Super Bowl Halftime Show Criticized By Dancers For Hours Of Unpaid Work

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The Super Bowl LVL halftime show is expected to be one that fans will never forget as Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar hit the stage on Feb. 13. While much effort has gone into making this an unforgettable experience, participants are complaining about hours of unpaid rehearsals. 

Aspiring dancers, actors, singers, and musicians have been recruited for the show, but have yet to be paid for their time. Dance artist and activist Taja Riley shed light on the situation and other dancers including Alyson Stoner and Heather Morris have also spoken out. 

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Image

Addressing halftime show choreographer Fatima Robinson, Riley demanded that Robinson stand up for better treatment of the participants. In a live video, Riley said, “I think that in a performance that is going to highlight predominantly African American movers, African American recording artists and African American culture – Inglewood stand up – I think this is the opportunity… to really step up and do something about this.” Following her video, Riley told The Times that Robinson had blocked her on Instagram and expressed her disappointment with the dance icon. 

Riley has worked alongside the likes of Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna. Though she did not audition for the Super Bowl performance, she decided to speak out after learning that Bloc LA, a prominent agency in Los Angeles, contacted clients with the chance to volunteer. Riley posted an email from a Bloc client that had been selected for the performance that read, “Speaking with the casting manager, she asked if I knew anyone who would be open to the opportunity/experience and specified that she wanted ‘predominantly African American movers’.”

The Bloc LA has declined to comment, but in an interview with The Times, Robinson said, “We’re not asking dancers to work as dancers for free. What was asked is, ‘Would anyone like to volunteer for the field cast?’”

Casting manager Kristen Terry clarified that “African American movers” was never a part of the official casting call, but it was possible that it may have been expressed in conversation. “We wanted to ensure a diverse showing on the field,” Terry said. 

Jana Fleishman, executive vice president of strategy and communications for Roc Nation, which executive produces the halftime show, also issued a statement to The Times. “We completely agree that all dancers should be compensated for their craft and that is why we are employing 115 professional dancers performing alongside the headliners. The professional dancers are completely separate from the volunteer-based, non-choreographed field cast. As in years past, it is completely up to the volunteer candidates to participate. Volunteers are not asked to learn choreography.”

Robinson expressed that the field cast is meant to represent people going to a concert, “to fill up the space and bring energy to the performers who are performing on the stage that we designed.” The choreographer also said the call for paid dancers was put out through major dance agencies in LA and the 400 field cast volunteers are being recruited elsewhere. 

Riley has since expressed her dissatisfaction with all those involved, stating that 400 predominantly unpaid Black workers is unacceptable, especially during Black History Month. 

[Via]

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