Deborah Allton, a New York City attorney and former Metropolitan Opera ballet dancer, has joined the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) as its national dance executive and counsel.
In her new position, Allton will lead "the continued revitalization of AGMA's representation of dancers," as well as expand the union's support of dance companies' production personnel, and provide the full spectrum of contract and membership services to all of AGMA's dancer members, according to Alan Gordon, the union's national executive director. Allton will also take on principal responsibility for enforcement and administration of all AGMA dance contracts.
"Having spent 20 years as a ballet dancer and working as a union delegate, negotiating committee member, and an attorney, Deborah is uniquely qualified to serve as our national dance executive and to spearhead our constantly improving representation of dancers," Gordon said. "She knows firsthand the need to aggressively protect and defend dancers' rights."
Allton's responsibilities will also include union organizing of new dance companies. She also will assist the American Ballet Theater dancers in their attempt to rejoin AGMA from the independent union currently representing them, according to AGMA.
"The ABT dancers left AGMA many years ago because of what some of them saw as AGMA's lack of focus on its dancer members," Allton explained. "That situation has been completely reversed, AGMA has truly become the 'home of the American dancer' and each new dance contract AGMA has recently negotiated includes spectacular improvements in dancers' working lives. AGMA is now poised to also help ABT's dancers achieve the rewards to which their exceptional artistry entitles them."
Allton's aligning with the AGMA staff adds to the union's aggressive organizing efforts over the last couple of years. The guild during that time has seen an increased membership of 40%, rising from 4,644 in February 2000 to 6,748 at present.
The union has also implemented an internal reorganization effort, including reducing its board of governors from 236 to 82, hopefully streamlining the policy-making process so that the guild may more quickly respond to issues affecting members.
Gordon also seems pleased with the guild's recent contractual efforts on behalf of dancers. He points to the fact that, in recent months, AGMA has "achieved out-of-pattern wage increases and other significant contract improvements at the New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, BalletMet and the Cincinnati Ballet." AGMA is also working with Martha Graham Center dancers on a new contract.