Labor Negotiations Threaten Joffrey Ballet's Fall Season

July 5, 2011
Chuck Sudo


The NFL and NBA are in the midst of lockouts that could threaten their upcoming seasons. Fans of dance may now add the Joffrey Ballet to that list. Dancers for the prestigious ballet company were locked out of their rehearsal studios over the weekend, days after receiving a letter from Joffrey Executive Director Christopher Conway and board chairman Jason Tyler that read the company's fall schedule would be lost if they could not reach an agreement with the union representing the dancers.

Joffrey's contract with the American Guild of Musical Artists expired midnight last Thursday. Conway told the Sun-times' Hedy Weiss, "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.” The letter ordered dancers to clear out their lockers and turn in their keys by Thursday, until a new contract is reached.

One of the key points in the labor negotiations between Joffrey and AGMA is a move to a 30-hour rehearsal week. Under the terms of the expired contract, Joffrey dancers had a 25-hour rehearsal week which Clinton said is detrimental to attracting choreographers and dance professionals. Joffrey featured dancer Fabrice Calmels downplayed the letter, adding that they don't intend to go on strike. The company, meanwhile, is still selling tickets to upcoming performances and have promised refunds should the lockout extend into the fall.