Strife At The Washington Ballet
From "All Toes Point To The Picket Line," a December 16, 2005 article in the Washington Post:
"For the second night in a row, the Washington Ballet has canceled its Nutcracker performance because of labor strife. It announced last evening that it would scrap tonight's show -- just as its dancers, dressed in coats and boots instead of costumes, were throwing up a picket line on the slick sidewalk outside the show's venue, the Warner Theatre.
"The impasse has dashed the hopes of hundreds of ticket holders counting on seeing the holiday ballet that the company has performed for more than 40 years. It also occurs at the worst possible time for the company, which derives much of its annual revenue from the three-week Nutcracker run.
"Yesterday's performance was canceled after management and the dancers' union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, failed again to agree on an employment contract. Management had also canceled rehearsals this week.
"'We belong onstage,' said one dancer, sighing yesterday afternoon and contemplating marching outside the same theater where the ballet began performances Dec. 2. 'It's ridiculous.'...
"On the mezzanine level of the Marriott on Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday afternoon, the dancers prepared to go on the picket line....
"'YES!' they shouted, then began stringing around their necks the posters that read: "Washington Ballet Dancers are LOCKED OUT. No contract -- no Nutcracker. DANCERS NEED YOUR HELP. BOYCOTT THE WASHINGTON BALLET.' Silently, they filed out of the room, sneaking looks at themselves in the mirror.
"The dozen and a half dancers walked down Pennsylvania Avenue, turned left on 13th Street and formed a circle in front of the Warner Theatre, where they began to walk and chant: "No contract, no Nutcracker.' 'What do we want?' 'A contract.' 'When?' 'Now.'
"By 5:30 p.m., they numbered more than 50. The dancers had been joined by members of the stagehands union, the wardrobe union and others. The Metropolitan Washington Central Labor Council inflated a 15-foot rat with red eyes and mouth. Around its claws hung two placards. The last two times the council used the rat were against an asbestos-removal company and a demolition contractor accused of unfair labor practices.
"With their toes pointed out, the dancers marched in the rain...."
According to this story from NBC-4 on December 17, 2005, all remaining performances of Nutcracker have now been canceled because a successful contract could not be negotiated. A forty-year-old Christmas tradition here in Washington, D.C., will not be one of the usual highlights of the season this year.