Stalemate continues at Joffrey Ballet; gallery of dancers removed from website

On the date of a threatened [node:14838705 link=lockout of the Joffrey Ballet’s dancers by company management, in an ongoing dispute over contract negotiations;], it appears as if a gallery of current company members has been deactivated on the Joffrey’s website.

The dispute mostly regards the company’s proposed addition of five working hours to the dancers’ work-weeks, without additional salary increases aside from a 3 percent annual bump for the cost of living, according to Joffrey Ballet marketing manager Sarah Nelson. There also appears to be disagreement on minimum levels of stage management personnel, and circumstances under which academy students perform with the troupe.

As [node:14843345 link=reported this afternoon in an update to yesterday’s post;], a Joffrey Ballet publicist told me this morning by phone that the company is not commenting at this time on dancer union lawyer Barbara Hillman’s [node:14843345 link=claims that executive director Christopher Clinton Conway has mischaracterized and exaggerated aspects of the situation;], including the upper end of the dancers’ salaries, in statements to reporters published earlier this week.

Hillman also contends that the company is not claiming that it cannot afford to meet the dancers’ demands, raising the question of why management seems unwilling to compromise.

In a blog post today for WBEZ, longtime Chicago dance critic Laura Molzahn, who also writes for the Reader, offered her thoughts on the situation and reported that the national executive director of the dancers’ union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, “says that there will be news on Tuesday, based on the union’s stance that the lockout is illegal.” Alan S. Gordon also told Molzahn that standard AGMA contracts’ stipulated work-hours do not include daily classes, taken before the start of rehearsals, although he could not confirm whether the Joffrey dancers’ agreement is an exception.

News spread earlier this evening on Twitter that the webpage that used to contain a dancer directory on the Joffrey’s site has been taken down; navigation above a landing slide marked COMPANY no longer clicks through.

However, the dancers’ pages themselves all appear to be live if called up directly, at[first name]-[last name].

The stalemate between the dancers and company management, over five-year contracts to replace three-year contracts that expired on June 30, falls during a period of unpaid leave for the company. “About half” of the company is not in Chicago, claims Hillman, and multiple sources confirm that two members who serve as representatives from the ensemble to Hillman and to the union are in Europe through the weekend.

The Joffrey Ballet has stated that 2011–12 season-opening performances in Cleveland and Chicago in August, and possibly more on later dates, including its subscription programs at the [node:31924 link=Auditorium Theatre;], will be canceled if the dispute is not resolved soon.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)