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Trocks Dancer Resigns, Accuses Company of Discrimination and Harassment
When a young dancer with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo named Chase Johnsey was chosen as one of our "25 to Watch" ten years ago, Dance Magazine contributor Joseph Carman wrote, "Chase Johnsey (aka Yakatarina Verbosovitch and her danseur alter-ego Roland Daulin) uses his brilliant technique and delicate quality to blur gender lines to the point of spooky illusion. The petite 22-year-old, Florida-born, diva is so convincing that if you plunked him down into the cast of ABT's La Bayadère as one of the Shades, no one would blink an eyelash." His career since has been a successful one, winning critical acclaim and the U.K.'s National Dance Award for best male dancer last year as well as being featured in the recent Trocks documentary.
So it came as a huge surprise last week when Johnsey announced his resignation from the company after 14 years. But even more shocking are the reasons he gave for leaving what he describes as his dream job.
In a video posted to YouTube, Johnsey says that he no longer believes the company stands for openness and gender freedom. He claims that he and other dancers have been mistreated, sexually harassed and discriminated against for appearing too feminine in classes and rehearsals, adding, "We're being bullied for expressing our femininity and we're being given ultimatums just because we don't live up to some masculine idea of what a gay man is....So I'm throwing away my dream job for what I believe in."
Further, Johnsey, who identifies as gender queer, cites an incident in 2012 when he was told that should he choose to transition, as he was considering at the time, he would no longer be allowed to perform with the company. He says, "I believe that trans people should have a place in ballet, and I think Trockaderos should be the first to have that even though they advertise us as 'men on pointe.' " He later posted several follow-up videos, one of which clarified that while this was not the reason he chose to resign, the company's stance on this issue is one with which he disagrees.
In response to a request for comment, the company issued the following statement:
"The management and board of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo were surprised and sorry to learn of the claims by Chase Johnsey. Our professional, all-male comedy ballet company has a proud history of service to the gay and transgender communities, and has been a pioneer of inclusiveness for 44 years. We welcome and foster a diverse array of dancers, employees and audience members. Therefore, we take Chase's concerns very seriously. The board has hired an independent, outside expert to investigate the allegations. We will take whatever measures necessary to address the findings of the investigation. At this time, however, the board is not aware of any discrimination, harassment or retaliation against Chase or any other member of the Trockadero. Management denies the allegations."
We'll keep you posted as the situation unfolds.
Update: Johnsey reached out to DM after seeing the statement made by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. He stands by his previous statements.
Update: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has released the following statement:
"Following Chase Johnsey's claims of harassment and discrimination by the management of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, and his subsequent resignation, the Board engaged an independent investigator to review these claims, including interviewing 24 witnesses that included current and former company members. On the issue of legal claims, the investigator did not find that any substantiated legal claims were presented. However, any assessment of an organization will reveal areas where things can be improved, and the Board has faith that Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and its management team will benefit from this process and will use this assessment to continue the company on a successful trajectory."
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.