Rant & Rave
Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar in George Balanchine's Who Cares. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

Last Friday, through an appeal to an independent arbitrator, the American Guild of Musical Artists successfully reinstated NYCB principals Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro, previously fired for allegedly circulating sexually explicit texts containing nude photos.

AGMA opposed Ramasar and Catazaro's terminations in order to prevent the setting of a dangerous precedent that would allow dancers to be fired under less understandable consequences. But we cannot allow future cases to dictate the way we handle this situation—particularly a union committed to "doing everything in [its] power to ensure you have a respectful environment in which to work."

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One of the country's top arbitrators has decided to reinstate Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro to New York City Ballet. The former principals were fired last fall for "inappropriate communications," namely graphic text messages.

The dancers' union, American Guild of Musical Artists, fought the termination, arguing that the firings were unjust since they related entirely to non-work activity. After a careful review of the facts, an independent arbitrator determined that while the company was justified in disciplining the two men, suspension was the appropriate action and termination took it too far.

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Teresa Reichlen gave opening remarks at New York City Ballet's fall gala surrounded by her fellow company members. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Would New York City Ballet address the elephant in the room? At the company's annual fall gala last night, where the focus is ostensibly on newly-commissioned ballets and high-profile fashion collaborations, it was impossible not to wonder whether there would be any direct acknowledgement of the turmoil broiling behind the scenes: namely, an explosive lawsuit brought against the company by former School of American Ballet student Alexandra Waterbury. The allegations led to the recent resignation of Chase Finlay and subsequent firings of Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro; all three are named in Waterbury's suit. (This following the retirement in January of ballet master in chief Peter Martins amidst allegations of sexual harassment, which an independent investigation were unable to corroborate.)

Some dancers in the company have taken to social media to address the situation in recent weeks. Responses have ranged from condemnation of their colleagues' alleged actions to support for the fired dancers. The shared sentiment, however, seemed to be determination to come together and buckle down in rehearsals for the new season.

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New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)

The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:

"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."

Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.

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Chase Finlay as Apollo. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB

New York City Ballet will be three male principals short this season. Due to "inappropriate communications," Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro have been suspended without pay until 2019, and Chase Finlay has resigned, effective immediately, according to The New York Times. (Finlay's name has already disappeared from the company roster on nycballet.com.)

A statement from the NYCB board chairman said they received a letter from someone outside of the company "alleging inappropriate communications made via personal text and email by three members of the company" that were "personal in nature." It added that the board's efforts to reach Finlay to even discuss the allegations were unsuccessful, which leads us to believe that it must have been quite a serious offense.

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