Among the top ballet companies in Canada are:

  • National Ballet of Canada, based in Toronto
  • Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, based in Winnipeg
  • Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, based in Montreal
  • Alberta Ballet, based in Edmonton & Calgary

In order to join a Canadian company, foreign nationals need a visa and a work permit. When a contract is offered, the employer makes the necessary applications on behalf of the dancer and pays the associated costs.

The companies above operate a closed shop. This means staff dancers must join the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association (Helpful Links).

The union is the sole bargaining agent for employees, and negotiates detailed labour agreements with each of the companies.

Although each agreement is specific to the company with whom it was negotiated, conditions are broadly similar across the board.

For example, there is a minimum agreed salary below which the companies cannot go.

Maximum work hours and rest breaks are specified; as are overtime payments, per diem payments when on tour etc.

Dismissal can only come about with cause and through a procedure tightly negotiated with the union.

Although not exclusive, the most common way in for young dancers is as an Apprentice.

Next we outline some of the pertinent information on pay and conditions in the companies listed above.

Please Note: figures valid for April 2016

Apprentice Pay – $486 CND per week
Corps de ballet 1 – $991.49 CND per week
Tax – 15% approx..
First contract – 1 season (46 weeks)
Annual holiday – 3 paid weeks + 1 unpaid week
Notice period – 90 days (in writing)
Health Care – the company subsidises a comprehensive health and dental plan; should the dancer not be eligible, there’s the Equity Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan.
+ in-house medical staff (massage & physio)
+ subsidised health supplements if medically prescribed
+ 75% pay if a dancer is placed on short-term disability
Occupational Pension Scheme – contributory from year two

Apprentice pay – $560 CND per week (approx.)*
Corps de ballet 1 – $754.36 CND per week (approx.)*
*annual pay rise index-linked between 1-4%
Tax – dancers must register with the Manitoba provincial government and acquire a tax number. Tax is not deducted at source; each dancer must pay his/her own tax at the end of the financial year. You can claim deductions for work-related expenses.
First contract (apprentice) – 1 season = 42 weeks – renewable for a second year only
Annual holiday – Apprentice NO Corps and beyond YES
Notice period – mid-season individual meeting with the director to discuss renewal or not.
Health Care – free provincial health service + RWB’s benefits plan including short & long term disability benefits, dental, optical, and prescription coverage as well as travel health insurance.
Occupational pension scheme – contributory for corps and above.

Apprentice pay – $522 CND per week
Corps de ballet 1 – $747 CND per week
Tax – 20% lowest level
First contract – 42-47 weeks
Annual Holiday – first 2 weeks in January (after Nutcracker)
Notice Period – notification of intent to renew by 31st December; details on conditions (eg promotion etc) by 31st January.
Health Care – contributory private insurance plan (50:50 dancer/company) + provincial cover for injuries paid for by the company.
Occupational Pension Scheme – contributory scheme available immediately. Company matches dancer’s contribution which cannot exceed 2.5% of salary.

Apprentice pay – $540.97 CND
Corps de ballet 1 – minimum $711.00 CND per week
First contract – 2015/16 season 48 weeks
Probationary period corps – NO
Tax Rate – 15%
Annual Holiday – 2 weeks paid within the contract period
Notice – contracts are continuing as per CAEA agreement
Health care – Alberta Health Care (Provincial) + the company pays 75% of an extended health care program which includes extended health care benefits, dental and life insurance.
Occupational Pension Scheme – Contributory as from year two.

Working Abroad

As young foreigner working abroad, there are a number of things you should make sure of in order to avoid unnecessary problems.

Auditions Advisory

Auditioning is, of course, the main route to getting a dancing contract. It can also be a very expensive and frustrating process.

Junior Companies

Many ballet companies now have their own Junior Companies, as well as apprentices working with the main company.