The Radio City Rockettes will be performing at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, but its members will not be forced to do so, Madison Square Garden Co., which employs the dancers, said in a statement after concerns and calls for a boycott surfaced on social media.
The company said on Thursday that the dance group will participate in inauguration festivities next month. The announcement prompted some, including one of the dancers, to voice their concerns on social media. Phoebe Pearl said in a now-deleted Instagram post that she’s “embarrassed and disappointed” by the gig, according to media reports.
Critics have posted the phone numbers of the dancers’ union and the Rockettes’ employer to urge complaints, the Associated Press reported. Believing that participation was mandatory, Julissa Sabino, a member of the Actors’ Equity Association, tweeted that the issue “breaks my heart.”
Autumn Withers, a former Rockette, supported a boycott, saying “take a knee, ladies!” in a tweet Friday.
Madison Square Garden Co. said on Friday that no dancers are being compelled to participate.
“For a Rockette to be considered for an event, they must voluntarily sign up and are never told they have to perform at a particular event, including the inaugural,” the company said in a statement, the AP reported. “It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available.”
The American Guild of Variety Artists, the union representing the dancers, echoed the company in a statement posted on its Facebook page Friday evening.
The announcement “has brought up legitimate concern among our Members, the theatrical community and the public at large,” the union said, adding later: “Fortunately, the Company has agreed that ALL participation in this particular event will be voluntary. We are greatly relieved and hope to work with our Members to inform them and alleviate the anxiety and fears that this has caused.”
The union also debunked earlier reports that it demanded the dancers to perform at the inauguration.
A small group of Rockettes are contractually obligated to perform at scheduled events throughout the year. But Radio City has agreed that performing at the inauguration will be voluntary for year-round Rockettes, the union said.
The Rockettes, who have performed at Radio City Music Hall since the 1930s, have previously appeared in Super Bowl halftime shows, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades and George W. Bush’s inaugurations in 2001 and 2005.
The dancers who choose to attend will join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the swearing-in ceremony Jan. 20. Earlier this month, Trump’s inaugural committee announced that “America’s Got Talent” star Jackie Evancho will be singing the national anthem at the ceremony.
In a tweet Thursday night, Trump responded to recent reports that celebrities have turned down gigs to perform at his inauguration.
“The so-called ‘A’ list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary,” Trump wrote. “NOTHING. I want the PEOPLE!”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.