In deciding to advocate for these two dancers, AGMA has not only sided with alleged offenders in multiple serious cases of degradation and sexual harassment, but has also sent a clear message to the whole dance community that the redemptive narrative of these male dancers is more important than the trust and safety of their female colleagues. Even if the women they were texting about were not fellow company members, it is hard to imagine their female partners feeling safe dancing with them, knowing what they've been accused of. The union has given these male dancers a seemingly free pass to privately demean and harass women.
Allegations of Ramasar and Catazaro's behavior first came to light last year when former SAB student Alexandra Waterbury came forward with the story that her then-boyfriend and NYCB principal Chase Finlay had been circulating sexually explicit photos and videos to the other two men without consent. Waterbury filed a suit against NYCB and the three men.
It's astounding that anyone would believe that any one of these dancers could be successfully reintegrated into the company. (Although Catazaro has announced that he will not return, Ramasar will rejoin, on the condition that he undergo counseling.)
Trust is an invaluable part of any creative process, especially when it comes to partnering and physical connection. A dancer should feel comfortable, safe and supported by their partner, and as a fellow male dancer, I cannot imagine how someone could think they could win back the trust of their colleagues after allegedly trading women's bodies over texts like souvenir cards.
Waterbury's case hasn't gone to court yet, but considering the disturbing nature of the allegations, advocating for these men to return to the company sounds like a direct violation of AGMA's commitment to serving "those who report harassment in the workplace."
The dance community should be a safe space, especially in an industry where proper protocols for sexual harassment are still being cultivated.
There are moral lessons for all three implicated dancers to gain from this experience. But it's irresponsible to offer them that privilege at the expense of the safety and comfort of the women in New York City Ballet.
Update: AGMA has released the following statement from Deborah Allton Maher, associate executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists:
"In a recent op-ed regarding the reinstatement of Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro to the New York City Ballet, the author posed important questions about AGMA's role in challenging their terminations. We asked ourselves these same hard questions before taking action. Importantly, we investigated the facts in these specific situations, as did a neutral arbitrator, who after considering all the relevant information determined that New York City Ballet must reinstate the dancers. As a union, we are legally obligated to represent our members when their contractual rights have been violated.
"Ensuring that our members are treated fairly does not diminish our responsibility, or limit our ability to fight for safe environments free from abuse and harassment.
"In fact, we are currently working with the management of New York City Ballet, as well as our other employers, to perform in-depth assessments of their workplaces and develop specialized training that considers the unique needs of artists. We are committed to ensuring that all AGMA members know the resources available to them through their union. We negotiate meaningful anti-harassment provisions in all of our collective bargaining agreements and provide a confidential and responsive reporting system, along with access to a professional network of counselors and lawyers. By working together with performers and their employers, we can create the culture of dignity and respect that all artists deserve.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Ramasar and Catazaro were accused of circulating nude photos of women from New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet. The lawsuit does not state that the women were part of NYCB or SAB when these incidents occurred.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta took their final curtain call on June 9, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB
We all know dance careers are temporary. But this season, it feels like we're saying goodbye to more stars than usual.
Many have turned to social media to share their last curtain calls, thoughts on what it feels like to say farewell to performing, and insights into the ways that dancing has made them who they are. After years of dedicating your life to the studio and stage, the decision to stop dancing is always an emotional one. Each dancer handles it in their own way—whether that means cheekily admitting to having an existential crisis, or simply leaving with no regrets about what you did for love.
We will miss these dancers' performances, but can't wait to see what awaits each in their next chapters.
A previous lab cycle. Photo by Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade, Courtesy RRR Creative
Choreographic incubator Broadway Dance Lab has recently been rechristened Dance Lab New York. "I found the nomenclature of 'Broadway' was actually a type of glass ceiling to the organization," says choreographer Josh Prince, who founded the nonprofit in 2012.