The Dance Community Responds to NYCB's Firing of Amar Ramasar & Zachary Catazaro
New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)
The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:
"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."
Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.
The Two Dancers Speak Out
Catazaro's manager shared this statement via email, which Catazaro also posted on social media:
"I am deeply saddened by New York City Ballet's termination of my contract. I have been a dedicated and respected member of my beloved company for 11 years, fulfilling all of my obligations of rehearsals and performances, and everything else under my contract, while most importantly, giving my all to create the most artistic performances possible, for our audiences.
Firstly, I want to clarify that I did not initiate, was not involved in, or associated with any of Alexandra Waterbury's personal material that was allegedly shared with others.
Although I was initially suspended for other private and personal communications, the NYCB dancers' union--AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists)--maintains that these communications were during off-work hours, and do not justify termination.
Clearly, the negative press from the lawsuit filed by Ms. Waterbury--in which I stress that I have not been named as a defendant--has caused harm to the company's reputation, as well as mine. These circumstances could happen to anyone, in any profession, when personal and private communications are involved but where the intent was not to harm or embarrass anyone.
I have worked my whole life to reach the level of Principal Dancer at a company having the highest prestige, and I am devastated at the possibility to no longer be able to share the stage with the wonderful, talented artists and my friends there. I respect and admire every ballerina with whom I dance at the company, and strive every day to be the best partner I possibly can be.
I sincerely hope that my contract is reinstated, based on AGMA's analysis of the situation, and that I can continue to work with my hard-working and dedicated colleagues at the company. They are my 'family,' and I love and admire them."
Meanwhile, Ramasar posted twice on Instagram, with a promise to soon tell his side of the story:
The Union Plans To Push Back
The dancers' union, American Guild of Musical Artists, also announced that they would challenge the decision to fire Ramasar and Catazaro. They told the NYT that the firings "relate entirely to non-work related activity and do not rise to the level of 'just cause' termination."
Of course, it is AGMA's responsibility to ensure that dancers are only fired for "just cause." Yet shouldn't it also fall on the union to make sure that dancers can work in a safe environment, and protect the women at the center of the degrading conversations that have been alleged? It will be interesting to see how they balance these two obligations.
About That Donor
With the news of the terminations also came more information on the anonymous donor who was implicated in comparing female dancers to "farm animals." Apparently, he was a former member of the Young Patrons Circle, and had donated a total of $12,000 over six years. At the suggestion of some very smart dancers, NYCB has now donated that same amount to a local charity focused on women's issues.
But the knowledge that the donor was a member of the Young Patrons Circle reminded some people on social media of NYCB's 2013 ad that overtly marketed the opportunity to meet young, beautiful female dancers as a reason to join. It becomes even more hair-raising in light of the accusations:
Fans React on Social Media
One of the most common reactions on social media over the weekend was summed up succinctly by Dance Magazine's editor at large:
As sad as dance lovers are to see such talent leave the stage, the thought that these accusations might be true is even more depressing.
What It Means for the Company
Dance critic Sarah Kaufman wrote in The Washington Post, "With the company's fall season at New York's Lincoln Center starting Tuesday, audiences must decide whether buying a ballet ticket means checking their consciences at the door."
But tickets to the gala performance next week are already sold out—the drama might not yet be affecting ticket sales as much as one might imagine.
Still, it calls for a serious look at NYCB's company culture. Kaufman writes: "Firing the dancers is not the same thing as fixing, in a carefully considered, long-term manner, what appear to be deep problems at City Ballet."
Meanwhile, a petition has been started to encourage the search committee to hire Wendy Whelan as NYCB's new artistic leader, making her the first woman to hold that role. As of Monday morning, it had already reached nearly 7,000 signatures in less than three days.
Others on Twitter are throwing their support behind Jenifer Ringer (despite not knowing whether she'd even want the job).
Why is it taking so long for the search committee to make a decision? The rumor is that everyone on the committee has their own favorite pick for the job, and no one will compromise. Which raises another one of Kaufman's suggestions: to replace the board itself, whose members have long overlooked problematic behavior in the company.
Either way, it's obviously high time to start a fresh new era at the company.
Update 9/18: The lawsuit has been amended to add Catazaro, Ramasar and donor Jared Longhitano as defendants.
It's the 60th anniversary of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and their season at New York City Center is going strong with more than 20 works—including world premieres and company premieres.
Ronald K. Brown, who just received a Dance Magazine Award, has made his seventh work for Ailey, The Call. It's a gorgeous pastiche of three different types of music: Bach, jazz by singer Mary Lou Williams and Malian music by Asase Yaa Entertainment Group.
If a teacher or choreographer has ever commented that your dancing looks stiff, the problem could be that you aren't breathing effectively. "When dancers aren't breathing, their shoulders are up and there's no length in their movement. They start to look like they're just waiting to get to the next thing," says Maria Bai, artistic director of Central Park Dance in New York.
It may seem like a no-brainer—of course you can't move without breathing. But beginning dancers often hold their breath because they are so focused on picking up choreography, says Sarah Skaggs, director of dance at Dickinson College. Even advanced dancers can benefit from focusing more on their breath. "Sometimes they are paying so much attention to what their limbs are doing that they forget about the lungs, the chest, the trunk. Breath is the last thing they're thinking about, but really it should be the first," says Skaggs. The more integrated your breathing is, the more relaxed and present you will feel.
I've been a fan of Jordan Isadore's for about a decade. His gorgeous, spine-contorting renditions of Christopher Williams' repertory are legendary, and for many years I had the privilege of making dances with him and producing his works through DanceNOW[NYC].
Over the last year or so, as he began winding down his performance career, Isadore began making odd, phenomenal objects: dribs of Labanotation scores rendered as hung mobiles, gorgeously crafted in stained glass and metal. The designs are stunning, imbued simultaneously with a hipster-nonsense contemporaneousness and reverence for dance history.
I spoke with Isadore about his retirement from the stage, and transition to crafting full time.
There's always that fateful day each year, usually in February or March, when ballet contracts are renewed. Dancers file into an office one by one, grab an envelope and sign their name on a nearby sheet of paper to signify the receipt of their fate. Inside that envelope is a contract for next season or a letter stating that their artistic contribution will no longer be needed. This yearly ritual is filled with anxiety and is usually followed by either celebratory frolicking or resumé writing.
Whenever I received my contract, I would throw up my hands joyfully knowing that I would get to spend one more year dancing. In 14 years at Boston Ballet, I never once looked at my pay rate when signing a contract. The thought of assessing my work through my salary never crossed my mind.
Watching Bohemian Rhapsody through the eyes of dancer, there's a certain element of the movie that's impossible to ignore: Rami Malek's physical performance of Freddie Mercury. The way he so completely embodies the nuances of the rock star is simply mind-blowing. We had to learn how he did it, so we called up Polly Bennett, the movement director who coached him through the entire process.
In a bit of serendipitous timing, while we were on the phone, she got a text from Malek that he had just been nominated for a Golden Globe. And during our chat, it became quite clear that she had obviously been a major part of that—more than we could have ever imagined.
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What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.
Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.
Even if you haven't heard her name, you've almost certainly seen the work of commercial choreographer James Alsop. Though she's made award-winning dances for Beyoncé ("Run the World," anyone?) and worked with stars like Lady GaGa and Janelle Monae, Alsop's most recent project may be her most powerful: A moving music video for Everytown for Gun Safety, directed by Ezra Hurwitz and featuring students from the National Dance Institute.
We caught up with Alsop for our "Spotlight" series:
Today, we are thrilled to announce the honorees of the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards celebrate the living legends who have made a lasting impact on dance. This year's honorees include:
Each year, The New York Times Magazine shines a spotlight on who they deem to be the best actors of the year in its Great Performers series. But, what we're wondering is, can they dance? Thankfully, the NYT Mag recruited none other than Justin Peck to put them to the test.
Peck choreographed and directed a series of 10 short dance films, placing megastars in everyday situations: riding the subway, getting out of bed in the morning, waiting at a doctor's office.
On busy performance days, international guest artist Joy Womack always makes time for one activity after class and rehearsals: a nap. "I like to feel well-rested when I need to be in the spotlight at night, not dragging at the end of the day," she says. "It helps me recover and refocus."
With her earbuds tuned to a guided meditation app, she can squeeze in a nap wherever she needs to. "One time I even took a nap on the floor of the tour bus in Siberia," she says. "Dancers can sleep anywhere."
Joy Womack prioritizes napping before a show. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe magazine.
As research has revealed the benefits of short daytime naps, power-napping advice has proliferated, and more dancers are choosing to include a nap in their pre-performance routines. Approaching napping strategically will help you get the most out of an afternoon snooze.
On Monday night, a memorial was held at Riverside Church to honor the life and achievements of Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell. With nearly three months to process and grieve (Mitchell passed away on September 19) the atmosphere was not that of mourning as much as reflection, reverence and admiration for who he was, what he built and what remains. (Watch the full livestream here.)
The church filled with family, artistic friends, fans and admirers. What was most gratifying was the volume of DTH alumni from the school, company and organization who traveled across the globe to pay their respects, from founding members to present dancers and students. The house of worship was filled with the sentiment of a family reunion. As Mitchell was sent home, it was a homecoming for many who have not shared air together in decades. What was palpable was the authentic bonds that Dance Theatre of Harlem and Mitchell fostered in all.
Fans of the sublime English National Ballet first artist Precious Adams were probably excited to see her image splashed across the company's website in a promotional image for an upcoming production of Swan Lake.
But those who took a closer look were met with a disappointing reality: Adams, who is the only black woman in the company, is not listed on the principal casting sheet for the production.
It's become a colloquialism—or, we admit, a cliche—to say that dance can heal.
But with a new initiative launched by British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, doctors in the U.K. will soon be able to prescribe dance classes—along with art, music, sports, gardening and more—for patients suffering from conditions as various as dementia, lung problems and mental health issues.
A list of Clara alumnae from Radio City's Christmas Spectacular reads like a star-studded, international gala program: Tiler Peck and Brittany Pollack of New York City Ballet (and Broadway), Meaghan Grace Hinkis of The Royal Ballet, Whitney Jensen of Norwegian National Ballet and more. Madison Square Garden's casting requirements for the role are simple: The dancer should be 4' 10" and under, appear to be 14 years old or younger and have strong ballet technique and pointework.
The unspoken requisite? They need abundant tenacity at a very young age.
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
Gennadi Nedvigin is not the only early tenure director breaking out a new production of The Nutcracker this season.
We love The Nutcracker as much as the next person, but that perennial holiday classic isn't the only thing making its way onstage this month. Here are five alternatives that piqued our editors' curiosity.
The Nutcracker is synonymous with American ballet. So when Gennadi Nedvigin took the helm at Atlanta Ballet in 2016, a new version of the holiday classic was one of his top priorities. This month, evidence of two years' worth of changes will appear when the company unwraps its latest version at Atlanta's Fox Theatre Dec. 8–24. Choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and produced on a larger-than-ever scale for Atlanta, the new ballet represents Nedvigin's big ambitions.
Ballet Hispánico returns to the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem with its full-length ballet, CARMEN.maquia. Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano has reenvisioned the story of Carmen to emphasize Don José, the man who falls in love with Carmen, suffers because of her infidelity, then murders her in a "fit of passion." Their duets are filled with all the sensuality, jealousy and violence you could wish for—in a totally contemporary dance language.
Sansano's previous piece for Ballet Hispánico, El Beso, bloomed with a thousand playful and witty ways of expressing desire. He has a knack for splicing humor into romance.
Not being able to attend the in-person audition at your top college can feel like the end of the world. But while it's true that going to the live audition is ideal, you can still make the best out of sending a video. Here are some of the perks: