Change could be on the horizon for up and coming performers who have historically been relegated to plying their trade for free in exchange for the "exposure" they could receive as a result of their pro-bono efforts.
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According to alleged text messages obtained by Page Six, requests were apparently sent out to professional dancers asking for volunteers to perform at this year's halftime show. Purported screenshots show volunteers are expected to rehearse for up to nine hours a day, with no transportation provided. “It’s not uncommon that the Super Bowl brings forth field local volunteers to be concertgoers for the Super Bowl experience just to deepen the production quality and value and the attention,” past halftime performer Taja Riley told the publication. “What is not common is a coordinator or production or producer reaching out to professional talent to hire them as volunteers and working them for the amount of time that they are requesting."
Riley also posted a series of screenshots on her Instagram showing another look into the way the business of packing a field full of unpaid workers is allegedly handled. "The show may be at halftime, but any dance artist participating should be PAID IN FULL," she exclaimed in the caption.
This year's lead halftime choreographer, Fatima Robinson, posted on Instagram regarding the issue, stating her happiness "to be hiring 115 paid dancers for the Super Bowl this year… the most ever hired," for this year's show on February 13, which will feature Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar. Riley believes Robinson has to be "aware" of the situation and is hoping more will be done, especially for a Hip Hop-centric show happening during Black History Month.
Robinson tellingly acknowledged in her post, "I started out dancing for free, then as a extra on the movie 'Boys In The Hood' and have worked with these incredible artist individually throughout my career."
Riley says, "This is such an amazing Super Bowl, to be happening during Black History Month and to showcase black art, black culture and predominantly highlighting black talent… so if you’re going to be a leader of a community, now is the time, if anything, to step up and be called in, to do whatever it is that you can do to forward the movement." Dancer Melany Centeno agrees, saying, "It’s just like, you guys want to go into the antics about this, and try to find some type of loophole to justify what this is. But this is, at the root, exploitation."
"We’re at a space where we are being overexploited as dance art is being overused, overworked, and then undervalued and underpaid," Riley added. "I think the next step really is who will stand up like, how loud do we have to get… to bring more awareness to the mistreatment of dance artists,” she asked. "We should be raising the bar now and holding ourselves accountable, especially when we’ve accepted these oppressive ways and practices for so long."
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