If the Joffrey Ballet and its dancers can agree on
working hours and wages by July 23, the company’s fall season can still
be salvaged, the company’s executive director said Monday.
The dancers were locked out of their studios over
the weekend in the wake of a letter from the company that stated the
season would have to be canceled because no contract had been settled
with the dancers’ union, the American Guild of Musical Artists.
“We told the dancers, who are currently on hiatus
and who were expected to begin rehearsals on July 23, that we would not
proceed with the fall season without a contract agreement,” said the
director, Christopher Clinton Conway.
“We also told them that we are now the only AGMA
company in the U.S. with a 25-hour rather than 30-hour-per-week
contract, something that is absolutely necessary if we are to continue
attracting world-class choreographers to work with the company.
Tickets for the fall season at the Auditorium
Theatre are still being sold, and Conway said should the worst occur,
all patrons would receive refunds.
The Joffrey also is scheduled to perform Aug. 20-21
at the Blossom Festival in Cleveland and Aug. 27 at the Pritzker
Pavilion as part of the Chicago Dancing Festival.
“There has been a complete lack of communication
with AGMA,” said Conway. “That is why we brought in a federal mediator
[in April], but the mediator also has grown frustrated at the lack of
response by the union. We have not heard from the union for five weeks.”
Attempts to reach Barbara Hillman, the dancers’
AGMA representative, who is with the law firm of Cornfield and Feldman,
were unsuccessful over the holiday weekend.
“We are offering salary increases and a phase-in
over three years of the hours changes,” said Conway. “Work on building
the sets and costumes for our planned October production of ‘Don
Quixote’ — a huge undertaking — will continue, as even if the fall
season is canceled we will perform it in the future. But we are willing
and available to continue talks and resolve all issues before July 23.”
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