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Alvin Ailey Dancers Demand to be Paid the Same As White Artists

Ailey Ailey Wages Protest


The dancers at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater aren’t very happy, and they feel like they’re being taken advantage of.

On Friday (May 25), right in front of the dance theater, 32 dancers held a protest and demanded better wages. They also claimed they’re getting paid 35 percent less than other major dance companies around the U.S. but perform much more. 

The group’s contract expires on May 31, and they’ve been negotiating since December of 2017.

“The Ailey company is the fourth largest dance company in the United States, in terms of budget, yet the artists’ salaries and benefits don’t reflect it,” reads a petition.“These artists put on more performances than any other major dance company in the United States — 175 to 200 per year — with only one-third to one-half the number of dancers at other companies, and yet they earn far less than their peers.”

In February, to protest, the dancers boycotted the annual Alvin Ailey gala at the John F. Kennedy Center, where they usually perform and take part in a benefit dinner.

In an interview with the Washington Post around that time, The gala’s co-chair Debra L. Lee chose not to talk about the actual boycott but said the dancers not being there didn’t ruin the event. 

But Alvin Ailey’s Artistic Director Robert Battle spoke about it and said he understood why emotions behind negotiations are so high. He also expressed his admiration for the dancers and what they’re able to accomplish on stage

“So many things are emotional, and I think we’re in a very emotional and tense time in the country, and so this is a natural part of a process,” he said. “We will get through it, because there’s a reason that the Alvin Ailey dance company has withstood the test of time. We’re a big family, and sometimes we just need to talk.”

“That’s where I am right now,” added Battle. “Because what [the dancers] give on that stage is incredible, and what they give to people is incredible, and we have to respect that. We family. We can fight behind the scenes and figure things out, but what those dancers give on the stage is what I hired them to do.”

Next up, is the annual Spirit Gala at Lincoln Center on June 14, and there’s no word yet if the dancers will take part in it or not.

Meanwhile, reps for the dance theater said they’ll work hard at resolving all of this, so all parties are content.

“We remain committed to reaching an agreement that is both fair and sustainable,” they stated.

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