative source respected in the dance community - this can transform a stalemate situation of opinion and “he said/she said”. Instead of personal opinion, you can refer to accepted standards and gain a clear negotiation tool.

Your use of the PSD contributes to the health of the dance field. Every time one person takes care and attention for artists’ working conditions and payment, it positively impacts the field.


1.4. The Fine Print


These standards should not be regarded or relied upon as legal advice or opinions. CADA-ON and its directors, employees and volunteers make no warranties or representations, express or implied, with respect to this document and shall in no event by liable for any damages arising from the use of this document including, without limitation, any incidental or consequential damages arising out of the use of or inability to use the document.

As per the CADA-ON Membership Application and Agreement, members agree to endeavor to undertake and abide by the principles and policies of CADA-ON, including the PSD and its conflict resolution process. CADA-ON takes no responsibility – legal, moral or financial - for any failure of its members to abide by the guidelines of the PSD.

This is a living document. Amendments and supplements to PSD shall be issued as deemed necessary by the Board of Directors of CADA-ON and further editions of PSD shall be published as necessary over time to reflect changes and developments in the field. Members will be given opportunities to have input into changes and are encouraged to provide comment on the document to CADA-ON at any time.

This document is based in Euro-American theatrical tradition. We welcome collaboration on how this document can be applied or amended to encompass other cultural practices; please contact the office with your suggestions and comments.

For a thorough understanding of PSD Version 3, we encourage you to read the entire document including the Background section at the end. A glossary of terms used in this document is provided.


1.5. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS work with a written contract!


What is a contract?
....a “promise” that has three components: offer, acceptance, consideration, from individuals that have actual or apparent authority to enter into a contract. Consideration is something of value (financial or otherwise) to be received by the contractee. Consideration could be monetary or non-monetary (for example, a commitment to provide time or services).


What is required for a document to be considered a legal document – would a series of emails or something jotted down on a napkin qualify?
Yes, they would, even an oral contract can be a contract (but is very unsatisfactory because it’s so hard to prove what was said)

What does it mean legally if a contract is broken?
If the other party has breached, you can seek damages, but this can be more theoretical than real. For most dance contracts, the costs to take legal action would be disproportionate; also, a legal win does not guarantee that you can collect your court award from the other side.

Are there basic questions to ask when entering into a contract?
Yes, including what is to happen if one side does not live up to her/his side of the bargain. The CADA-ON Contract Template provides the basics of how much you will be paid, how often, for what and for how long.

How are my legal rights different if I am an employee rather than an independent contractor?
Employees have a bundle of legal rights, many of them codified in law. These do not apply to independent contractors, who are seen as independent actors free to make their own bargain, even a bad one.

Why should I care about working with a contract?
Again, as per above, we urge you to consider contributing to the health of the field. Every time you operate in a professional manner, you contribute to the professionalism of the field.

Here’s one explanation of why written contracts are needed. When you were a child, did you ever play the telephone game? A child at one end of a line whispers in her neighbour’s ear and by the time it gets to the end of the line, the words have become something entirely different. That’s what verbal conversation is like – it’s a wonder we ever understand one another!

A contract clarifies expectations on both sides. When disagreements arise, a written contract provides a reference point for settling them. When you have less stress around trying to second-guess what is going on in the relationship between engager and engagee, you have more energy and focus for your work. Contracts support good working conditions.

Writing things down provides an opportunity to test what we understand. Seeing the frequency of pay written down and then saying, “Oh, wait, I thought we agreed that I would be paid every week and this says every two weeks. That’s fine, I can do that.”, or, “Can we change that?” are both better options to planning your finances around being paid on the 16th and discovering that day you get paid on the 23rd.

The legalities regarding breach of contract might be discouraging and raise the question of why bother. However, consider that there are other consequences that might have greater impact on your life and career. The dance community is small and there is probably no one you will work with who you won’t meet again. Contracts build and maintain healthy relationships.

Isn’t it the engager’s responsibility to provide a contract?
Yes, an engager should provide a draft contract. But if you as an engagee are not offered a contract, why not present the engager with one? It’s not hard to say, “Here’s a draft contract for you to look at – please let me know if there are changes we should talk about.” You are contributing to the health and professionalism of the dance field when you do so.

How do I go about preparing a draft contract?
This PSD has a recommended template in the back. It’s very simple. The main text lays out the terms of what and when you get paid and says, “We agree to everything in PSD V3.” When that is not the case, you attach Schedule A and write down the changes you have made from PSD V3 in your own agreement.

Or, if you prefer, you can make you own contract following what you have learned in this document and elsewhere. Because professionals customarily operate with contracts, there are lots of models out there. Re-inventing the wheel is usually a waste of time. When working with Presenters, for example, consult the Sample Letter of Intent and Sample Contract in the Canada Council’s on-line training tool, On The Road (see Resources).

Why are you saying, “draft contract”?
When you write or choreograph, you almost always with have many drafts, right? Expect the same from an agreement for dance work. If both parties agree immediately to the first draft, great, but don’t feel that you are under any pressure to do so. Sometimes, there will be pressure because of time constraints – do whatever you can to prevent that from happening and try and not let pressure affect your judgment when it does.

When you modify an offered contract, the modifications are considered a “counter-offer” and you are considered to have rejected the original offer and it becomes null and void.

Support your ability to get from first to final draft with honing your negotiation skills. CADA-ON members can go to the CADA-ON website and watch, How to have those awkward conversations in a small community!. This is our negotiation skills professional development tool.


1.6. FAQ


Is CADA-ON a union?
No. CADA-ON is a professional association. A union is certified and regulated by provincial and federal legislation and has the legislated power to negotiate collectively-bargained agreements on behalf of its membership and take action in the case of violations. CADA-ONs mission is to educate and empower its members to represent themselves in negotiating agreements working in the field of professional dance. (See About CADA-ON.)

What is CADA-ONs regional jurisdiction?
We are a provincial arts service organization incorporated in Ontario. However, we accept members from other provinces simply because the professional dance population in many Canadian provinces is too small to support associations similar to ours in each province. (See the Membership page on our website for specific details.) When CADA-ON was formed and later incorporated, it included the word, “Canadian” in its name, reflecting the impetus for its formation, which was national legislation (and perhaps, the idea that the organization could grow to be national). CADA-ON provided support to artists in British Columbia to form CADA/BC in 1992 and the two organizations shared their first website from 2007-09, but they are separate organizations.

Is there “a CADA contract”?
No. When you use CADA-ONs contract template or follow our best practices, it does not make CADA-ON party to your agreement. The agreement is between you and the other party. Using the CADA-ON contract template allows you the freedom to make your contract fit your circumstances and artistic work. This is different to a collectively-bargained agreement.

If I use the PSD must I use the recommended minimum payments?
No. They are just that – recommended minimums. Dance artists have the lowest income of any artists in Canada and we encourage higher payments! Many artists work for fees higher than CADA-ON minimums. However, we also know that artists sometimes agree to work for less than our recommended minimums. The reasons include that artists often work for other artists who have very low budgets for the production of their work. Production budgets vary within Ontario depending, for example, on whether your municipality funds culture. Budgets vary greatly depending on grant revenue and since dance has the lowest market share of any performing art, box office revenue is often very limited for many artists.

CADA-ONs PSD provides an established norm that you can be assured represents an accepted standard in the not-for-profit dance field in Ontario. This is a vast improvement to having to make everything up on you own without any support. Strive to meet at least that standard.

Even in circumstances when you agree to work for other than monetary consideration, we urge you to still work under a contract for the same reasons that were given earlier.

What is the difference between “employee”, “engagee” or “contractee” and why should I care?
See the Glossary in this document for the above terms.

It is important to understand your status - whether you are an employee or self-employed – as this impacts on your ability to apply for Employment Insurance and your rights under federal and provincial legislation.

If you are an employee, your employer has legal obligations to you under your contract and the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA). The ESA does not apply to you as a self-employed person. 97% of CADA-ONs membership is self-employed for their dance work. 45% of all workers in the live performing arts are self-employed. This greatly impacts the social status of artists because when we are not employees we have no access to employment insurance, for example. Even the few dancers employed in Ontario with employee status are usually employed for contracts of only 24 to 36 weeks.


1.7. History of Professional Standards for Dance


Prior to the March 2003 publication of Professional Standards for Dance (PSD), Version 1.0, CADA created contract templates followed by the Basic Dance Agreement (BDA), a set of pages stapled in the corner and first distributed to CADA members in 1990. The BDA was available to anyone; a generous practice in use up to this day and reflecting CADA-ONs commitment to the betterment of the dance community as a whole. The PSD V1 was the product of 10 years of donated labour by dance artists who participated in community meetings. Key to this development were the organization’s founders Marie-Josée Chartier, Pat Fraser and Maxine Heppner as well as Jennifer Watkins, who contributed first through her work at Dance Umbrella of Ontario from 1991-93, then became CADA-ONs first part-time Administrator in 1994. Many other individual dance artists and Dance Ontario also supported CADA-ONs early development.

“CADA was founded on a philosophy of equality and community….[and] recognized the many-hats character of the community; a dance artist might be a performer in one project, a choreographer in another, and a producer or presenter in the next.” From the outset, the goal was to accurately reflect the community and create an alternative to the traditional labour/management adversarial model with its punitive, enforcing role that made no sense in the “many-hats” dance culture of the Toronto dance community and sometimes negatively impacted on creative process and artistic possibilities.

Appendix B: Fees & Payment, updated recommended fee minimums and was published in February 2008. Version 2 was published in February 2009 after CADA-ON acquired its first-ever full-time Executive Director under a three-year Ontario Trillium Foundation grant. Version 2 included a new conflict resolution section and provided better language and clarity around CADA-ONs identity and the difference between it and a union. Updated fees were also included.

Version 3 is in your hands and includes new content, updated fees and is intended to be more “user-friendly” through lay-out and contextual content.


1.8. Fees


How does CADA-ON establish fees? The baseline was decided with Version 1, which as we have said, involved countless hours of volunteer contributions from practicing dance artists and therefore represented artists’ experience in the field. Fee increases are based on the same cost-of-living increases that everyone in society faces. CADA-ON passed the following Board policy in 2011:

The Board affirms the 2007 intention to update CADA-ON recommended fee increases and clarifies that the adjustments will be based on the following two documents:

- latest available Statistics Canada Consumer Price Index for Ontario
- latest available Ontario Ministry of Labour published average annual wage increases for all settlements in collective bargaining agreements.

Further, the increases will be rounded.

It is understood that CADA-ON has no obligation or legal requirement to do so and this policy reflects our desire that our members not experience a cut in income because of inflation. The Board is at liberty to recommend other adjustments.

The increases will be made following the schedule of published versions of Professional Standards for Dance (PSD), the schedule of which will vary. We aim to revise PSD bi-annually.


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