Alex Dana and Paige Nyman work on a move as Christopher Saunders from The Royal Ballet of London directs rehearsal at Texas Ballet Theater for its upcoming world premiere of "Danse a Gran Vitesse" by renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, Friday. Rodger Mallison rmallison@star-telegram.com
Alex Dana and Paige Nyman work on a move as Christopher Saunders from The Royal Ballet of London directs rehearsal at Texas Ballet Theater for its upcoming world premiere of "Danse a Gran Vitesse" by renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, Friday. Rodger Mallison rmallison@star-telegram.com

Performing Arts

Texas Ballet Theater strikes new deal with Fort Worth symphony musicians

Special to the Star-Telegram

September 09, 2016 6:08 PM

FORT WORTH

Texas Ballet Theater has no plans to dance without live orchestral music next weekend.

For its season-opening performances Sept. 16-18, the dance company had been planning to perform with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra on a program that included two premieres. It had been highly touted as the orchestra’s first time to play in the Winspear Opera House in Dallas and Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s first time to conduct such a collaboration.

Then the orchestra musicians went on strike Thursday. Management canceled this weekend’s symphonic concerts at Bass Hall.

So Texas Ballet Theater worked out a unique contingency plan: The company will still use the striking musicians to accompany the ballet performances, but the musicians will perform under the name Symphony Musicians of Fort Worth. Harth-Bedoya will conduct as planned.

We are thrilled this worked out because we have told our patrons that we would have live music.

Texas Ballet Theater executive director Vanessa Logan

Under the arrangement, the dance company acts as a contractor hiring the musicians and will pay them at the rate they make under their current contract with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. As union members, the musicians often play engagements outside of their orchestra jobs, such as in pickup orchestras for touring Broadway shows. The new arrangement is considered separate from the performance contract the dance company has with the orchestra this season.

“It is always our preference to use live musicians,” said Vanessa Logan, Texas Ballet’s new executive director. “We are thrilled this worked out because we have told our patrons that we would have live music, and that’s to the artistic vision of [artistic director] Ben Stevenson and the hard work of [former interim director] Terri Sexton over the last two years.”

The musicians will perform Georges Bizet’s famous score to the opera Carmen for Cuban choreographer Carlos Acosta’s work by the same name; it is an American premiere. They will also play for the company premiere of Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Danse à Grande Vitesse.

We wanted to do what we could to ensure that the Texas Ballet Theater would have the quality live performances that they’re used to.

Stewart Williams, local musicians union president

“We wanted to do what we could to ensure that the Texas Ballet Theater would have the quality live performances that they’re used to,” said Stewart Williams, president of American Federation of Musicians Local 72-147.

An attempt to reach the Fort Worth Symphony Association for comment was unsuccessful Friday.

If the strike and wage disputes are resolved before the Sept. 16 performance, Williams said, the contract will revert to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association, which will provide the musicians under its banner.

The ballet program will be repeated Oct. 6-8 at Fort Worth’s Bass Hall. If the union is still striking, Logan said, the ballet will use the same arrangement with the musicians.

Fort Worth Symphony musicians go on strike, putting upcoming shows at risk

Walkout comes after years of back and forth negotiations with symphony management over compensation

David Kent dkent@star-telegram

Texas Ballet Theater

  • Sept. 16-18
  • Winspear Opera House, Dallas
  • $20-$110
  • 877-828-9200; www.texasballettheater.org

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