Guessing how many Radio City Rockettes will show for the Trump inauguration will be something of a parlor game to play at parties.
A sad new day is dawning when such a classic slice of Americana is dragged into the political fray. Members of the famous high-stepping troupe are no longer under orders to perform for the president-elect. The choice to dance or not will be voluntary.
Or so goes the about-face from the Rockettes’ union, the American Guild of Variety Artists.
Just before Christmas, members of the Rockettes joined the growing list of professional entertainers who have declined a role in the inaugural festivities for President-elect Donald Trump. Reportedly, a majority of the nearly 100-woman ensemble were repulsed upon learning that management had booked them for the Jan. 20 event.
One Rockette spoke at length with MarieClaire.com, detailing the concerns as a moral question on which the dancers wanted to express solidarity with their many support staff who were demoralized by the Trump campaign rhetoric and misogyny.
“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue — this is a women’s rights issue,” the woman, who was quoted anonymously, said. “This is an issue of racism and sexism, something that’s much bigger than politics.”
For those valid concerns, the ladies are being painted as petulant, hyper-liberal whiners who can’t get over the election results.
Nope. This is a workplace issue. The 13 full-time dancers in the Rockettes, in particular, know their jobs may be on the line if they refuse to perform.
The Rockettes drama may seem trivial compared with the other items in the news. Yet this may turn out to be an object lesson about preserving our core democratic values in the face of power. The office of the presidency is due respect, but we must also demand respect for everyone the incoming president maligned to get elected: women, minorities, the disabled, immigrants. Maybe it takes a chorus line to remind us.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable standing near a man like that in our costumes,” one dancer wrote in an email to her colleagues, according to MarieClaire.com.
Thank you, ladies. Without even stepping on stage, you offered a well-timed reminder of one of the major challenges we face in the coming four years: ensuring dignity for all.
The applause is deservedly yours.