Dissenting Radio City Rockettes Forced to Perform at Presidential Inauguration, Union Says Boycott “Invalid”
The Radio City Rockettes are the most recent act to be confirmed to perform at the upcoming Presidential Inauguration next month, along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and America’s Got Talent runner-up Jackie Evancho. (It’s no Beyoncé singing “At Last,” but it’ll do, I guess.) One Rockette has been pretty vocal about the fact that she and several of her colleagues are not happy about performing for the President-Elect. Their union, however, couldn’t care less.
Rockette Phoebe Pearl took to Instagram to express her displeasure, saying:
“I usually don’t use social media to make a political stand but I feel overwhelmed with emotion. Finding out that it has been decided for us that Rockettes will be performing at the Presidential inauguration makes me feel embarrassed and disappointed. The women I work with are intelligent and are full of love and the decision of performing for a man that stands for everything we’re against is appalling. I am speaking for just myself but please know that after we found out this news, we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts. We will not be forced! #notmypresident”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company (who own Radio City Music Hall), James Dolan, said in his announcement of the performance:
“The Radio City Rockettes, an original American brand, have performed at Radio City Music Hall since 1932 and, as treasured American icons, have taken part in some of the nation’s most illustrious events such as Super Bowl halftime shows, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades and presidential inaugurations, including in 2001 and 2005. We are honored that the Rockettes have again been asked to perform in the upcoming inauguration festivities.”
The Rockettes’ union, American Guild of Variety Artists, rather than backing their members, instead are backing the company that
owns employs them. In an AGVA letter obtained by Broadwayworld.com that was sent to the Rockettes, a “high-ranking member of the union’s administration” seems to see a distinction between part-time and full-time employees, but ultimately draws a hard line as far as expecting the dancers to fulfill their obligation:
“We have received an email from a Rockette expressing concern about getting ‘involved in a dangerous political climate’ but I must remind you that you are all employees, and as a company, Mr. Dolan obviously wants the Rockettes to be represented at our country’s Presidential inauguration, as they were in 2001 & 2005. Any talk of boycotting this event is invalid, I’m afraid.
“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. The ranting of the public is just that, ranting. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but this does not change your employment status for those who are full time.
“This has nothing to do with anyone’s political leanings (including AGVA’s), it has to do with your best performance for your employer, period. I will reiterate that if Hillary Clinton was the President-elect, nothing would be different, and there would probably be those who would not want to be involved because of her. It is a job, and all of you should consider it an honor, no matter who is being sworn in. The election is over and this country will not survive if it remains divided.
“Everyone is entitled to her own political beliefs, but there is no room for this in the workplace.
“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. 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.”
Yet, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Mr. Dolan said:
“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.”
So, Dolan seems to think that it’s completely up to individual dancers, whereas the statement from the union official seems to think that only part-time Rockettes get the option of choice. Who’s telling the truth here? And do the union and the company talk to each other ever?
And more importantly, isn’t it a union’s job to be on the side of its membership?
Also worth noting is that both the AGVA and Dolan mention that the Rockettes performed at the 2001 and 2005 inaugurations. Weird that there’s no mention of performing at the 2008 or 2012 inaugurations. Yet the union higher-up says this has “This has nothing to do with anyone’s political leanings.” Now, Dolan said that the Rockettes were asked to perform at those inaugurations…so, did the Obama inauguration team not ask for the Rockettes? Did the Rockettes not reach out to the White House? Are Republicans into watching lines of women dance for them in particular?
Be that as it may, regardless of the (conflicting) messages coming from the union and the company, the dancers themselves clearly don’t feel like they have a choice, or they would just not do it, and the story would be “X Number of Rockettes Refuse to Perform at Trump’s Inauguration.” Instead, the story is that several are being forced to against their will.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) December 23, 2016
I suddenly feel a sick day coming on. On or around January 20th. Who’s with me?
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