Dancing down the hill to Hell

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Dancing down the hill to Hell

We generally think of due diligence as something to be exercised in financial dealings. But it also applies in the world of dance.

If you are a dancer, if you know any dancers, or if you have seen movies like Shall We Dance, Strictly Ballroom or almost any movie about ballet, then you know that dancing – either amateur or professional – is almost a compulsion. Indeed, some have said that dancers dance for much the same reasons that alcoholics drink.

Dance, particularly performance dance, is very difficult. You have to be in football-player condition all the time, with the aches and pains associated with high-level athletic endeavor. To top it off, there are so many genuinely talented dancers, and so few performance opportunities. Because of this, young dancers, eager to do anything that will allow them to dance, may be exposed to risks they had not anticipated while at the barre.

The worst of these risks – thankfully rare – is to be abducted into world of human trafficking. There have been a number of cases, of late largely focused in Eastern Europe, where girls are engaged to dance, frequently in cabarets, in a foreign country. While there, they have their passports taken away and they are forced into prostitution (The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime cites Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine as being among the countries that are the greatest sources of trafficked persons, and Thailand, Japan, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the United States as common destination countries of trafficked women and girls).

If your daughter is considering a foreign engagement, be very sure that you know who the agents are, and that they are stable and easily locatable. Verify that the engagements themselves are in legitimate places, and try to pre-establish independent contacts in the country to which your daughter will be going. It is also a prudent idea to speak with the American Embassy in that country, to find out what precautions need to be taken, and to have a contact point in case of an emergency. As with all travel, the dancer should have extra photocopies of their passport. In addition, giving them a local cell phone so that they can check in with parents or friends immediately upon arrival (and regularly thereafter) is a good idea, as is having a code word or phrase to indicate that they are in trouble. Note that they can use a callback service – we use World Wide Telecom’s call back service (http://www.wwtelecom.com/ilive.htm) – so that they don’t have to spend money out of pocket. Even if the phone is taken away from them, the sudden lack of contact will be an alert that something has possibly gone wrong, and that they might need help.

Many cabaret owners, both abroad and in the U.S. expect that girls will mingle with patrons between acts. Some girls enjoy this, and some find it distasteful. It is a good idea to find out if they will be required to act as a B- girl or just dance, and help them make a decision beforehand as to what they want to do. It is not fun to end up in a foreign country – or even to rehearse for a review here – and then discover that you are being discharged without pay because you are only willing to dance.

Another problem can be that an engagement simply doesn’t work out for reasons beyond your control, and that the show closes, leaving them somewhere with no income stream. For this reason it is a good idea to have a return ticket before they leave home for any engagement.

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