Rockettes to dance on Donald Trump's inauguration - if they want to

The Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan on Dec 13, 2013.
The Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan on Dec 13, 2013.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (AFP) - The Radio City Rockettes are lined up to perform at Donald Trump's inauguration next month - but the dance troupe was caught off-guard after it emerged that some of its high-kicking showgirls would rather skip the big day.

Only a smattering of artists backed Trump's election bid, and the Republican has struggled to pin down big names for the Jan 20 event in Washington, with high-profile stars including Elton John turning down invites.

Trump appeared to acknowledge his difficult relations with top artists in a tweet Thursday night (Dec 22), saying: "The so-called 'A' list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, NOTHING. I want the PEOPLE!"

But the show is on and the Rockettes will be headlining, according to Trump's inauguration committee and the Madison Square Garden (MSG) company which owns the dance troupe.

The Rockettes will join 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the only other two acts announced so far.

James Dolan, MSG's executive chairman, said his dancers - who have taken part in Super Bowl halftime shows, Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades and past presidential inaugurations - were "honoured" to perform.

But the delight at headlining the Trump festivities was not universally shared by the Rockettes themselves.

Dancer Phoebe Pearl, in a now-deleted Instagram post widely cited by US media, said she was "embarrassed and disappointed" at the prospect.

"The women I work with are intelligent and are full of love and the decision of performing for a man that stands for everything we're against is appalling," she wrote.

"I am speaking for just myself but please know that after we found out this news, we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts. We will not be forced! #notmypresident."

MSG issued a follow-up statement insisting that participation was strictly on a voluntary basis - and saying the dancers were jostling for a spot.

"For a Rockette to be considered for an event, they must voluntarily sign up and are never told they have to perform at a particular event, including the inaugural," it read.

"It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available."

The union representing the Rockettes confirmed that participation was voluntary.

The American Guild of Variety Artists issued a statement after an email from a union leader emerged saying that as employees, dancers would not be permitted to boycott the event.

The union statement said there are some year-round Rockettes who are "contractually obligated to perform at scheduled events throughout the year," but participation in the inauguration was voluntary for all dancers.