Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ballet Dancers On Strike In DC--Refuse To Be Danced To Death

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

The tragic fairy tale of the Red Shoes whereby the girl is forced to dance to death inspired a movie called "The Red Shoes" with Moira Shearer in the lead role. Many girls who watched this movie wanted to be a dancer like her. But not the "dances to death" part.

From the Washington Post
Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser has offered to mediate the bitter and drawn-out contract negotiations between the shut-down Washington Ballet and its dancers' union, but the ballet's leadership has rejected the idea, an official confirmed yesterday.
Dancers and management returned to the bargaining table this week for the first time since the ballet announced Dec. 23 that it would cancel two future Kennedy Center engagements as well as one at New York's Joyce Theater, citing a lack of funds because 12 performances of "The Nutcracker" had been canceled.

The profitable "Nutcracker" run was scrapped beginning Dec. 15 when contract talks broke down and the dancers, frustrated at the slow process, told management they would not dance without agreements on job security and safety issues relating to what they say is a high injury rate. Management refused to negotiate on the dancers' draft of an "interim" agreement and shut down the production, claiming the dancers had threatened to strike.
The dancers view management's actions as a lockout, but they recently learned their unemployment claims have been denied, meaning they will be without pay while the company is on hiatus, said AGMA local representative Eleni Kallas.

A major issue for the union is maintaining the size of the company. Dancers view this point as a health issue, arguing that cutting dancers will lead to overwork and increased injuries for the rest. Management's refusal to negotiate on a proposed requirement of a minimum number of dancers is evidence that "nobody really cares" about the dancers, Kallas said.
Good old flat earth productivity! Maybe they could outsource the Nutcracker to India! Let them be sugarplum fairies.

Really, this "productivity" stuff is just another way of saying, "work them to death, this way we can force them to eat the effects of inflation!" Namely, not only do you get paid less and less due to money becoming more and more worthless, you have to double the work to make up the loss of income for the corporation!

One way of doing this is to hire ever cheaper labor. Of course, musicians and dancers can't be easily replaced at the top ranks of the profession and the Kennedy ballet dancers are up there, not as high as NYC but close. Strikes are breaking out all over the performing arts thanks to inflation.

From CBS News:
A showdown devoid of holiday cheer loomed at Radio City Music Hall, where management debuted its annual "Christmas Spectacular" Thursday with recorded music amid a bitter labor dispute with its orchestra.

Some patrons emerging from the debut told WCBS-TV they weren't even aware the orchestra wasn't there and the music wasn't live.

"We didn't even realize it was canned until we asked somebody at intermission," one said. "I couldn’t tell, and we come here almost every year."
That is pretty sad. I certainly can tell if an orchestra is real and not a recording but then, I am trained to be on the stage (and had to use canned music which isn't nearly so much joy as a live orchestra!). Broadway musicals and plays have been ruthlessly reducing the number of musicians and they fight with the unions all the time, the goal is to have zero human input on a daily basis, might as well make robots to play the roles, too.

Heck, the Japanese are hard at work on that very thing.

There have been other dance strikes and this causes a lot of bitterness between the performers and the choreographers. Right now, ballet is in the doldrums, no great creators anywhere as far as I can tell, some fine dancers but no real guiding light like Balanchine or Martha Graham, just to give two of the brighter lights that no longer shine.

Dancing is hard work. The hours of preparation before a performance, tuning down afterwards, the sacrifices and hardships of ballet dancers are legendary. Literally bleeding as they remove the toe shoes. Just like in the movie. Dedication, the stringent ban on eating pretty much anything, like models, their refrigerators often have only yogurt and bottled water! All this and now they will be asked to dance double performances!

A good way to shorten their careers.

Meanwhile, sports stars rake in ever more cash. While the grinding need to cut expenses are inflicted upon the lower ranks there, too. As inflation increases, this will get worse for all of us.
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