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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:49 pm 
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Location: Maryland USA
I am sorry Michael but I have to disagree. Washington can support a full-time ballet company and we have done so for many years. We should have a full-time ballet company, we are, after all, the nation's capital.
The fiasco cannot be blamed on the subscribers and fans in DC. It is shameful that this has happened. Has this whole affair been handled poorly? Yes. Have egos gotten the upper hand? Yes.
I feel impotent rage at the situation. I love the current WB dancers, I hope they can survive this and stay here in DC.
I also appreciate what Septime Webre has tried to do with the WB. Whether he has done right by the dancers is questionable, but his ideas to bring the company up to a national standard is appreciated, by me at least.
Please don't think I am siding with either side, I am not. But I can see both sides and I also think both sides have handled the situation terribly. I don't know if any part of the Ballet is salvageable at this point, but I ardently hope so.
Obviously the dancers are the ones suffering the financial hardships, so please donate something to help them through this time. (And from my selfish point of view enable them to stay in Washington DC)


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 3:16 pm 
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I have to agree with Corrival here. It doesn't seem as if funding is at the center of this mess. It looks as if the funding and finances are just fine and thus the Washington Ballet and the community in Washington D.C. can suport a full time ballet company. It doesn't look like the issues that brought this work stoppage situation about have anything to do with the company finances or the community support. Now that being said, I could easily see where the current situation could seriously effect the future community/board support of the organization, that is why for me all of this just doesn't make any sense.

Does anyone know if Washington DC falls under the US "right to work" laws? I am just wondering because if not then these dancers' hands are tied even if they wanted to return to work without the union's consent. You have to know that there are probably quite a few dancers in WB right now that have bills to pay like everyone else in the world and want to go back to work to get their lives back on track. If Washington DC was a right to work state then they could make that decision seeing as that the union has stated many times publicly that this is not a strike. So, with no strike if a dancer wanted to go back to work they would not be crossing a picket line and many probably would go back to work. However, if Washington DC is NOT a right to work state then until AGMA who is the sole collective bargaining agent for the dancers agree to some sort of contract with the company the dancers will just fall deeper and deeper into a financial hole and not be able to go back to work even if they themselves wanted to. The decision to go back to work cannot be made by the dancers themselves in a non right to work state scenario, but rather, AGMA and their board of governors.

I fear what is going to happen here is that the egos on both sides of the conflict are not going to give and the company will just close its doors temporarily, regroup with other dancers who are not members of AGMA and re-open under another name. Believe it or not, that is not illegal, not really ethical either but legally it is an option and it has been done before. There are sooooo many dancers unemployed right now struggling to make ends meet, the company could have an entirely new roster of dancers and organization together by May. I know what everyone is thinking, "how could fellow dancers cross the line and take these dancers' jobs", simple reason, a good job, which is a very scarce thing these days in the USA. Additionally, AGMA keeps stating that this is not a strike so if other dancers would take the contracts then nobody would be crossing a picket line and the company could actually re-group without AGMA representing the new dancers. The union needs to be extremely careful how far they push this matter of their members not going back to work, it could easily blow up in everyone's face. Certainly I hope that does not happen but there is only so long this situation can drag on before hard decisions need to be made.

Time will tell I guess :roll: .


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 4:54 pm 
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I would encourage everyone to review the current case in light of the history that has evolved over the past twelve months and documented in our thread on Managing Dance:

http://www.ballet-dance.com/forum/viewt ... sc&start=0

As a side note, the District of Columbia is not a State.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 5:47 pm 
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Francis, good to know about Wash DC, I was not aware that it is not considered a state. I am now wondering how that effects their employment laws and standards, especially with regard to union governance in the workplace.

The thread is a good timeline but unfortunately the last post on it was was June 1st. What I would love to know is what the first proposed deadline was to have a radified AGMA governing contract for the dancers and WB signed by both parties. One would have hoped that that would have been before the start date of work for the Fall season 2005. Obviously that did not happen and the big question mark in the sky for me is why things were allowed to go on until Nutcracker time before exploding. If these issues were important enough to force a lockout, go on strike, walk off the job, or whatever you want to call it, then why didn't that action happen earlier in the season? Why right before Nutcracker and not an earlier production? One hypothesis that comes to my mind, and keep in mind that this is just me trying to make sense of all this, is that AGMA's position was that if worse came to worse they would use Nutcracker as a bargaining chip to force the administration into agreeing with their terms and a serious bargaining chip that is. Everyone knows that Nutcracker is financially the most important production of the year for any ballet company and to have the projected revenue of Nutcracker put into jeapordy could kill a company. By taking a stance like, you will agree to these terms or you won't have a Nutcracker, AGMA probably hoped that the administration would give in. Only problem is that Nutcracker turned out to be a double edged sword, once the administration called AGMA's bluff and Nutcracker went down the drain now what does everyone do? There are no more chips to bargain with and as each day goes on the situation gets worse and worse.

The BIG issue though is this, who does it get worse for? Not so much for the admin of the Washington Ballet or AGMA, but rather, the dancers. In the end of all this the dancers are the ones that stand the most to lose.

I am sure as time goes on we will find out more and more about what is going on and where everyone stands in all of this. I find it interesting to read through the thread Francis just posted and reviewing the article that is linked to on Wednesday May 25th from the Washington Times titled "Clumsy Steps". In the portion of that article where they begin to talk about the AGMA May 5th press release situation I find Mr. Du's statement about how AGMA was handling the situation and negotiations frightening when he states;

"I'm outraged," said Mr. Du. "We have no clue what's going on. When we went to the union we just wanted balance, we didn't want to harm anyone. The Washington Ballet is the place where we work, we breathe — this is our livelihood and our career."
"Before we voted to join, the union promised us they would consult us on every step. In the beginning they showed us their press releases, and we changed the language. Now stuff goes out on our behalf, and they don't check with us. I think we've lost all control. 'Dancers Propose Plan' — that's nonsense. Most of us have made other plans by now.
"Before we joined the union, they had meetings with us every week. Now they don't — and we don't have meetings with the Washington Ballet, either, because Septime's not allowed to talk to us about these issues unless Eleni Kallas, the union representative, is present."

We can only wonder what is going on behind closed doors with this current situation now.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 6:53 pm 
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My comments about Washington not being able to support a company were based on the National’s poor draw for Swan Lake and WB not being able to afford safe working conditions for their dancers. See below excerpt from a Washington Post article:

Quote:
“The issues are complex, but are less about money than about workplace safety and job security (or, from the management's viewpoint, the ability to hire and discharge dancers according to its own judgment).”


Washington Ballet is very small (20 dancers) and competes with Suzanne Farrell Ballet along with many professional companies who perform at the Kennedy Centre. To be a professional ballet company who can perform the classics you need about 50 dancers.

Does anybody have the numbers for Swan Lake attendance and WB average attendance?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:38 am 
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Pardon me but I guess I am just not following you here Michael. What do you mean by the National's Swan Lake? What is a National's Swan Lake?

I guess I am just going by what I have seen in the paper and heard in that radio ad that the Washington Ballet has (or in a few months might be a had) a 7.5 million dollar a year budget. That is pretty commendable and from my point of view it would seem as if there is definitely enough financial support in the DC area for the Washington Ballet to survive.

So are you saying that in order to be a ballet company that you have to be able to do the classics?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 6:31 am 
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There are a variety of models for ballet companies; over here in the UK we have:

Majors performing the classics: 60-100 dancers

A ballet theatre company performing a specific repertoire: 38 dancers

Contemporary ballet company: 35

and in the US you have additional models with companies such as chamber companies like Diablo; so there isn't a one size fits all model.

However, I would agree that it is difficult to run a 20-40 strong company attempting to put on the classics. In the UK, Rambert abandoned this in the 60s to move to a contemporary rep. More recently Scottish Ballet switched to contemporary ballet, including Balanchine, after a dismal five years trying to make the classical model work. All over the Continent there are medium-sized companies making similar switches.

So, I see no reason why there shouldn't an interesting ballet company in Washington, with "La Bayadere" and similar works being provided by visiting companies.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 6:43 am 
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
A city takes on the personality of its dominant industry. Houston is the center of the oil industry and Houstonians and their institutions -- even those not connected directly to energy companies -- tend to be brash and exuberant.

New York is a world-wide financial center and New Yorkers are (to my mind, at least) inordinately focused on status symbols.

Washington's primary industry is politics....

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 7:12 am 
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Yes, the District of Columbia is not a state, but has its own set of laws, so
in response to Osiris's question about right-to-work laws in the District of Columbia, I googled, and found:

http://www.roninsoft.com/states/dc.htm

"About half the states have enacted "right-to-work" laws, which guarantee that no person may be denied employment for refusing to join a union or for not paying union dues, thus banning either "union shop" or "agency shop" agreements, or both. In a union shop, an employee not belonging to a union may be hired but then must join the union, usually within 30 days. In an agency shop, an employee need not join the union but, to remain employed, must pay union dues.

The District of Columbia does not have such a right-to-work law and thus allows union shop or agency shop contracts between an employer and a union. "

This suggests it would be harder for Washington Ballet to hire replacement dancers outside AGMA representation.

On another pointe: Osiris: Michael was referring to the recent run of National Ballet of Canada's Swan Lake at the Kennedy Center. In defense of Washington's ballet fans, it should be pointed out that this Swan Lake got (at best) lukewarm reviews, including from Michael Goldbarth, and that the Canadian swans arrived after American Ballet Theatre's last year, and the Kirov/Mariinski's two years ago (I think it was.)

Can Washington support everything that's on its plate: Suzanne Farrell, Washington Ballet, and major productions at the Kennedy Center? I think and hope so: Stuart Sweeney's "division of labor" seems viable.
I have the feeling that outside forces--on both sides--have escalated this conflict beyond what it needed to be: a discussion of workplace rules and safety.

It's really too bad, all around.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:07 am 
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Quote:
Pardon me but I guess I am just not following you here Michael. What do you mean by the National's Swan Lake? What is a National's Swan Lake?


661

Sorry I was writing about the National Ballet of Canada performing Swan Lake at the Kennedy Centre. My sources reported the attendance was poor. The top seats were sold but elsewhere there were many empty seats-Hence, my concern about the support for ballet in the Washington area. Albeit, Mr. K’s Swan Lake has some problems, the NBoC is a company recognized around the world in ballet circles and one would think fans would come out to see something new.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:31 am 
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A tragic blow to the Washington Ballet organization: Rebecca Wright has died

http://www.ballet-dance.com/forum/viewt ... 122#173122


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 6:53 am 
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It's interesting that the article refers to Ms. Wright as the director of the ballet's "affiliated school", almost as if the school were an afterthought. In truth, the school preceded the company by many years and, unlike the company, has been well-established and well-supported.

As for DC's ability to support a company, it's difficult to build a major "home-town" company when you're competing with ABT, the Kirov, NBoC, and other big names.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 12:07 pm 
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This is a bit old, January 7th, but it is an audio story from NPR by Elizabeth Blair. Kinda interesting to listen to. Again, the three year issue was brought up.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... Id=5134322


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 1:40 am 
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From the AGMA site:

Quote:
Anyone wishing to help the Washington Ballet dancers financially through these difficult times, can make contributions directly to the AGMA Relief Fund on their behalf. Please be sure to notate on your checks that your donation is specifically for the Washington Ballet Dancers and mail your contributions to:



Ms. Susan Davision

AGMA Relief Fund

1430 Broadway, 14th Floor

NY, NY 10018-3308


Note: Donations over $25 can also be made with a credit card. You can speak with:

Susan Davison directly at

(212)-265-3687

or can email her at

susan@musicalartists.org



We sincerely appreciate your concern and willingness to assist these wonderful dancers by contributing and by sending this message on to others who will do the same.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 7:38 am 
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The Washington Times reports on the current state of the lock-out/strike and it’s bleak.

Quote:
Mr. Webre’s 20-member company recently danced “Coppelia” and “Giselle.” (Full-length ballets like those usually are programmed by companies not with 20 dancers, but with 40 or up to 80 performers.)

To accomplish this — and it is one source of tension with his dancers — Mr. Webre instituted a Studio Company that performs in outreach programs and acts as a corps de ballet. Additionally, he has turned to students in the Washington School of Ballet to supplement this corps.

The company dancers consider this cheap labor.

…Dancer Runqiao Du sympathized but told Mr. Webre he is not the only victim. “The dancers are suffering, truly suffering,” Mr. Du says. “Dancers are broke, they haven’t been paid in over two months, and we were broke before this started. Two have had to give up their apartments; others, though it’s winter, aren’t turning on the heat. A few board members have been kind — we’re never going to forget people reaching out a helping hand.

“Dancers in other companies have gathered money for us out of their own pockets. I’m sure management wants to solve this, but at the end of the day, they get paid, and we don’t.”

Mr. Du looks at what this crisis is doing to the company. “The dancers are not doing what they love to do — be in the studio creating with Septime or a visiting choreographer. The victim becomes the art form we have worked so hard for that we all love.”


The Washington Post reports on an upcoming benefit ballet for the dancers.

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