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Dancers' Union Files Labor Charge Against NYC Ballet

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There's drama behind the scenes at the New York City Ballet (NYCB) after the troupe announced the creation of a smaller touring company, New York City Ballet Moves.

The new company would bring City Ballet dancers to perform at more intimate venues, such as small concert halls and universities. But the union that represents ballet dancers nationwide has moved to block the creation of the smaller company, claiming that the City Ballet dancers' labor contract prohibits breaking up the full troupe without getting permission from the union first. On Tuesday, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against City Ballet.

Since last July, the New York City Ballet and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) have been in tense negotiations over their collective bargaining agreement. "City Ballet has taken a very aggressive position and told us that they don't want to give the dancers a wage increase," said Alan Gordon, the union's director. "And that they won't reply to our proposals about improved conditions unless they accept a wage freeze."

The union's demands include provisions that would require producers to post casting calls 14 days in advance of a performance. Producers would also would have to start rehearsals after noon, so that dancers can get a full night's sleep and have time to warm up. Gordon says the dancers aren't being prima donnas. "Have you seen Black Swan?" he said. "You think it’s a lot of pressure in the movie? It's twice that in the real world."

Like many large arts institutions, City Ballet's budget has suffered from declined charitable giving during the recession. The union previously accepted a year of frozen salaries, but now hopes to use the unfair labor practice as leverage to raise salaries in the new contract.

In a written statement, the New York City Ballet claims "the NYCB had previously told AGMA of its plans to develop smaller touring opportunities above and beyond the company's annual season, so AGMA was well aware of NYCB's intentions in this regard and we hope that the union will not stand in the way of additional work opportunities for its members."

Gordon says the union isn't necessarily opposed to the smaller ensemble, but it wants to make sure the right protections are in place. "It sounds nice to say 'it will be more work for the dancers.' But will it be more strain on the dancers?"

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Comments [2]

Fredrick from New York City

Let's be clear. These are tough times for arts organizations everywhere. What's needed is decisive action that requires compromise on everyone's part. If unsuccessful, the result could be devastating and not what anyone would want. Let's hope the dancers and management both appreciate it is their collective best interest to meet each other halfway to resolve their dispute gracefully and without interruption to the upcoming season.

Apr. 29 2011 09:52 AM
eltimber from NYC

I wonder how ABT does it. It would be wonderful to have a small troupes to go to
smaller venues. Dancers already do this on their own, It is great to bring dance to everyone, good for the Art. But do the dancers have a choice?, Would this be included as part of their regular season, would they be able to opt out? I don't know enough about the hardships of training to know if the Union requests would be a hinderance. Dancers seem to love to work at it.

Jan. 12 2011 06:36 PM

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