Yesterday evening, Peter Martins announced his immediate retirement as New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief through a letter to the company's board. He had been solely in charge of the company's artistic direction since 1989 and the School of American Ballet's chairman of faculty since 1983. Since December 7, Martins had been on a self-requested leave, amidst an investigation of claims of sexual harassment as well as physical and verbal abuse. In the letter, he stated, "I have denied, and continue to deny, that I have engaged in any such misconduct." However, earlier articles from The New York Times and The Washington Post conveyed accounts of verbal and physical abuse by NYCB dancers, both past and present. In 1992, Martins was charged with third-degree assault of his wife Darci Kistler, though the charges were later dropped.
Despite Martins' resignation, the board emphasized in a statement, also released on Monday, that the investigation will continue until it is completed and that "the board takes seriously the allegations that have been made against him."
Martins' departure also follows his arrest this past Thursday. He was charged with driving while intoxicated.
Justin Peck, Jonathan Stafford, Rebecca Krohn and Craig Hall remain in place as NYCB's interim leadership team announced last month. However, a New York Times article mentioned the board's plan to quickly form a committee to find Martins' permanent replacement. NYCB fans have been speculating about who the next director could be, with names like Wendy Whelan, Justin Peck and Benjamin Millepied thrown into the ring. But dance critic Alastair Macaulay shrewdly points out that the majority of these fan-nominated directors do not fit the company's longtime model of a leader who teaches, directs and choreographs as George Balanchine, and later Peter Martins, did.
Reactions from NYCB's dancers have been varied throughout the past month, with some speaking out about misconduct and others championing Martins and expressing sorrow or making it clear that they have not witnessed such actions. Despite the division, the company is poised for a new chapter. Its next steps will set the tone for its future, and ballet companies worldwide will be watching. Hopefully, NYCB will establish new standards for how its dancers are to be treated.