News & Politics

Owner of Rockettes Now Says Inauguration Participation Is 'Voluntary'

The Madison Square Garden Company, owner of Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes, says that participation in Donald Trump’s inaugural ceremonies is voluntary. This contradicts an email sent by the Rockettes’ union, the American Guild of Variety Artists, that warned dancers that boycotting the event was “invalid.”

TPM:

The parent company of the Rockettes said Friday that participation in President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, which had reportedly been protested by at least one dancer when it was announced Thursday, was “voluntary,” contradicting earlier reports.

The Madison Square Garden Company, of which the Rockettes are a part, told The Hollywood Reporter Friday morning that dancers “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,” the statement continued, “for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available. We eagerly await the inaugural celebrations.”

That statement seems to contradict an email reported by BroadwayWorld, an industry publication, on Thursday. In it, an unnamed high-ranking administrative member of the union representing the Rockettes known as the American Guild of Variety Artists acknowledged reported protests by at least one member of the group, but said that dancers had to perform and were contractually required to do so.

“We have been made aware of what is going on Facebook and other social media, however, this does not change anything unless Radio City has a change of heart,” an email from the unnamed union official reads in part, according to a report in BroadWay world, an entertainment industry publication.

“If you are not full time, you do not have to sign up to do this work. If you are full time, you are obligated,” it added later.

Representatives for the American Guild of Variety Artists and The Madison Square Garden Company did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment for this story.

On Thursday, Amanda Duarte, a producer and commentator, claimed on her Facebook page that “Most of the Rockettes do not want to perform at the inauguration.”

Noting that their union would require them to perform anyways, Duarte added: “It’s perfect, actually. What could be more fitting for this inauguration than forcing a group of women to do something with their bodies against their will?”

I tend to give more credence to MSG’s claim that more dancers than they had slots for volunteered to perform than one dancer’s observation that most of the women were being forced against their will to participate. Most people—Rockettes included—don’t care that much (or know that much) about politics and it would seem to be a no-brainer that most dancers would jump at the chance to participate in such an historic event.

Besides, MSG is a New York-based sports and entertainment conglomerate with a huge chunk of its business depending on residents of the city and surrounding suburbs to patronize its events. It’s not surprising that in one of the most liberal enclaves in America they would give dancers the option of opting out of the event—especially since they apparently have more than enough performers to put on an excellent show.