Update: Additional perspectives have been added to this story as more responses have come in.
"Every time I see a little girl in a tutu or with her hair in a bun on her way to ballet class, all I can think is that she should run in the other direction," she said, "because no one will protect her, like no one protected me."
It was quite a statement, and it got us thinking. Of course, it's heartbreaking to imagine the experiences that Waterbury lists in the lawsuit, and it's easy to see why this would be her reaction.
But should aspiring ballet dancers really "run in the other direction"? Were her alleged experiences isolated incidences perpetuated by a tiny percentage of just one company—or are they indicative of major problems in today's ballet culture within and beyond NYCB's walls?
When Boston Ballet principal dancer Paulo Arrais was approached to choreograph for the company's spring program, Rhapsody, he immediately knew where he wanted to draw inspiration from. "I grew up in a part of Brazil where it was very common to see domestic violence," says Arrais. "I'm angry about this problem and I'm trying to find a way to choreograph with the anger I have."
More than 60 former students from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet have joined a class-action lawsuit against the company and its former teacher and photographer Bruce Monk. Those involved are seeking $75 million in damages, for inappropriate photos that were taken of them as students by Monk. The lawsuit was reported by MacLean's, a Canadian news outlet.
You'd think the Paris Opéra Ballet would be in damage-control mode after a leaked dancers' survey, in April, brought up worrying reports of harassment and mismanagement. But instead of addressing these issues internally, the French company is suing one of its own dancers in order to strip him of his union representative status and subsequently be free to fire him.
Dalloz Actualité, a French online magazine specializing in legal matters, elaborated on the lawsuit in an article published last week. The corps de ballet dancer taken to court, whom we'll call "S." to protect his identity, wasn't actually a member of the Commission for Artistic Expression, the elected group of dancers who put together the survey. He is described as a "geek" who provided technical support to ensure the validity of the results.
When an anonymous letter accused former New York City Ballet leader Peter Martins of sexual harassment last year, it felt like what had long been an open secret—the prevalence of harassment in the dance world—was finally coming to the surface. But the momentum of the #MeToo movement, at least in dance, has since died down.
Martins has retired, though an investigation did not corroborate any of the claims against him. He and former American Ballet Theatre star Marcelo Gomes, who suddenly resigned in December, were the only cases to make national headlines in the U.S. We've barely scratched the surface of the dance world's harassment problem.
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.)
I'm feeling very torn about the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Everyone from a company director to teachers and dancers are being accused of sexual harassment and leaving their jobs in disgrace. What happened to the idea of being presumed innocent until proven guilty?
—Conflicted, New York, NY
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Last month, Buzzfeed News confirmed 17 instances of groping or sexual misconduct by patrons of the immersive theater show Sleep No More.
Having experienced the show for the first time just a week before the story broke, I can't say I was surprised by the accusations.
No, I'm not bitter because of the more common complaints I've heard from patrons: I didn't get lost in the dark halls of the McKittrick Hotel, and I don't care that I didn't get any of the coveted one-on-one scenes. Instead, at every step of my two and a half hour journey through the show, I felt that the safety of the performers—and of the audience—was being compromised for the sake of an experience that just wasn't worth the risk.
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.
American Ballet Theatre just announced that principal dancer Marcelo Gomes, who celebrated 20 years with the company this summer, has resigned.
Last Saturday, ABT learned of a "highly concerning" allegation of sexual misconduct by Gomes, related to an incident from approximately eight years ago. A press release from board chairman Andrew F. Barth says that the allegation did not involve any current or former company members, and didn't occur in relation to Gomes' employment with ABT. The company launched an independent investigation, and today, in light of that investigation, Gomes gave his resignation.
While it's appalling that any male leader would use his power to humiliate women, the accusations against Peter Martins opens up a wonderful, rosy possibility. In an email conversation about Martins stepping down temporarily, a friend of mine wrote, "They won't hire a man in this climate."
I suddenly found myself getting giddy with the thought that a woman might lead New York City Ballet. I pictured a former NYCB principal coming in and calming the dancers down, respecting them, inspiring them, treating them like adults, listening to them and encouraging communication between all factions of the company.
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:
The past few months have brought to light countless accusations of sexual harassment and assault against men in positions of power across media, Hollywood and politics. Though there hasn't been much attention on the issue as it plays out in the dance world, unfortunately we know all to well that sexual harassment exists in our industry. We're looking into how it happens and what's being done to address it.
If you're a member of the dance community and have experienced sexual harassment, or know someone who has, please fill out our survey if you're comfortable sharing your story: