A Radio City Rockette is speaking out about the turmoil going on behind the scenes of the 91-year-old institution after it was announced that the group would be performing at Donald Trump‘s Jan. 20 inauguration.
In an interview with Marie Claire, the dancer — who goes by the pseudonym “Mary” due to fear of retribution — explained that the Rockettes were blinded by the news when it was made public, having not heard about it directly from their employer or union first.
Given the derogatory “locker room” comments the president-elect previously made about grabbing women against their will — and his controversial views on immigration and race relations — the news has created a conflict within the crew, Mary said.
“There is a divide in the company now, which saddens me most,” Mary explained. “The majority of us said no immediately. Then there’s the percentage that said yes, for whatever reason — whether it’s because they’re young and uninformed, or because they want the money, or because they think it’s an opportunity to move up in the company when other people turn it down.”
She added that no women of color have signed up to perform at the event. “It’s almost worse to have 18 pretty white girls behind this man who supports so many hate groups,” Mary said. “They’re going to be branded in history as one of those women. How’s it going to look?”
Mary’s interview comes in the wake of Rockette Phoebe Pearl, who reportedly wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post that she felt “embarrassed and disappointed” to potentially perform at the inauguration.
For Mary, she won’t be one of the high-kickers participating in the inauguration. And though the stage crew is mostly made up of Trump supporters while the performers skew liberal, Mary was quick to point out their concerns are “not a Republican or Democrat issue.”
“This is a women’s rights issue,” she said. “This is an issue of racism and sexism, something that’s much bigger than politics … It’s a basic human-rights issue. We have immigrants in the show. I feel like dancing for Trump would be disrespecting the men and women who work with us, the people we care about.”
Now, every Rockette has the right to turn down the event — something that wasn’t clear at first when an email from the Rockettes’ union, the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), leaked. It implied that the women didn’t have a choice to participate.
As Mary clarified, that email only applied to the 13 full-time, year-round Rockettes whose contracts require them be present for all gigs. “The rest of us are seasonally contracted: 80 dancers, two casts of 40 women each,” she said — meaning they can sign up for available gigs depending on their availability.
Parent company Madison Square Garden Company has since made an exception to that contract for any Rockette uncomfortable with the gig. “In fact, for the coming inauguration, we had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available,” they said in a statement to PEOPLE on Friday. “We eagerly await the inaugural celebrations.”
Trump’s inauguration team has had difficulty finding performers to participate in the inauguration festivities — with only the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and America’s Got Talent star Jackie Evancho confirmed to perform, in addition to the Rockettes.
“There’s a reason why everyone else is turning this down. Why are we not?” Mary asked.
But according to the 70-year-old former businessman, he wants to keep his ceremony focused on “the people” rather than filling it up with A-list names — pointing to the failure of the celebrities who stood by his Democratic presidential opponent Hillary Clinton.
“The so-called ‘A’ list celebrities are all wanting tickets to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary — NOTHING,” Trump tweeted on Thursday night. “I want the PEOPLE!”