The Super Bowl Halftime Show is one of the most coveted gigs any musician or performer could ever hope for. With millions watching around the globe it may come as a surprise for some that the event doesn’t pay everyone involved in putting it on.
According to industry professionals, providing their talents and time are no longer worth the “exposure” they get from being a part of the show. Fatima Robinson, this year’s head halftime choreographer, revealed via her Instagram that she is “happy to be hiring 115 paid dancers for the Super Bowl this year….the most ever hired” to dance along Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige and Eminem.
That said, that number doesn’t account for the hundreds of others who will be joining paid dancers on the field for free. Alleged requests going out to dancers have been obtained by PageSix revealing the “volunteer” opportunities.
The screenshots from alleged various recruiters as well as L.A.’s Bloc Talent Agency reveal that unpaid dancers are expected to attend mandatory rehearsals that could last up to nine hours daily, and without transportation provided. Since the revelation, prominent dancing and music industry professionals are speaking out.
“It’s not uncommon that the Super Bowl brings forth field local volunteers to be concertgoers for the Super Bowl experience just to deepen the production quality and value and the attention,” Taja Riley, who performed at halftime with Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and Coldplay in 2016 and with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira in 2020, told the outlet. “These are things that are pretty common in the industry, but what is not common is a coordinator or production or producer reaching out to professional talent to hire them as volunteers and working them for the amount of time that they are requesting.”
Melany Centeno, a professional dancer who’s worked with Kanye West, Blige, Pitbull, and Pink, among others, says she was one of the dancers who was allegedly DMed about the volunteer gig and was insulted.
“My immediate response was no, I’ll never dance for Super Bowl for free … they have money to pay people. And I don’t know why they would sit here and front like nine days of rehearsal is needed for people to just file into a stadium,” she told Page Six. “That’s a lot, they’re lying. It’s just like, you guys want to go into the antics about this, and try to find some type of loophole to justify what this is. But this is, at the root, exploitation. It’s coming to light that in the past when the Super Bowl has done this, that these [field] people end up dancing.”
Riley and Centeno say they want Robinson to be “aware” of the situation, and claim the latter has a history of bringing on volunteer dancers.
“There were volunteer dancers to help make it a bigger moment … but the ‘paid’ professional dancers and volunteers were in all the same rehearsals. Basically did the same amount of work and drove themselves to Indio, Calif.,” Centeno said of West’s 2019 Sunday Service for Coachella, which Robinson headed the choreography for.
In the end, she and Riley just want Robinson and other people in charge of this year’s and future Super Bowl halftime shows to “do the right thing.”
“This is such an amazing Super Bowl, to be happening during Black History Month and to showcase Black art, Black culture and predominantly highlighting Black talent … So if you’re going to be a leader of a community, now is the time, if anything, to step up and be called in, to do whatever it is that you can do to forward the movement,” Riley said.
“We’re at a space where we are being overexploited as dance art is being overused, overworked and then undervalued and underpaid,” she added. “I think the next step really is who will stand up like, how loud do we have to get … to bring more awareness to the mistreatment of dance artists. We should be raising the bar now and holding ourselves accountable, especially when we’ve accepted these oppressive ways and practices for so long.”