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How the Dance World Is Responding to Sexual Harassment Claims Against Peter Martins

Peter Martins. Photo by Adam Shankbone, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

(Update: On January 1, Peter Martins retired following his leave of absence from the company as more accusations surfaced. An interim leadership team was announced in December.)

Yesterday The New York Times reported that New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet are jointly investigating sexual harassment claims involving Peter Martins. According to a statement from SAB, it "recently received an anonymous letter making general, nonspecific allegations of sexual harassment in the past by Peter Martins at both New York City Ballet and the school."

Martins, who serves as NYCB's ballet master in chief and SAB's chairman of faculty and artistic director will not be teaching his weekly class at the school as the investigation continues. He currently maintains his positions at both organizations.

While sexual harassment allegations have recently been made against a growing list of Hollywood heavy-hitters, politicians, news anchors and other men in positions of power, this is the first investigation this year of a major figure from the dance world.

Immediate reactions were varied, though emotionally charged. Here are a few of the many responses:


Some admitted they weren't surprised to hear that sexual harassment allegations had touched the dance world.

Others speculated about who might replace Martins if he was let go from NYCB.

Some commented on NYCB's troubling history of directors being sexually involved with company dancers.

#MeToo was a large part of the conversation.

One woman picked up on similar themes in how movies and TV shows have portrayed the ballet world.

Still, several people were hopeful that this reckoning could eventually have a positive effect on the field.

The dance world is already helping.

In light of this news, Dance/NYC issued a statement on sexual harassment this morning, along with a resource list for affected dancers in the New York City area. According to its statement, "Dance/NYC takes seriously harassment in all its forms. It commends the brave individuals who are coming forward in the performing arts and across all sectors to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Dance/NYC also recognizes this as a defining moment to publicly acknowledge long-existing issues in the dance field and to address them and create positive change for the art form and its workforce."

The organization is committed to taking concrete action to foster safer dance environments. These steps include a town hall that's currently in the works, forming a committee to address the issue in the field, connecting survivors with appropriate resources and collaborating on larger efforts with the national service organization Dance/USA.

If you have new information or a perspective you want to share, consider filling out Dance Magazine's survey, or emailing us directly at mschrock@dancemedia.com. We're continuing to look into how the issue is being handled in the dance community.

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