No Rockette will have to perform at Donald Trump's inauguration against her will, the company that manages the dance troupe said Friday after controversy over their scheduled performance erupted. "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," the Madison Square Garden Company said in a statement, per NBC. "It is always their choice. In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available." The dancers' union, the American Guild of Variety Artists, said it had never "demanded" that they play, but merely stated the terms of their contract.
Former Rockette Heather Lang, however, tells the New York Times that competition to be in the troupe is so fierce that dancers are likely to feel pressured to perform. "One of the most annoying situations about that job is it’s corporate," she says. "It’s not like a Broadway show where you feel like you have an artistic voice. You're sort of owned by this corporation." Only around a dozen of the 80 Rockettes are full-time employees contractually obligated to appear at events year-round, and the union says participation will be voluntary for them as well. Other artists lined up for Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration include the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The AP reports that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says response to the announcement has been mixed. (Read more Rockettes stories.)