The company that manages the Radio City Rockettes and the union that represents the dancers said Friday that any performer could choose to skip President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony, after criticism online.
The announcement by Madison Square Garden and the American Guild of Variety Artists came after uproar on social media, with one dancer calling the performance “appalling” and claims that the dancers were being coerced into performing at the ceremony or risk being fired.
“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 company said in a statement. “It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available.”
The controversy kicked up after Rockette Pheobe Pearl took to Instagram late Thursday to share her frustration at being informed that she would be performing for the President-elect.
“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,” she captioned a private Instagram post, adding the words “Not My President” to a photo of the dance troupe on stage.
The New York Post shared the Instagram post early Friday morning and it instantly went viral, with fans on social media praising Pearl and calling for a boycott of the ceremony, while others criticized the dancer for politicizing one of America’s oldest performing groups.
Rumors began spreading on social media that the world famous dancers were told they had to perform at the ceremony, or face termination.
An email purportedly from the American Guild of Variety Artists which was published on the website BroadwayWorld called a boycott “invalid.” On Friday, the union said its position has been misrepresented.
“The Union never ‘demanded’ that the Rockettes perform at the inauguration, the AGVA said in a statement. “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.”
The dancers who choose to attend will join The Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20. Earlier this month, Trump’s inaugural committee announced that “America’s Got Talent” star Jackie Evancho will be singing the national anthem at the ceremony.
One dancer, who wished to remain anonymous, told NBC New York Friday that she felt performing for the president-elect would send “mixed messages” to their young girls, who are among their most passionate fans.
“We’re just trying to spread joy and love and I think a lot of women are worried that because of the things that have been said from him, that we would be sending the wrong message,” she said.
“We get so many young girls coming to us saying, ‘I want to be just be like you when I grow up’ so I feel like performing in the inauguration would just promote something that we don’t stand for.”
The Rockettes, who have performed at Radio City Music Hall since the 1930s, have previously appeared in Super Bowl halftime shows, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades and George W. Bush’s inaugurations in 2001 and 2005.
Source: NBC News