Stephen Manes: If you ask any professional dancer what they absolutely think people don’t get about what they do is that it is a job, and here, and at a lot of companies, it’s a union job, which is absolutely unusual, as unions’ effect has been diminished over the years in the American workplace. In fact, what’s truly bizarre is if you’re sitting in the audience, everybody in front of you is a union worker. Not just the dancers, but also the stagehands, the musicians, and the dressers even have their own union. The only non-union person you will see is the conductor, because he’s considered management. But yeah, it is absolutely a job. They get paid, they have a union pay scale. They have a union that tells exactly when they’re going to get a break, which is every hour for five minutes, and they need that break. They have union rules about the temperature in the studio, because they don’t like to be too cold. They have union rules about the floor quality, because they don’t want to get hurt. The union hours in Seattle are basically twelve to seven, with a 3 o’clock lunch break, so it’s kind of odd. They’re almost on a different time zone from the rest of the world. Every day in the morning -- this is before their union hours -- they’re in to stretch, probably around 9:00 a.m., and then there’s a class that runs from about 10:15 to quarter to 12. The class, though it’s non-mandatory, everybody does it. It’s done in ballet companies throughout the world. In French, it’s known as the “classe de perfection.” It’s to help perfect your work. They get a 15-minute break after this class. The time they put in, their day, is 12 hours.
Manes makes clear that what these people do is work---hard work. This is a particularly sensitive point for the dancers: nothing annoys them more than the assumption that they don’t have a "real" job. [1:41]