Saturday, 24 December 2016


Within hours of confirming plans to appear at the anauguration of Donald J. Trump , the Radio City Rockette were plunged into a maelstrom of social media outrage on Friday amid reports that the performers were contractually obligated to dance at the ceremony or lose their jobs.
But as the day wore on, both the Madison Square Garden Company, which manages the Rockettes, and the dancers’ union, the American Guild of Variety Artists, said that any of the dancers could opt out of the Jan. 20 performance in Washington.
The day of statements followed reports that a Rockette was “embarrassed and disappointed” that the decision to perform had been made for her. The dancer’s private Instagram post was published by the gossip website Perez Hilton  and quoted widely by news outlets. That dancer, Phoebe Pearl, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Friday, nor did several of her fellow performers.

Not long after those reports, a statement relayed through Mikyl Cordova, a spokeswoman for the Madison Square Garden Company, said that dancers’ appearances are voluntary.
“For a Rockette to be considered for an event, they must voluntarily sign up and are never told they have to perform at a particular event, including the inaugural,” the statement read. “It is always their choice.”
The statement also said that, among the dancers, Mr. Trump’s inauguration has been a popular opportunity: “In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available. We eagerly await the inaugural celebrations.” Nonetheless, the company did not respond to further inquiries or make any dancers available for interviews.
Despite these assurances, many of the women may feel under pressure to perform. Much of the fear and confusion could be traced to an email sent on Thursday night by the union to some of the dancers.
“If you are full time, you are obligated,” said that message, which was forwarded to The New York Times. “Doing the best performance to reflect an American institution which has been here for over 90 years is your job. I hope this pulls into focus the bottom line on this work.”
Union officials did not return any calls, but on Friday evening, the guild said on Facebook  that it had reached an agreement with the company that would allow all employees, even full-time dancers, to opt out of the inauguration. It said the earlier email to its members had simply been an explanation of the existing contract.
The pressure to perform at the inauguration ceremony will probably vary based on the circumstances of each Rockette, according to a performer who spent five years with the company.
Heather Lang, a contemporary dancer who left the Rockettes in 2009, said in a phone interview that there are about 12 full-time dancers who perform in both winter and spring shows. They are a minority of the company, which has about 80 Rockettes. All of the dancers were seasonal until about a year ago.

SOURCE: New York Times

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