Peter Martins Is Taking A Leave of Absence As More Accusations Surface
Last night, the New York City Ballet board of directors approved ballet master in chief Peter Martins' request for a temporary leave of absence amidst an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment.
The investigation came to light on Monday, when the New York Times reported that NYCB and the School of American Ballet had hired a law firm to investigate their leader after receiving an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment.
Yesterday, the first named accuser came forward in the Washington Post: Kelly Cass Boal, a former NYCB dancer and wife of Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, accused Martins of attacking her after a tense rehearsal. She told the Post's Sarah Kaufman that Martins "grabbed my shoulder and pulled me out into the hallway, shaking me by the shoulders, screaming at me 'You f---ing bitch, why can't you listen to what I have to say? I need to break your spirit.' He had his hands around my neck, choking me and screaming at me. And then he pushed me away and left." Peter Boal and several other sources corroborated Kelly Cass Boal's experience.
A new story in the Times last night includes several additional anonymous sources, current and former dancers who accused Martins of sleeping with dancers who then received better parts, and of being violent in rehearsals. One former dancer recalled a time she asked Martins what she needed to do to be promoted to soloist, and he seemed to suggest that she should sleep with him.
These are not the first accusations against Martins. In 1992, he was charged with third-degree assault against his wife, Darci Kistler. In Gelsey Kirkland's 1986 book Dancing on My Grave, she recounts Martins dragging dancer Heather Watts up and down a flight of stairs. The Times reported that several former dancers remembered seeing Watts with bruises when she and Martins were together.
Martins gave the following statement to the Post: "Because of all the distraction these false claims are creating for New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet, which I love and to which I have devoted the last 47 years of my life, I am asking the board of directors of both institutions for permission to take a temporary leave of absence until such time as the current independent investigation into these matters has been completed."
The Post also reported that the board would be deciding who should take over in Martins' absence, though we have yet to hear who this might be. (But you can read our wish-list here.)
(Update: On Saturday, New York City Ballet announced the team that will lead the company in the interim. Read more here.)
More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:
"Is your daughter the dancer?"
"Actually," I say, "I am."
"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"
"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."
Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.
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