The Radio City Rockettes deal in precision, but the story of the group agreeing to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony next month is a bit of a mess.
At least some of the dance group didn’t want to perform for the incoming president’s celebration, but a string of messages between dancers, their union and the troupe’s ownership group over the latter part of the week caused confusion for many. Ultimately, dancers will now be able to individually choose whether or not to perform on Inauguration Day.
Let’s break it down:
Late Friday, following negotiations with the Rockettes owner, the Madison Square Garden Co., and the performers’ union, The American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), announced on Facebook that no Rockettes would be obligated to perform.
“Fortunately, the Company has agreed that ALL participation in this particular event will be voluntary. We are greatly relieved and hope to work with our Members to inform them and alleviate the anxiety and fears that this has caused.”
How we got here:
Donald Trump’s transition-team and the Madison Square Garden Co. confirmed that the Rockettes would perform at the president-elect’s inauguration next month.
Almost immediately, the Rockettes were coming under criticism on social media — including from one Rockette herself.
In a since deleted post on Instagram, dancer Phoebe Pearl said she was “embarrassed and disappointed” to learn of the decision.
“The women I work with are intelligent and are full of love,” Pearl wrote. “The decision of performing for a man that stands for everything we’re against is appalling.” She added, “We have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts,” with the hashtag #notmypresident.
Any talk of boycotting the performance seemed to be quashed by the Rockettes’ union — the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). In an email obtained and published by Broadwayworld.com, a union representative wrote that “Everyone is entitled to her own political beliefs, but there is no room for this in the workplace.” The letter noted that dancers who are not full time did not have to sign up to perform, but “if you are fulltime, you are obligated.”
The Madison Square Garden Co. released a statement stating that all performances were voluntary:
“The Radio City Rockettes are proud to participate in the 58th Presidential Inaugural. 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. It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available. We eagerly await the inaugural celebrations.”
In a post on the AGVA’s Facebook page, the union stated that following a meeting, the Madison Square Garden Co. had agreed that all participation would be voluntary (though the MSG Co. seems to be saying that was the case all along.) The AGVA also clarified the language of their Thursday email, stating:
The Union never “demanded” that the Rockettes perform at the inauguration. A message was sent to the Rockettes last evening that stated the terms of their contract. There is a small group of year round Rockettes who are contractually obligated to perform at scheduled events throughout the year. We are pleased that Radio City has agreed that for those Rockettes with year-round employment, participation in this event will be voluntary as well.
College dance team faces similar backlash
So, it seems that Rockettes who don’t want to participate are off the hook. But the dance troupe is not the only group coming under fire for being involved in the inauguration celebrations.
The Austin American-Statesman reported Thursday that Texas State University’s dance team, The Strutters, had shut down its Twitter account following harsh criticism for agreeing to participate. It remained deleted as of midday Saturday.
Thoughts were mixed on the group’s announcement on Facebook.
Several major acts, including Elton John, Garth Brooks, Celine Dion and Idina Menzel, have reportedly refused to participate in the inauguration celebrations. In response to a question from Vanity Fair about Trump’s difficulty locking down performers, Menzel said, “It’s karma, baby.”