Musicians protest ballet’s use of recordings

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Musicians protest ballet’s use of recordings

NEW YORK - Musicians at New York’s renowned Lincoln Center, one of the premier venues for live performances in the world, are protesting a major ballet company’s decision to perform to canned music. The visiting Paul Taylor Dance Company took over the stage for an almost three-week period in Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater starting Tuesday.

But while the soaring dancers are as real as ever, the music they dance to, ranging from Bach to jazz, will come from recordings.

K.C. Boyle, a spokesman for Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, a union representing players at Lincoln Center, said they are furious and worried.

“As of right now this is the first major performance at Lincoln Center that has used recorded music for serious performances,” he told AFP on Wednesday. “We see this as a very dangerous precedent. There has been a trend to put profit over quality. It’s a very scary precedent to establish.”

John Tomlinson, executive director for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, said the situation was the fault of unaffordable salaries demanded by union-protected orchestras in New York.

“Esthetically is it acceptable? It’s certainly not ideal,” Tomlinson admitted in an interview.

But estimating the price of an orchestra for the three-week period at $450,000 - more than half the run’s entire costs - he said: “My problem is we also have to run a budget and I don’t have that money.”

Major cultural institutions, which in the United States rely heavily on private donors and endowments, are encountering challenging times.

In fact the David H. Koch Theater was freed up because the New York City Opera, which had been based there, had to move out in the face of its own financial crisis. As a result of that economic squeeze, as well as improved technology, use of recorded music is growing in orchestra pits, particularly on Broadway. But with the prestigious New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, as well as the famed Juilliard School, all housed at Lincoln Center, use of canned music was sure to be controversial.

The union vows to keep protesting by handing out leaflets to theatergoers.

“Never did we think this would creep toward Lincoln Center, which is considered one of the United States’ cultural epicenters,” Boyle said.

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