CHICAGO (WBBM) — Joffrey Ballet dancers have been told to clean out their lockers because the old contract has expired and contract talks have broken down.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports, the executive director of the Joffrey Ballet says he is still hopeful that no performances will have to be canceled because of a breakdown in contract talks with the dancers union.

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LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports

But Joffrey’s executive director, Christopher Clinton Conway, says the 44 dancers have been told to prepare for a lockout – effective this Thursday.

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“Regrettably, we are asking the dancers to collect their belongings and turn in their keys because, as of the expiration of that agreement they are no longer working for the Joffrey. And for safety and security and for our safety and security, it is a necessary precaution that we exercise that lockout.”

Conway says he is worried but hopeful about the season ahead.

He says performances will have to be canceled if a new agreement is not reached with dancers by the end of this month.

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Newsradio 780 is trying to reach a representative of the dancers union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, for comment.