NYCB and SAB Have Announced the Results of the Peter Martins Harassment Investigation
Former NYCB ballet master in chief Peter Martins resigned in January in the midst of an investigation into allegations of harassment and abuse. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB
A statement released yesterday by New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet reported that an independent investigation was unable to corroborate allegations of harassment and abuse against former ballet master in chief Peter Martins, according to The New York Times. This marks the end of a two-month inquiry jointly launched by the two organizations in December following an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment and violence.
The statement also included new policies for both the company and school to create safer, more respectful environments for the dancers, including hiring an independent vendor to handle employee complaints anonymously. These changes are being madedespite the independent investigation, handled by outside counsel Barbara Hoey, purportedly finding no evidence of abuse.
Martins retired from his positions at both NYCB and SAB on January 1 after over 30 years at the helm. This decision followed a self-requested leave of absence, though he continued to deny the allegations. An interim leadership team comprised of four current and former dancers has been in place since, and will continue to handle the company's day-to-day affairs until a permanent replacement is found. There has been speculation that the dual role of heading NYCB and SAB could be split into more than one position.
According to the Times, in a statement provided by his lawyer, Martins said, "I retired to allow those glorious institutions to move past the turmoil that resulted from these charges. It is my hope that, with the investigation concluded, they can refocus, without distraction, on their roles as the world's pre-eminent ballet company and school."
Martins in rehearsal. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB
Much like with Martins' decision to retire, reactions from current and former dancers have been mixed regarding the investigation's findings. Some say that the lack of corroboration tracks with their own positive experiences with Martins; others question the veracity of the investigation. Kelly Cass Boal (wife of Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal) told the Times and The Washington Postthat she felt that Hoey was angling to make her accusations sound false during questioning. Boal detailed an incident of physical abuse to the Post in December; she was one of several dancers who told their stories to the media in the last several months.
The recent accusations against Martins were not the first to be leveled against him. In 1992 he was charged with third-degree assault against his wife Darci Kistler; the charges were later dropped. Martins was arrested for driving while intoxicated not long after announcing his retirement; Martins pled not guilty and the case is ongoing, though it is, again, not the first time he has faced such a charge.
The investigation spoke to 77 current and former dancers. (NYCB currently lists 145 dancers on its website.) Hoey's report will not be released publicly.
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.