NYCB's Firing of Zachary Catazaro and Amar Ramasar Determined "Wrongful and Unjust"
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.
AGMA's decision to challenge the firings was controversial, with some arguing that it ignored the concerns of other dancers in the company who no longer felt safe performing with Ramasar and Catazaro. AGMA just sent this statement to its members:
After a careful review of the facts, one of the country's top arbitrators has decided to reinstate Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro to the New York City Ballet. Zach has decided not to return to City Ballet.
The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) exists to ensure the rights of all our members are protected—that includes those who report harassment in the workplace as well as those who have been subject to unjust termination. This was a complicated situation. We pursued this case because it's important to us that your employer is prevented from taking extreme and potentially career-ending action based on non-criminal activity in your private life.
We are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure you have a respectful environment in which to work. That is essential due to the incredible vulnerability and trust you must practice to perform at your highest level as artists.
We want to be very clear: ensuring your safety and security is our top priority and we will hold your employers accountable. If you are experiencing discrimination, abuse or harassment reach out to your AGMA representative or send us a confidential email at email@example.com (only AGMA's Sexual Harassment liaison and National Executive Director see this email).
We will continue to fight on your behalf to create the culture of dignity and respect that you deserve. If you have any questions or concerns, we are always available to help.
Zachary Catazaro's Decision to Decline
Catazaro, who is currently dancing on a guest contract with Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich (the same company where Sergei Polunin is a permanent guest principal), put out the following statement:
I am grateful and relieved that the arbitrator has found the New York City Ballet's abrupt termination of my contract to be wrongful and unjust. After considering the situation I have decided to respectfully decline my reinstatement and I will not be returning to NYCB.
NYCB has been my home from the age of eighteen and I'm thankful for the many opportunities that were given to me there. I would like to thank all of the dancers, ballet masters, and staff who have guided me through my time there. Most of all I would like to thank all of the patrons who have watched me perform and shown their support.
In light of all the facts that were presented, I feel vindicated knowing that the arbitrator has found NYCB's decision to be wrong.
As I continue my career elsewhere, I look forward to challenging myself as an artist and renewing my spirited passion for dance.
Amar Ramasar Will Return
Ramasar, who has been dancing with Rome Opera Ballet and most recently performed in a gala in Buenos Aires, has not yet released a statement. However, New York Times writer Michael Cooper just tweeted that Ramasar will return to his former company.
New York City Ballet issued a statement as well, maintaining that the company "still believes strongly that it was also within its rights to terminate Catazaro and Ramasar," though they will honor the ruling.
The arbitration brought on by the American Guild of Musical Artists, which challenged New York City Ballet's suspension and termination of Zachary Catazaro and Amar Ramasar, has concluded. The arbitrator has ruled that while NYCB was justified in disciplining the two men, suspension was the appropriate punishment for their actions and termination was too severe. As such, the arbitrator has ordered NYCB to reinstate Catazaro and Ramasar to their former positions as Principal Dancers with NYCB.
NYCB is gratified that the arbitrator upheld the Company's right to discipline the men for their actions but still believes strongly that it was also within its rights to terminate Catazaro and Ramasar. However, the Company is bound by the arbitrator's decision and will abide by the ruling. Catazaro intends to resign from the Company, effective immediately, and NYCB supports that decision. Ramasar does plan to return to NYCB and as a condition of his reinstatement, the arbitrator has ordered that he undergo counseling on the standards for his conduct. The Company will work closely with Ramasar to ensure that he completes that counseling and to reintegrate him into the Company consistent with the arbitrator's order.
NYCB remains committed to a safe and respectful workplace for all of its employees and will continue to work diligently to ensure that the environment at the Company meets that standard.
Editor's note: This story has been updated as more information has become available.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.