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Members of The Radio City Rockettes rehearse for the 2014 edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York October 7, 2014. (RTR49ARY)
Members of The Radio City Rockettes rehearse for the 2014 edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York October 7, 2014. (RTR49ARY)

Kicking and screaming

A Rockette dishes on Trump controversy

By WITW Staff on December 28, 2016

In an exclusive interview with Marie Claire, one of the world-famous Rockettes has revealed what happened behind the scenes when the dancers found out – to their disgust, for many – that they had been booked to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration. The dancers have been very reluctant to speak to the press, out of fear of repercussions, but a Rockette using the pseudonym “Mary” told the magazine that one dancer cried all throughout a performance after hearing she was “being forced to perform for this monster,” while another wrote an e-mail to her colleagues saying she would not “feel comfortable standing near a man like that in our costumes.”

There have been many conflicting reports on whether the Rockettes would be contractually required to perform on January 20th, at the risk of losing their jobs, or whether they would be allowed to opt out. Mary explained that there are different contracts for the dancers: thirteen are full-time Rockettes, who need to be available for any work (outside of approved vacation time), while 80 other dancers have only signed a seasonal contract. After the backlash on social media, producers decided to make participation voluntary after all, but some dancers are still afraid about what that could mean for their careers. “It will be interesting to see who doesn’t get their job back,” Mary says. “But do you really want to work for a company that supports this? I just don’t know. It’s become a moral issue at this point.”

The performance has caused a rift in the group: while a few have agreed to perform, others feel they cannot stand celebrating a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and embraced divisive, racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. And while there are Trump supporters among some of the crew that puts on the Rockettes’ show at Radio City Music Hall, the majority of the staff does not – and many LGBT employees feel threatened by the incoming president-elect. “It’s the ensemble. It’s the people in our wardrobe and hair department, some of whom are transgender,” she says. “These are our friends and our family, who we’ve worked with for years. It’s a basic human-rights issue. We have immigrants in the show. I feel like dancing for Trump would be disrespecting the men and women who work with us, the people we care about.” According to Mary, so far no women of color have agreed to perform on the day. “It’s almost worse to have 18 pretty white girls behind this man who supports so many hate groups,” she says, adding that the lack of diversity in the group is embarrassing enough on any given day. “They’re going to be branded in history as one of those women,” she added. “How’s it going to look?”

Read the full story at Marie Claire.