'We Want to Be Treated as Adults'; Dance Theatre of Harlem Dancers Get New Contract after First Dancer Strike in United States History

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NEW YORK CITY -- Dance Theatre of Harlem and its 35 performers have tentatively agreed on a new contract, after the employees became the first unionized dancers in U.S. history to go on strike. The settlement came February 9, two days after the dancers forced DTH director Arthur Mitchell to cancel auditions for apparent replacement dancers by throwing up a picket line at DTH's Harlem headquarters.

Details of the agreement, which had yet to be ratified by the boards of DTH and the American Guild of Musical Artists at press time, were not immediately available. AGMA president Gerald Otte was ecstatic. "While both the union and management can be proud of this agreement, the true winners are the dancers," he said. Mitchell did not return calls requesting comment.

The dancers walked out January 22 after rejecting a one-year contract they said would endanger their health and safety.

The labor battle escalated February 7 when the dancers forced Mitchell to cancel auditions they said were designed to hire replacement dancers. DTH had announced it was looking "for company dancers at all levels."

"I am both saddened and disturbed by the management of Dance Theatre of Harlem's decision to begin auditioning replacements," Otte said prior to the settlement. …