Rockettes off stage

The controversy behind the Rockettes and their scheduled appearance as part of the inaugural festivities looked like it was going to be resolved within a couple of news cycles. But like anything Trump, the story continues to linger with the kind of damaging, sulfurous pall that hangs over everything that he touches. The real story is not one about unions, dancers, who will and who won’t, or whether some will be fired for bailing on their “voluntary” participation (though those are important issues), but that they were asked at all by a cadre of clueless handlers who seem to have no taste, restraint, as well as a fearsome inability to acknowledge the damage Trump has unleashed on marginalized, and minority groups across the country, and in particular, women.

“It's almost worse to have 18 pretty white girls behind this man who supports so many hate groups”

It wouldn’t be the first time that the dark heart of the organization has been exposed. In the late 1970’s, the Radio City organization deliberately engaged in a self-sabotaging effort to ruin their business and raze the building in a shady real estate deal. Since then, their trajectory has been overwhelmingly positive and their brand is well established and respected in the dance world. But now that at least one of the Rockettes has gone public with her story in a Marie Claire article we are surely going to hear more. Though the large majority of dancers seem to feel appalled by the offer there are those who are willing to go ahead and perform. The split will no likely cause rifts among the Rockettes themselves who are no longer the homogeneous, all white ensemble they used to be. She noted that no performers of color have indicated they will perform, and as the anonymous dancer in the story noted, “It's almost worse to have 18 pretty white girls behind this man who supports so many hate groups”.

The impact for Radio City has been immediate with an unusual number of empty seats for the Christmas Spectacular programs and a cloud hanging over the usual celebratory season at the music hall venue. There is a sense that the brand is being damaged and that the inaugural event will create a group of pariah dancers who will find it difficult to earn back the lost respect for going ahead and performing in an event boycotted by most of the dancers.

"There's a reason why everyone else is turning this down. Why are we not?"

It’s not often that politics comes knocking on the door of those in the dance world. But when it does, it tends to point out that even the kind of Americana invested in a group like the Rockettes can be exposed in unexpected ways to the political divide that continues to consume our current national dialogue. As the informant for the Marie Claire story noted, "There's a reason why everyone else is turning this down. Why are we not?"

About the author

Steven Woodruff lives in Los Angeles where he is a professional musician, dancer, educator, and writer. His writing includes original poetry and translations as well articles on film, stage, television, and culture. He reviews dance and music covering national and international touring concert programs as well as local companies for DancePlug, DanceChannelTV, and BachTrack in the UK.