- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - Dancers of the Sarasota Ballet have voted to unionize and join the American Guild of Musical Artists.

AGMA National Executive Director Leonard Egert told the Herald-Tribune (https://bit.ly/2mDNASg ) that “an overwhelming majority of the dancers” voted last month in favor of being represented by the union.

Egert said the dancers wanted to “establish some industry standards” within the 26-year-old company.

“I think this is a really mature group of professionals that are seeking a voice in their future and their careers. They’re really elite athletes with very specific needs that include appropriate rest so their bodies can recuperate,” Egert said.

Over 50 dancers perform with the company.

Sarasota Ballet Executive Director Joe Volpe said he would enter contract negotiations this month seeking collaboration in “trying to find conditions that work for the company and the dancers.”

“I think the dancers want what their colleagues across the country have. It also gives them a certain stature. This is an understandable step in the growth of the Sarasota Ballet,” said Volpe, who is the former managing director of the Metropolitan Opera, which also is an AGMA organization.

The ballet’s director, Iain Webb, said in a statement Friday that since his arrival in 2007, “the dancers’ well-being, health and safety has always been a priority.”

Volpe said contract negotiations may delay finalizing dancers’ contracts for the 2017-2018 season, as well as make it difficult to finalize an operating plan intended to resolve limitations at the ballet’s current home, the Mertz Theatre.

Egert said both sides want to conclude negotiations by the current season’s end in April.

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Information from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, https://www.heraldtribune.com

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