#MoiAussi: Paris Opéra Ballet Dancers Cite Sexual Harassment
A leaked survey reveals trouble at Paris Opéra Ballet. POB in Balanchine's "Emeralds." Photo by Agathe Poupeney, Courtesy Lincoln Center.
The #MeToo movement has made its way to France's biggest ballet company.
An anonymous survey recently leaked to the French press revealed major turbulence at the Paris Opéra Ballet. The Straits Times reports that the survey was conducted by an internal group representing POB's dancers. In it, there are numerous claims of bullying, sexual harassment and management issues.
Nearly all of the dancers (132 out of 154) answered the questionnaire, but they didn't know it would be made public. (Around 100 of them later signed a statement saying they didn't consent to its release.)
The Survey Results
The survey results have brought harrowing behavior to light:
90% said they did not think the company was being well managed.
77% said they had experienced bullying in the workplace or witnessed a co-worker being bullied.
26% said they had experienced sexual harassment on the job or witnessed a co-worker being sexually harassed.
A Lot of Unknowns
These statistics are deeply troubling, though they unfortunately don't come as a shock given the recent claims of dancer mistreatment at major companies like New York City Ballet and English National Ballet. Still, there's a lot to unpack.
Millepied choreographing on Dupont before her retirement from the stage. Photo by Agathe Poupeney, Courtesy POB.
The Paris Opéra Ballet is a major institution, and POB's recent changes of directorship complicate the accusations. Current dance director Aurélie Dupont took over when Benjamin Millepied left after a very short tenure. (He came onboard following longtime directorBrigitte Lefèvre's retirement.) What's unclear is when these reported incidents of bullying and sexual harassment, as well as the management issues, occurred and how far back they go. The questionnaire did not detail who the harassment allegations were being made against, either.
However, the same article from The Straits Times mentions how the dancers used the survey to express their disapproval of Dupont's leadership style. One dancer wrote:
"The current director seems totally incompetent when it comes to management, and has no desire to acquire such skills."
Another hinted that the dancers feel less than human:
"We're human beings, not pawns they can move around as they see fit."
How Management Is Reacting
After the survey was leaked, Stéphane Lissner, the Paris Opéra's director, said the company had "zero tolerance" for sexual harassment. He encouraged the dancers who made these claims to come forward, saying he wanted to have a conversation with staff "to consider this calmly and understand what the dancers are trying to say."
That all sounds great, but even if the dancers wanted to speak out, it's unclear how they should report these incidents. An article in The Telegraph shared another revealing statistic from the survey: 87% of respondents said the process to report harassment was "insufficiently clear or private."
This begs the question: Is the zero tolerance policy just lip service, or is POB truly open to dealing with these accusations?
Tony Testa leads a rehearsal during his USC New Movement Residency. Photo by Mary Mallaney/Courtesy USC
The massive scale of choreographing an Olympic opening ceremony really has no equivalent. The hundreds of performers, the deeply historic rituals and the worldwide audience and significance make it a project like no other.
Just consider the timeline: For most live TV events like award shows, choreographers usually take a month or two to put everything together. For the Olympics, the process can take up to four years.
But this kind of challenge is exactly what Los Angeles choreographer Tony Testa is looking for. He's currently creating a submission to throw his hat in the ring to choreograph for Beijing's 2022 Winter Games.
In a studio high above Lincoln Center, Taylor Stanley is rehearsing a solo from Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer. As the pianist plays Prokofiev's plangent melody, Stanley begins to move, his arms forming crisp, clean lines while his upper body twists and melts from one position to the next.
All you see is intention and arrival, without a residue of superfluous movement. The ballet seems to depict a man searching for something, struggling against forces within himself. Stanley doesn't oversell the struggle—in fact he's quite low-key—but the clarity with which he executes the choreography draws you in.