A Dancers Guide to Working Abroad
Working abroad can be an exciting and enjoyable way to build your CV, broaden your skills set and contact list, and a great way to see the rest of the world. The key to getting the most out of this opportunity is to keep a cool head before accepting a contract - which can often be issued at very short notice!
Most importantly, research your employer. Often contracts drawn up by foreign companies will not be enforceable under UK law, so in the unfortunate event that a dispute arises while you're away (e.g. you are not paid what you were expecting) it can become very difficult to fight your case through official channels.
The best way to protect yourself is to search the internet and/or do some asking around before you leave the UK. Can you speak to anyone who has previously worked for the company that has just offered you a contract? Was their job description accurate? Did they provide comfortable accommodation? Did they pay promptly and in full? You will be surprised how quickly you can establish whether or not a foreign employer/agency has a good reputation or mistreats their dancers.
Always read the small print!
Make sure you know what's covered in your payment - does the employer pay for accommodation, transfers, visa costs, food/per diems over and above the basic fee they are offering (in most cases, they should). It is even worth checking whether they supply costumes! If you feel there is any ambiguity in the contract, don't be shy - contact the employer and ask them to put into writing anything you feel it is important to clarify. If they are a responsible and experienced employer, they should be more than happy to do so.
Make sure you have medical insurance in place before you leave
Some employers offer this, others don't. Remember, you're a dancer, and injuries can unfortunately occur in your line of work. Not to mention the fact you're travelling to another country and you may not be used to the climate or food. It can be tempting to skip proper insurance, especially if it's a short contract, but be careful - medical care can be very expensive in other countries. When you do buy medical insurance, make sure it covers more than just a holiday - if you need to make a claim, and employment/sports activities aren't covered by your policy, the insurer will not pay.
Some employers and agencies, commonly in India, want to make sure that you remain exclusive to their company for a period of time (up to 3-5years) beyond the duration of your contract. These clauses ensure you only accept employment in the country in question if it is offered through the same agency. Make sure that you are happy with this. If you aren't, contest it.
An obvious one, but make sure you have all the permits you need to gain entry (and in some cases, exit!) from the country or countries to which you are travelling. Make sure you have at least six months left to run on your passport - this is often a requirement for issuing a visa.
Finally, make sure you give a few trusted loved ones all your relevant contact details and a forwarding address for your employer. Then pack your bags, take the plunge, and have fun!
This guide was written with the gracious assistance of Mandy Dancer Mira Kozlowska.