Every four years, at the presidential inauguration, there are several performances from well-known musicians, singers, and dancers. Generally, people are more than willing to perform at the same event where the president gets sworn in, but this year seems to be different.
Many artists have publicly refused to play at the inauguration for Donald Trump in opposition to his politics and campaign rhetoric. The list of performers include Elton John, Idina Menzel, John Legend, The Chainsmokers, Adam Lambert, The Dixie Chicks, The 1975, Andrea Bocelli, and more. All of these artists have provided their personal thoughts on Trump, but one group that has accepted the call to perform and clearly stated their issues about their scheduled performance are the Radio City Rockettes.
The announcement of the Rockettes’ performance was met with swift disapproval from fans and the dancers alike. Many of the dancers took to social media to express their anger at having to perform for a man that they saw as disrespectful to women and people of color. The Rockettes’ management company, Madison Square Garden Company, also took heat for seemingly forcing the dancers to perform or else be in breach of contract. However, the company later released a statement that the performance was voluntary and that “for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available.”
In an exclusive interview with Marie Claire, one dancer, Mary, spoke out about the Rockettes’ anticipated performance at the inauguration. “If I had to lose my job over this, I would. It’s too important. And I think the rest of the performing arts community would happily stand behind me,” she explained.
She went on to say that, at first, this performance was mandatory for every Rockette, but then went into detail, explaining that some Rockettes have different contracts than others. There are 13 full-time Rockettes and 80 seasonal Rockettes. The obligation then became mandatory for the full-time dancers and optional for the seasonal dancers. After some protesting, the event became optional for everyone, but many of the full-time dancers are scared of losing their job if they opt-out.
It has been said that no dancers of color have signed up to perform at the Inauguration. Mary mentions, “The lack of diversity in the kick line is ‘embarrassing’ on a normal day and will only be more pointed in January.” Mary and many of the other dancers feel as though there is now a divide in the company due to the fact that the majority of the dancers said no to the performance immediately, while the others said yes “for whatever reason.” There is also concern about the Rockettes’ brand being ruined, mostly because the Radio City stage has become politicized. Mary says, “This is not a Republican or Democrat issue–this is a women’s right issue.”
Ever since the news of the inauguration performance has gone public, there have been many empty seats at the Rockettes’ shows, especially on Christmas Eve, where the house is usually packed for the Christmas Spectacular.
As of now, there will be a Rockette performance at the inauguration for President Donald Trump, despite many dancers declining the offer. Some musical guests that agreed to perform along with them include Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old from “America’s Got Talent”; Beau Davidson, a singer/songwriter; The Reagan Years, an ’80s cover band; and several DJs. The inauguration will take place on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.