The Washington Ballet has opened negotations with the union representing its dancers that could result in a canceled tour being reinstated.
The company would be willing to make overtures to Italian tour promoters to resurrect the company's summer tour if the dancers' union consents to sign one of two agreements, according to a letter sent to the union on May 6 and provided to PlaybillArts.com.
In a letter to Alan Gordon, executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, Jason Palmquist, the company's executive director, said that the tour negotiations will go forward if the union signs one of two documents: either an agreement not to strike or engage in labor disputes during the tour, or a finalized agreement laying out the terms and conditions for the tour.
The company's nine-day tour of Italy, which was to take place in July, was canceled when the company and the union could not reach an agreement on the dancers' allowance for meals and incidentals. The dancers' contracts, which date from before they came to be represented by the union last February, specify $40 per day; the union wanted the company to pay the State Department standard of $150 per day. The company's final offer of $55 was rejected by the union.
Gordon suggested that the company had negotiated in bad faith, and had used the disagreement as an excuse to cancel a tour that was going to lose money.
The Italian presenters were angered by the tour cancellation, and questioned the company's professionalism; nevertheless, according to a letter Gordon sent to Palmquist last week, the presenters "seem willing to provide the dancers with all of their meals, at no cost to them or to the ballet." On the strength of this offer, Gordon suggested that the ballet reopen negotiations with the dancers.
In his letter, Gordon claimed to have said that the union was not "locked into" the $150 per diem, and suggested that with the Italian presenters providing food for the dancers, the per diem could be settled at around $75 per day.
Palmquist's response noted that although he was willing to contact the Italian tour promoters, "those promoters may no longer want or be able to have the ballet to participate." He would move forward, he specified, with "a commitment by AGMA not to engage in a strike or other labor dispute during the three-week rehearsal and performance period associated with the tour."
The union would also have to guarantee that all the dancers would still be available for the rehearsals and the tour.
"Once the union has made this commitment," Palmquist wrote, "we can begin the process of seeing if the tour can be resurrected."