Alvin Ailey dancers launch boycott saying they are paid less than white dancers

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The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is legend for their groundbreaking history, innovative choreography and iconic performances around the world.

But apparently all is not well at the storied dance company.

The dancers are currently renegotiating a three-year-contract with the management team for The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and demanding that their wage and benefit issues be addressed.

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“It is very concerning that Ailey’s artists, predominately African American dancers, earn much less than dancers at comparable companies with similar or even smaller budgets,” said Leonard Egart, National Executive Director of AGMA. “Management needs to promptly address this glaring disparity.”

The Washington Post reports that the dancers banded together to boycott the company’s annual fundraising gala at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. last Tuesday to make a strong statement about their concerns.

And, instead of just sitting out the annual fundraising gala in protest, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers made their concerns known in dramatic fashion.

A choreographed protest

The dancers showed up to the gala and then in a choreograped move left the building in unison. The dancers typically play an integral part in schmoozing, smizing, and playfully dancing with Alvin Ailey donors so their absence was immediately felt. The evening’s organizers reportedly were unaware of the planned boycott until the dancers left the gala.

The American Guild of Musical Artists, the union that represents the Alvin Ailey dancers, released a press statement on the issue that detailed they have been in negotiations for new terms since December and have yet to reach a decision.

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“Artists of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater boycotted the company’s annual gala reception at the Kennedy Center last night based on management’s failure to adequately address the group’s substandard wages and benefits,” the release read according to Blavity. “The dancers and stage managers, represented by the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), began negotiations in December for a new collective bargaining agreement, with the current one expiring on May 31st, 2018.”

To further assist with publicizing their boycott over low wages, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company dancers created the Artist Of Ailey Instagram page to highlight their individual stories and their collective stance.

Seeking fair compensation

The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater was founded in 1958 by choreographer and activist Alvin Ailey. The company, lauded for popularizing modern dance and for providing a platform for African-American dancers, now finds itself having to explain why their dancers don’t feel supported.

Robert Battle, the artistic director for theAlvin Ailey American Dance Theater who was also in attendance at the fundraising gala, offered these words about the boycott:

“So many things are emotional, and I think we’re in a very emotional and tense time in the country, and so this is a natural part of a process,” Battle said Tuesday to The Washington Post. “We will get through it, because there’s a reason that the Alvin Ailey dance company has withstood the test of time. We’re a big family, and sometimes we just need to talk, you know what I’m saying?”

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AGMA’s members are hoping that the publicity surrounding the Alvin Ailey boycott will also lead to a age increase that is equal to what other dancers receive in comparable positions.

The dancers for theAlvin Ailey American Dance Theater reportedly perform between 175 to 200 shows per year, with nearly half of the amount of number of dancers of other major companies.