In a contract dispute with the management of American Ballet Theatre, principal dancer Fernando Bujones has withdrawn from all his scheduled performances with the company.
Contacted by telephone in New York Monday, Bujones said that since June he had been dancing in Ballet Theatre with only a verbal contract and that the company did not reply to attempts by his agent to negotiate a new contract until the end of August--just before the company's dates at the Metropolitan Opera House. "I wanted to have a contract--to go into the Met season with a legal and professional contract," he said.
Ballet Theatre General Manager Charles Dillingham countered that it is not unusual for dancers to perform under the conditions stipulated in a verbal agreement while contract negotiations proceed. "We proposed that he (Bujones) appear as currently scheduled while we discussed anything he wanted to talk about regarding the coming season or beyond," Dillingham said. "He refused."
Bujones had been announced to dance "Romeo and Juliet" with Marianna Tcherkassky on the opening (Sept. 3) program of the Ballet Theatre's current New York season. Robert La Fosse and Leslie Browne appeared instead.
Both Bujones and Dillingham agreed that the contract problems entered a new phase when Bujones expressed interest in having a ballet created for him by French choreographer Maurice Bejart. According to Dillingham, the Bejart project was described as a full-evening work and Bujones demanded that Ballet Theatre commission it for 1986-87 as a pre-condition to his appearing at the Met this season. "This was unacceptable to us," Dillingham said.
To Bujones, however, the proposed Bejart ballet would be no longer than "40 minutes to an hour," and he insisted that he had demanded only negotiations--"an agreement of communication with Bejart by the time his company was scheduled to dance in New York" in November--not a guarantee that the ballet be produced.
"Every artist wants new works and this was a chance for something from a major choreographer," he explained. "Many of the new works I perform have been abroad, but with my own company I don't have that kind of opportunity. If I didn't negotiate this issue with them in a contract, they would possibly ignore the whole matter."
Bujones also emphasized that if the company had proposed a new ballet for him by Kenneth MacMillan (choreographer of "Romeo and Juliet") or someone else of international stature, he might well have accepted the offer. "I am open to negotiations," he said. "It's unfair that an incident like this makes both sides lose."
While confirming that Ballet Theatre "does not see the dispute in Mr. Bujones' terms," Dillingham refused to discuss the points of disagreement in detail, explaining that public accusations would not help resolve the situation. "I certainly hope that after this incident has blown over Fernando Bujones will return to the company because he belongs with ABT," he said.
American Ballet Theatre last appeared locally in March at Shrine Auditorium and is scheduled to return just before Christmas for two weeks of "The Nutcracker." According to Dillingham, there had been no understanding or expectations that Bujones would dance in the "Nutcracker" production.