The unending quest to find some artist willing to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration may have found a headliner in the form of New York’s Radio City Rockettes, the female troupe best known for Christmas-related dancing. There’s a twist, though: It turns out that at least some of the Rockettes really don’t want to kick their legs up for the president-elect, and some of them might not even have a choice in the matter. Basically, there could not possibly be a more fitting introduction to Trump’s America.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, shortly after MSG Entertainment—which owns the Rockettes—confirmed that the group would be performing, a member named Phoebe Pearl posted a since-deleted message on Instagram explaining that she’s “embarrassed and disappointed” by the news:
I usually don’t use social media to make a political stand but I feel overwhelmed with emotion. Finding out that it has been decided for us that Rockettes will be performing at the Presidential Inauguration makes me feel embarrassed and disappointed. 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. I am speaking for just myself but please know that after we found out this news, we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts. We will not be forced! #notmypresident
However, there seem to be conflicting reports about whether or not anyone actually will be forced. Initially, the American Guild Of Variety Artists union (which represents the Rockettes) declared that they could not boycott the event as a whole, and only part-time dancers have the option to refuse at all. Full-time members of the Rockettes, however, “are obligated” to perform. THR then reached out to the MSG people, who released a statement saying that Rockettes members have to volunteer for events, but so many had already asked to dance at the inauguration that it doesn’t matter anyway:
The Radio City Rockettes are proud to participate in the 58th Presidential Inaugural. 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. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available. We eagerly await the inaugural celebrations.
Either way, some celebrities have taken to Twitter to show their support for the Rockettes dancers and to ask that people share their concerns with the AGVA union and MSG itself:
Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin has announced that he will happily perform at the inauguration, but only if he can sing “Highway To Hell.” So at least we’re still having some fun with all of this.
UPDATE: Mashable has reached out to the Madison Square Garden Company for more information, with the company further clarifying its position: “Women are never compelled to perform whether for regular performances or inaugurations…we had more Rockettes request to participate than there were spots.”
A former Rockette has also shared an open letter about this controversy: