Dancers' union looks to expand territory to Broadway

A recent dispute over union representation of performers in Broadway show “Come Fly Away” could be the first move in an attempt by the dancers’ union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, to play a larger role on the Rialto.UNIONS
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AGMA exec director Alan Gordon said that ideally he would hope to achieve representation not just for dance-centric productions like Twyla Tharp dance-ical “Come Fly Away” but also for groups of dancers within other Broadway shows. “We think that down the road it’s better for dancers appearing in anything, including Broadway shows, to be represented by AGMA,” he said.

Last weekend Actors’ Equity Assn., the thesp union that traditionally reps Main Stem performers, walked away from “Come Fly,” ceding the show to AGMA, which had contested Equity’s jurisdiction over the show.

The union switchup will have no noticeable effect on performances of the show, which — according to both AGMA and a rep for the production — still intends to operate under the contract negotiatied by Equity (but now administered by AGMA). Last perf under Equity was Sunday, with AGMA officially taking over as of Tuesday’s performance.

Earlier this year AGMA had initiated a jurisdictional dispute over “Come Fly Away” with the 4A’s, the federation of trade unions for performing arts workers, over the fact that the Gotham production of the show moved forward under the Broadway production contract between the Broadway League and Equity, when AGMA handled the show’s out-of-town run in Atlanta.

The Atlanta run was produced by Troika Entertainment, while the Main Stem staging is produced by a different team led by James L. Nederlander and Troika. (AGMA at the time also filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Troika.)

The 4A’s — with which both AGMA and Equity are affiliated — agreed that “Come Fly Away” was mostly dance and should fall under AGMA jurisdiction, but called on the two unions to sit down and work out their problems.

Equity’s unusual move of disclaiming further interest in “Come Fly Away” came, according to a rep for Equity, after AGMA rebuffed attempts by Equity to meet. For his part, Gordon said AGMA offered Equity a substantial role in working to administer the “Come Fly Away” contract together.

Union dues formerly paid by “Come Fly Away” performers to Equity will now be paid to AGMA. A greater presence on the Rialto also would give AGMA, which mostly negotiates with not-for-profit orgs, a larger stake in the commercial realm of Broadway.

Equity and AGMA engaged in a previous territory dispute over a prior Tharp outing, “Movin’ Out,” which also was determined to fall under AGMA jurisdiction, although the bargained production agreement was administered and enforced by Equity for that show.

Gordon, who has long contended that the dance-focused union is better suited than Equity to repping the needs of terps, said he intends to raise questions regarding some elements of the production contract of “Come Fly Away,” although it’s not yet clear the producers of that show will be in any way obligated to re-negotiate a deal.

The producers of “Come Fly Away” had no comment.

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