For artistic work within a production company
This employment model was awarded The Dance Fame Award in 2021
from the Union of Dance and Circus Artists of Finland.
Routa Company is a Finnish contemporary dance production house, located in the small city of Kajaani, Finland. Our mission is to make, produce and develop multi-faceted dance art. We are part of the Finnish Network of Regional Dance Centres. Our core features are producing and making dance performances (1 – 2 per year), curating a viable guest performance program (3-6 per year), running an international artist residency program (app. 10 / year), producing communal art experiences and dance workshops for the local people, and taking an active part in Finnish dance networks and discussion.
Routa employs the dancers for its productions for full-time, typically for four months at a time. The dancers are hired through an open call, about 6-12 months beforehand. The dancers are hired for full-time, for 8 hours / day, 5 days / week. Routa employs the dancers according to national collective labor agreement’s terms. As a fringe benefit, Routa offers their residency apartment for the dancers to live in, should they so wish.
Under the Routa company’s employment model, a full-time temporary dancer can allocate at least 25% of their workday for their own artistic work (roughly 10+ hours / week for own work). This portion of the work aims for the dancer’s development as an independent, free artist. The rest of the workday is devoted to rehearsals, preparations and performances of the show the dancer has been employed for.
The purpose of this model is to create a safe environment for dancers develop as artists, and thusly develop the art itself. After graduation, a dancer develops artistically through their own efforts and usually not in exchange for pay. Routa Company’s model lifts at least a part of this burden, and lets the dancer to develop their profession, their art, in the security of an employment relationship, supported by an active, social community of colleagues. When compared to working on a grant or scholarship, Routa’s model differs so that it also provides the physical space for working and the community to work in. Routa offers the employee the artistic and productional mentoring of the artistic director and the managing director, as well as the aid of Routa’s publicist. These are for the artist to make use of however it suits their needs.
Dancer is an artist – not merely someone to realise the choreographer’s will and vision. The interface between the choreographer’s and dancer’s work is wide, hazy and fluctuating, and needs to be re-examined again and again. The subtle pull of the hierarchy built inherently within the framework of making dance performances is insistent, and needs to be resisted. Even in the world of today, it needs to be clearly established that the personality, ideas and artistic work of a dancer play an active, important role in forming a dance performance. This fact in no ways diminishes the role and vision of the choreographer. One way of scrutinising the dancer’s artistry in action, is to employ them using Routa Company’s model.
In Routa’s vision, the employer must look at the content of the artist’s work especially from the artist’s viewpoint: the work of the artist and their needs for the optimal working environment must come first. Making self-designed artistic work possible within an employment relationship is a concrete choice for giving art the much needed safe environment to develop. With this model Routa also joins the current, active discussion concerning the various forms of artists’ employment and meeting points for the self-employed freelancers and institutions. Routa Company wants to find out the benefits of the model that affect not only the dancer, but also the employers. This motivation is born of a desire to see the model spread to different environments, to different production houses, theatres, dance companies, etc.
So, what does the dancer get? In addition to the usual benefits of an employment relationship – steady pay and occupational health care, the dancer also gets a working space for their own artistic work, plus both artistic and productional mentoring. The supervisor of the dancer works to improve the working environment regarding specifically the dancer and their work. Compared to working on a grant or stipendum, Routa’s model gives a dancer the benefit of colleagues and a social working environment, as well as other, employment-related benefits.
The dancer benefits from the self-designated employment model:
- The dancer has the safety of employment relationship, to work on their artistic development
- The dancer has proper space for their work
- The dancer has occupational health care, and is insured for their work
- The dancer gets advise and mentoring, artistically and production-wise
- The dancer has a safe environment for artistic experimenting or risk-taking
- The working environment is socially active and helps the dancer communicate with colleagues, and to network within national scale
- In Finnish working environment the unemployment benefits add up through paid work
What does Routa get – the benefits for the employer. The primary and ideal benefit for the employer should be participating in developing art itself, in a larger scale. By hiring an artist to develop their own artistic work, the employer makes it possible for new and perhaps unforeseen developmental stages of art to appear. This possibility most probably creates synergy for the employer’s own production as well. By making the artist’s own work possible, Routa gets power in it’s own art. This synergy, this power, cannot be planned or required, but happens naturally. This interaction is indirect and varies, case by case, but so far has never failed to appear.
The employment model develops Routa towards an open, communicative direction, and is an invitation for the fresh winds blowing on the independent fields. Each dancer that works on their own artistic development is sure to leave a unique mark on Routa’s pages.
Routa benefits from the self-designated employment model:
- The model suits Routa’s values – art is artist’s work, and art has a value in itself
- Routa gets motivated dancers
- Routa is a active influence on the field, developing socially sustainable forms of action
- The art of dance keeps on developing, changing and going forward, guided by something else than only that which sells.
- Routa’s reputation on the field keeps enhancing, and thus Routa gets more and more dancers wanting to join the action.
- Routa is more visible both nationally and internationally
- Routa gets to keep a slice of several artists’ work as spiritual reserve in getting to know their working methods and ways of thinking and dancing, though the artist always reserves their ownership and the rights to their work.
- Routa grows larger than its regular staff
The content of the self-designated work is designed by the artist, in conjunction with the artistic director, producer and publicist. The ideas and needs of the dancer are the prioritized starting point for the planning of the content, and remain so also when considering the development of the work. Because dance is a performing art, Routa Company trusts that most of the artists also have a need of sharing their work with public in one way or another. This is not obligatory, however. The artist is encouraged to knowingly include thinking and planning as part of their work – not everything need to be practical, physical toiling.
The self-designated part’s continuity can be roughly divided in eg. four basic parts. If the total time employed is eg. four months, each of these can take one month:
1) sketching / searching / try-outs
2) working period
3) re-evaluating and second working period
4) documenting / assembling / reflecting / future planning
These parts will be realised in different ways for different artists, and are used as a structural support for the artist, if they find it useful.
If the artist’s work is temporal or project-based by nature (as in aiming for an end result, eg. performance, workshop…), they are encouraged to think of their work also as a part of a longer continuum, its past and potential futures. On the other hand, if the work is continuous by nature (as in eg. keeping up and developing a practice, life-as-art…), they are encouraged to create some clear landing points or small for their work, to help in reflection. Both of these ways should concretise the artist’s work as part of their artistic development.
The plan and development of the artist’s self-designated work can be looked at through following questions: What do they do? What is in the nucleus of the work? What is important for the artist? What is the artist interested in? Is their plan understandable? Are their artistic actions clear? What are the things surrounding the artists’ topic? Is there something potentially essential waiting on the fringes? What is hindering them, and do they know it? How can the artist be helped in finding their way forward / deeper / wider? What is the context the artist is putting their work in?
Examples of possible contents for self-designated work, also as combined:
keeping up and developing own practice
physical and / or mental and / or holistic training
working in public and / or with citizens on Kajaani
place-oriented performances, improvised or otherwise
reading, writing, blogging, studying
body work, swimming, conditioning
developing different environments for discussion and communication
seeing performances and writing or talking about them
workhops and courses; participating and teaching
Some models for work-time. The weekly total time can be divided eg. in three basic ways:
A) 2 h / d x 5 days (lunch- and coffeebreaks, and moving from place to place is not included in the dancer’s own two hours). This model fits the early stage of the whole period.
B) 2 h on one day + 4 h another day + 4 h on a third day.
C) 2 h on one day + 8 h another day.
The total hours for the own artistic work is defined, when the final agenda for rehearsals, performances and gigs is set. The own work always gets the minimum of 25 % of the total working time.
The dancer has flexibility in moving afore-planned time for own work, if they find the time and place themselves. The dancer must announce the change in schedule before-hand. The artist’s own work’s supervising is based on trust. The balancing of possible over-/undertime is done monthly.
Last but not least: We are aiming to spread the word, to have institutions similar to us to try out this model or have a go on a version of their own. Our experiences of this model from the last 2,5 years are great, not only from the side of our employees but also from our side as the employer. If anyone has a question concerning Routa’s employment model, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (or, after June the 2nd 2023, email@example.com)