Ballerina Cynthia Gregory has been informed of her removal from the American premiere and the nationwide live telecast of American Ballet Theatre's full-length version of "La Bayadere," her manager and her attorney said yesterday.
Gregory's attorney stated he will seek a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against ABT today in New York State Supreme Court, in order to "force the company to honor its contractual commitment."
Sources at ABT did not dispute that Gregory has been told she will not be permitted to dance in the two performances, even though she has a signed contract for them. But the only official comment the company would make came from General Manager Joyce Moffatt, who said, "The matter is to be arbitrated and it would not be proper to make a comment at this time."
Gregory, considered to be among the most famous American-born ballerinas dancing today, left the ABT late last year in a dispute over money -- about $200 per performance -- and a lack of interest on the part of ABT in commissioning new ballet productions -- such as "La Bayadere" -- for her.
She had agreed to return this year as a "guest artist" for a total of eight performances after receiving a personal plea from ABT co-director, Lacia Chase, to help the company out when a foreign ballerina, Noella Pontois, canceled an ABT engagement.
"I'm quite upset about it, I had thought I'm getting back to ABT. But now it's even worse than before," Gregory said yesterday. "The telecast [on PBS] was one of the big reasons for me to do the spring season. I scheduled six weeks [of rehearsal time for "La Bayadere"] and what I don't understand is how they can try to write it off as nothing after you've signed a contract."
Sources on both sides declined to explain why Gregory was removed from the ballet -- which has two ballerina roles and in which the other ballerina is scheduled to be Natalia Makarova for both performances. Makarova is also staging the ballet. Gregory was to dance the role of Gamzatti and Makarova to dance Nikiya.
Gregory's attorney, Robert C. Osterberg, stated that the application he intends to file in court this morning will seek to enjoin ABT "from refusing to schedule or permit or in any way interfere with the performance by [Gregory] as a principal dancer" for the "La Bayadere" on May 21 (the premiere) and May 28 (the telecast) and to prohibit ABT from substituting another dancer.
The attorney has already served ABT with a summons and a complaint regarding the alleged breach of contract. He said he felt the arbitration clause contained in standard dancers' union contracts is not applicable and that Gregory will fight it out in court.
An ABT source said "if she loses in court, that's that. But if she wins, ABT either has to eat crow or cancel the performances."