Change Demands Movement: Teresa Reichlen on Running for an AGMA Board Seat

{ DIYdancer }, Candice Thompson: What led you to want to join the AGMA Board of Directors? Had you previously been a rep or on the contract negotiating committee?

Teresa Reichlen: I have been an AGMA dancer representative since 2009 and have negotiated four contracts. I mainly joined because there were many things at NYCB that I did not understand and wanted to improve on. Being at the bottom of the so called totem pole of a huge organization like NYCB, the best way I could see to affect change was to join the team of dancers that helped negotiate our contracts and had a direct line to management to air concerns. An example of one huge change I helped to initiate, and am very proud of, is giving the dancers an extra 28 hours notification of our daily rehearsal schedules. When I was first in the company we would not know our daily schedule until 7:30pm the night before and now we have a day and a half notice, which allows you an entire day to plan and make appointments.

Honestly, I had not been very aware of the AGMA board of directors before this election, I only knew they had to approve all of our contracts and agreements. I was approached by David Salsbery Fry, who is currently on the BOD and was hoping to organize a new diverse group of people to run together on a slate to help invigorate the board and ensure that AGMA is keeping up with the swiftly changing cultural climate in the world. He especially wanted a dancer because there have been no dancers in national governance for four years.

| a selection of @tessreichlen‘s instagram images to get out the vote |

CT: What kind of change can you affect if you get a seat?

TR: My hope is that just having a dancer, any dancer, will cause change on the AGMA board. The life of a dancer is so unique and our needs are different from those of opera singers, stage managers and directors, so it is important that there is that perspective at the table when important decisions and policies are being discussed. I have had the opportunity to meet several opera singers, both choristers and soloists, over the past few months and it has been fascinating comparing our lives and hearing about the main concerns for them as singers. And they have been equally interested in my and my fellow dancers needs. I think it will spur debate to have more diverse board and ensure that our constituency is not left out. It was also very important to our slate to have dancers and singers who were still actively working. Because it is a voluntary position, many on the board are long retired and we felt it was important to have people who are still in the trenches helping to make decisions.

CT: How do you feel about the recent arbitration decision in which AGMA advocated for the reinstatement of Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro?

TR: In all honesty I am still trying to process my feelings about the recent arbitration hearing. For those of us who have been in the company for a long time it is hard to separate the single incident that the arbitrator was judging and the less than ideal culture that had grown within the company and that those men participated in. All I can hope for is that the company continues to improve, both culturally and artistically.

CT: Do you have an agenda in the sense of advocacy for dancers inside AGMA or special causes?

TR: As of right now, I don’t have an agenda. If I do get a seat I am hoping to learn as I go and hopefully it will become apparent after settling in how I can best use my position to help out dancers within the union.

CT: Do you think it will be hard to balance job as a dancer with the duties of a board member (and a dog mom)?

TR: I have always needed and sought stimulation outside of the studio. I sometimes get too emotionally involved in dancing and its ups, downs and politics and have often found comfort in either school or union work. They keep me grounded and remind me of the larger picture and importance of events off the stage and outside the company, so in that regard I look forward to the extra work, plus board meetings occur on Mondays which is our day off from the company! As for my dog Tim, NYCB is amazing and lets up bring our dogs into the theater and studio so he gets to tag along with me most days at work. I’m not sure if he’ll be allowed at board meetings, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

CT: When do you find out results of election?

TR: I find out the results of the election on May 17th, which also happens to be my birthday. So everyone better vote for me so I don’t feel old and sad on the same day!

Click here for tickets to see Reichlen on stage as part of New York City Ballet’s current season running through June 2nd.

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