The Madison Square Garden Company said on Friday that the famous Radio City Rockettes dancers would not be compelled, by MSG or their union, to perform next month at President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural festivities.
“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,” MSG said in a statement. “It is always their choice.”
The initial concern drew in part from a message sent to performers by their union, the American Guild of Variety Artists, in which, according to an email obtained by BroadwayWorld, the AGVA warned that “any talk of boycotting (the inauguration) is invalid.”
“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 email reportedly said. “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.”
But in a statement late Friday, the AGVA claimed that its initial message had been misinterpreted by anxious dancers.
“The Union never ‘demanded’ that the Rockettes perform at the inauguration,” it said. “A message was sent to the Rockettes last evening that stated the terms of their contract.”
The AGVA also confirmed that participation in the inaugural events would be voluntary — including for those “contractually obligated to perform at scheduled events throughout the year.”
“MSG’s announcement that the Rockettes were being included in the Presidential inaugural has brought up legitimate concern among our Members, the theatrical community and the public at large,” the union conceded, but added: “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.”
Trump’s inaugural committee has so far struggled to book high-profile acts to headline the event. A representative for Elton John very publicly shot down reports the British performer would lend a hand. In 2009, Beyoncé serenaded the new first couple while Faith Hill, Shakira and Alicia Keys all performed at a series of inaugural balls.
On Thursday afternoon, amid reports Trump was fuming at his thin roster, Inaugural committee spokesman Boris Epshteyn told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin the Rockettes had signed on.
“We’ve had a ton of great performers, entertainers, and just Americans reaching out wanting to be a part (of the event),” he said.
The Rockettes will join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which will perform at the swearing-in ceremony, and former “America’s Got Talent” contestant Jackie Evancho, who is slated to sing the national anthem.
James Dolan, executive chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the Radio City outfit, noted in a statement Thursday that the Rockettes have performed at inaugural spectaculars in 2001 and 2005.
“We are honored that the Rockettes have again been asked to perform in the upcoming inauguration festivities.” Dolan said.
Even with the Rockettes on the program, Trump on Thursday night also used social media to express his frustrations.
“The so-called “A” list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, NOTHING,” he tweeted. “I want the PEOPLE!”