New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
News, 2-26: Strike!
As Looming Changes in Unemployment Rules Threaten France with "Cultural
Decertification," Artists and Theaters Stop Work for a Day
"We want to live from
-- Badge worn by striking
artists last night in Paris
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
PARIS -- Freelance performing
artists and technicians, nervous about threatened changes to a system
which grants them unemployment insurance if they work about 70 days
per year and ensures the existence of hundreds of small companies
and theaters, convened a 24-hour national strike Tuesday, supported
by theaters and film producers across the country who suspended
operations on a day that concluded with 30,000 artists and their
supporters marching from the Bastille down the Grand Boulevards.
The regime for the "Intermittents
du spectacle," installed a year after the student protests of 1968,
indemnifies for a year freelance artists and technicians who work
a total of 507 hours the previous year. The threshold is higher
and the period of insurance shorter for actors, dancers, and musicians
performing live, who must work 606 hours for four months of unemployment
to kick in. About 96,000 workers currently qualify. Translated to
an American landscape, such a system would decrease the need for
dancers to work multiple non-dance jobs to support their performing
careers; it would also subsidize dancers while they rehearse, look
for work, or take classes. In France, where smaller companies are
less likely than big ones to receive state funding and where there
is little infrastructure for private giving, the elimination of
the Intermittents du spectacle regime could decimate the cultural
landscape, leaving only the larger companies and the grand-scale
The triggers for the
current panic include an $800 million deficit in the insurance system,
hostility to the system by Medef, the largest employers union, and
charges by government inspectors that the current system is open
to fraud, including false reporting or trading of hours. Supporters
counter that in fact, one must jump through several hurdles to prove
the hours are legitimate. Further exacerbating the worry, say leaders
of the arts community, has been the failure by the current right-wing
government to state a clear position on the issue.
"It's the worst warning
we've had for a long time on this matter," said Jean-Marie Horde,
general director of the Theatre de la Bastille, a major dance and
theater presenter which cancelled last night's final performance
of the new creation from Douglas Dunn, Steve Lacy, Charles Atlas
and Carol Mullins to honor the strike. Among the more than 100 other
theaters who also darkened their houses were the Comedie-Francaise,
Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt, Opera-Comique, Odeon, and
Opera Garnier, one of two homes to the Paris Opera Ballet.
At the Opera Bastille,
the ballet company's other home, a large banner dangled from the
balcony over demonstrators who packed the front steps, announcing,
"Opera Bastille en greve." Greve is the French word for strike.
It's no surprise that
theaters should join the strike; many of them depend on Intermittents
not just on the stage, but as technicians as well. Of the 200 hired
by the Theatre de la Bastille every year, only 12 are permanent
employees, including two to three technicians. "It took eight to
set our show," said Mullins, who designed the lights for the work.
"Without this regime,"
explained Horde, "we would have to close."
For the artists and
technicians, the end of the Intermittents regime would provoke a
practical and existential crisis. At last night's rally, many of
the demonstrators sported paper badges proclaiming, "We want to
live from our metiers."
For Dominique Lubeigt,
an independent choreographer and dancer, the Intermittents law "makes
my work possible. Because to do this kind of work, you need time
and energy. Finding a job in the normal world doesn't allow you
this." Voicing a sentiment familiar to U.S. choreographers who must
coordinate studio rental around the multiple non-dance work schedules
of their dancers, Lubeigt explained last night in the lobby of the
Bastille, "If you need to rent a studio, you can't get the hours
you like if you work during the day with fixed periods. I also work
on my own, without a producer. I have to sell the work, make the
flyers.... I can't pay someone to do this."
While media reports,
including Monday's coverage of the issue in the Paris daily Liberation,
have speculated that the government might raise the hours of work
required before unemployment kicks in, the government itself has
not clearly addressed the issue, said Horde. "It's very clear (the
government) wants to change" the regime, he said, but, "it's the
first time the government doesn't state clearly the issue," which,
he said, needs to be addressed from a political, not just an economic
stance. "They've been keeping it vague."
Perhaps in part for
that reason, support for the Intermittents is not unanimous, among
the public or even other, established, artists. As last night's
demonstration set off from the Bastille, a cadre of about 300, including
members of the agit-prop theater-music company Jolie Mome, broke
off to march to and picket Bataclan, a mainstream theater where
the show had not been cancelled, at the behest, demonstrators said,
of the headliner, singer Michel Jonasz.
Standing near a poster
for another show ironically titled "Zazie Squatte," the demonstrators
-- all in fine voice -- chanted, "En greve/No spectacle!," "Annule
(Cancel) le spectacle!," "En greve -- tout les spectacles!(On strike!
All the shows!)," and, as the singer arrived and forced his way
through the crush of the demonstrators, "Jonasz, avec nous! (Jonasz,
The effort succeeded;
shortly after 8 p.m., behind a barricade of several security guards,
theater workers placed a hastily scribbled sign in the window, "Tonight's
show has been cancelled for reasons of security," lowered the metal
gate at the building's facade, and darkened the lobby.
A battle was won, but
not necessarily the war. Lingering demonstrators engaged in lively
debates with disappointed spectators arriving to discover the performance
cancelled. "You can always stay home and watch television," one
striker scolded an irritated and poshly attired Jonasz fan.
As in the United States,
many in the public here have the mistaken impression that artists
are a privileged class, and that the regime of the Intermittents
just enables their liberal lifestyle. In order to retain the regime,
artists and theaters will have to convince them of the law's vitality
not just to the lives of artists, but the cultural life of France.
"It would be a big problem" if the regime were eliminated, said
Horde, "because our history in France is not of the big theater
with permanent employees." The majority of creations, he said, come
from "the free groups, who need this."
The consequences to
the country's cultural scene could be devastating, warned the Federation
des Syndicats CGT du Spectacle, which represents the artists. "In
a period marked by successive decreases in the cultural budget,"
it said in a statement distributed at the demonstration, drastic
changes to the Intermittents law risk "dragging our country close
to cultural decertification."
By contrast, Horde said,
if the regime survives, its impact could extend beyond France. "The
regime of the Intermittents should be the model for Europe. Europe...has
missed the main thing that connects European countries, which is
Attending the lively
discussion of the issue last night at the Bastille, Mullins observed,
"All these years I've been envious of the French system. I don't
want them to be worse than the U.S."
Go back to Flash Reviews