Labor Charges Against Washington Ballet

A few months ago, Nikkia Parish was a valued member of the prestigious Washington Ballet, and had managed to land a few featured roles in the company’s productions. These days, she is a bartender, having been dismissed for what the company says are “artistic reasons” after the spring season. Parish has a different view: she says she was fired for her union activism, and the National Labor Relations Board is looking into the charge. “Parish’s story is not only about labor issues. It’s about what a ballet company can demand of its dancers in the name of art. It’s also about ballet culture, where typically the artistic director takes the role of the feared father figure and the dancers are the cowed children, afraid to speak up, used to the futility of protesting the myriad personal slights levied at them under the guise of artistic prerogative.”