Washington Ballet Tour Canceled Over Meal Allowance

Classic Arts News   Washington Ballet Tour Canceled Over Meal Allowance
[From our archives in 2005.]

The Washington Ballet has canceled a nine-day tour of Italy scheduled for July because of a dispute with dancers over their daily meal allowance, the Washington Post reports.

According to the Post, the dancers' original contract called for a $40 per diem during the trip. The American Guild of Musical Artists, which has represented the dancers since February, asked for $150, which is the State Department standard for overseas trips.

In response, Jason Palmquist, the executive director of the company, proposed raising the allowance to $55, but AGMA rejected that offer. Palmquist then offered to raise the per diem to $150 while lowering the dancers' salaries, claiming that such a shift would lower the dancers' taxes. The union rejected that offer as well. With negotiations stalled, Palmquist canceled the tour.

"We told them very clearly," said Alan Gordon, the executive director of AGMA, "that if they didn't come up with enough per diem for the dancers to be able to eat three meals a day that the dancers weren't going."

The cancellation is a blow to Washington Ballet's international profile, but it will also save the company money: the tour had been expected to lose $90,000. Gordon suggested that the controversy had provided the company with an easy way out of a commitment that had been made before Palmquist's arrival.

"It was a poorly planned tour," Gordon said. "To just cancel would have been an embarrassment, but to blame it on the union would have been a piece of cake."

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