More than half of the 91 dancers of the American Ballet Theatre picketed today for up to 2 1/2 hours across the street from Lincoln Center in a chilly rain.
The dancers, some in costume, handed out statements and invitations to passers-by. The statements attacked ABT's actions -- the company locked the dancers out of work six weeks ago and has canceled all of its scheduled 1982 performances--and asked for public support.
The invitations were for the ABT Dancers' Ball, to be held at Roseland on Nov. 15 to raise funds for the dancers. The minimum contribution for admission is $20.
Natalia Makarova, a Soviet national who defected to the West from the Kirov Ballet in 1970 and who today calls herself "a stateless person," said, "It is the first time in my life to demonstrate. In Russia, they put you in jail for this."
Several picketers -- including one union official -- wore "Solidarity" buttons, a reference to the outlawed Polish labor union.
The dancers later said they will trek to Washington next week for a day of informational picketing outside the Kennedy Center.
At today's demonstration all but four of ABT's principal artists joined in the picketing. Two of them -- Cynthia Gregory and Makarova -- issued appeals to ABT artistic director and star dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov to join in the negotiations and to push for a settlement.
Baryshnikov was not present at the demonstration and has refused to join in any negotiations.
But Makarova declined to criticize Baryshnikov for his refusal to participate in the talks because, she said, "I've never been in his position so I can't judge. But from the human side of this, I am on the street with the dancers."
American-born-and-trained superstar Gregory, informed that Baryshnikov has said that labor negotiations are not part of his job, took issue with his position. "I think if he really cares about the company, it is his job," she said.
Meanwhile, the two largest ballet-dancer management organizations in the United States announced that most of the ABT artists they manage are now available for guest engagements at dramatically reduced prices.
Alexander Dube of Dube Zakin Management and Charles Marahrens of Corsaire Productions said there are few guest engagements available for dancers on short notice.
"Because of the lockout and because of economic conditions that are just the worst," Dube said, "a compromise has to be made on our fees so that we can take care of all of our ABT people." Dube Zakin represents seven ABT dancers.
Corsaire's Marahrens, with five ABT dancers under contract, said, "There really isn't a hell of a lot of work out there now. We're not getting any bites, and I've made it clear that some of my artistes are available for much less than their normal fees."
Although figures for ABT's most recent complete season are still unavailable, official ABT documents state that for the previous season Baryshnikov was paid in excess of $340,000 for one year's work as artistic director and dancer.