Madison Square Garden is denying that the Rockettes are being forced to perform at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration after an entertainment website reported that the dancers were told they could not opt out.
“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,” the Madison Square Garden Company, which employs the famous dance troupe, said in a statement on Friday. “In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available. We eagerly await the inaugural celebrations.”
BroadwayWorld reported that the American Guild of Variety Artists, the union that represents the Rockettes, sent the dancers an email telling them they could not boycott the event after one woman objected to performing. The email reportedly referenced James Dolan, the executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company.
“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,” the email read, according to BroadwayWorld. “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.”
In a Thursday Instagram post that has since been deleted, Rockette Phoebe Pearl wrote that she was “embarrassed and disappointed” to perform for Trump. “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,” the post read.
Pearl did not respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment.
The American Guild of Variety Artists said in a press release later Friday afternoon that it had “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,” the union said. “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.”
This story has been updated to include Phoebe Pearl’s statement on Instagram and a statement from the American Guild of Variety Artists.