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Well, gall dang, a ballet company finally stood up to a disgruntled former dancer claim of “abuse”. Yeah, it happened on the other side of the world, but hey, that a start.
To a dancer claim of constant belittlement, being silenced, shunning, physical and verbal abuse, and, get this, “the list goes on” the RNZB said:
“The allegations made in this interview by a former employee, regarding the company internal culture and working practices, and the actions allegedly taken or not taken by our Board to address concerns raised, are malicious, false and completely rejected by the Board,” the RNZB said in a written statement.
It said the allegations have damaged the company and everyone who works with and for the RNZB.
“As a responsible employer, the Board of the RNZB takes, and has always taken, employees concerns, particularly those alleging any kind of bullying, intimidation or abuse, extremely seriously. We have zero tolerance for behaviour of this kind. It said at that time, the board had initiated a formal process of fact finding and facilitation, with the help of independent external advisors, and a number of recommendations had been made.”
Since when is an employer who tells an employee to shut up considered abusive? Dancers need to join the real world. The idea that they are entitled to express their own opinions whenever and to whomever they want and that they must be listened to is inconsistent with what is permitted in corporate America.
None of us has yet to hear Martins side of the story on any of this. Apparently it doesn matter. Apparently, each such case is immediately black white to the NYT and will remain so unless and until Martins agrees to be examined by the Times in it media court. Ain gonna happen.
The NYT has found yet another angry dancer who was let go by Martins last year to claim abuse. She claimed that he treated all the dancers the same way when he kicked them out of his office. That hundreds of dancers. What do the non fired dancers say about this?
And then there is Jeff Edwards who told Dance Magazine years ago that he left NYCB for Zurich and Lyon to “expand both his choreographic and geographic frame of reference.” There wasn even a hint that he wasn getting along with Martins. (Nor was there disclosure about the injury and surgery that kept him off the NYCB stage for a year and half and how he never got back all his juice.) Now he has told the New York Times or the Times has chosen to interpret his current comments as saying he left NYCB because Martins was abusive. He didn stay long in Zurich or Lyon. He didn stay long in Washington. He was even teaching some classes at ABT, but that didn last long.
Now a kid who was misbehaving during a dress rehearsal and was disciplined by Martins “in front of the whole cast” is now claiming he was abused. Undoubtedly humiliated. Maybe even some of the other kids were laughing at him as Martins pulled him around. Was he invited to leave SAB or did he quit? We haven heard yet. “Dropped out” is a pretty ambiguous term often interchangeable with flunked out or suggested out.
And John Clifford saw stuff.
What an age we live in when people who claim they are crime victims opt to go to the media for a trial by press rather than to the police.
So the wife of the man who has been making frequent trips to Manhattan from Seattle to make hokey presentations in order to position himself as a contender to replace Peter Martins when he retires has now tossed out some media candy about how in 1989 Martins tried to physically harm her. Now Martins wants to take a leave. How low can this go, and who would be surprised if Heather was helping to instigate some of the current controversies? And why are the Boals running to the media instead of seriously approaching the Board of Directors with their info?
We hope that NYCB Board refuses Martins request for a leave and throws its support behind him until something that warrants the Board not supporting him turns up. If they grant his request, the only person who could get the company through the Nutcracker season while preparing for the winter season with the least amount of disruption would be Jon Stafford. But we hope that the Board will have the balls to support its AD.
NYCB in 1989 was filled with unhappy dancers, some mediocre, who publicly expressed their disrespect for Martins and blamed him for not being Balanchine. Telstra, which has partnered with The Australian Ballet to make the award annually since 2003, does so to support the aspirations and development of the elite dancers at the company. The winner gets $20,000 (AUD). This is the first time in more than two decades that a NZ School of Dance graduate hasn joined the company. To add insult to injury, reportedly more than half the dancers have left the company either by their choice or hers. Well folks, the Prime Minister is investigating. That how seriously they take their national pride. Even the nation rugby experts are weighing in on the ballet situation (click red link for story) and pointing out how the depth and breadth of rugby talent and leadership being developed in New Zealand by New Zealanders is an immense source of pride.
The good news is that RNZB Tonia Rose Looker, who Ethan Stiefel recognized as a bright talent when he was the Artistic Director at RNZB, has hopped the Tasman Sea to accept a position in the Queensland Ballet corps. One of Haglund all time favorite ABT Tharp Bombers, Laura Hildago, is a longtime principal there, and former RNZB er Lucy Green who joined last year was just promoted to principal by Artistic Director Li Cunxin.
Hopefully, Ms. Barker will not try to Americanize the RNZB either with dancers or in management style. Cultural sensitivity and respect might help here. His computer was confiscated. The police in London were contacted and his home was searched. Can the The New York Times investigate one of its own and report on it?
Alastair Macaulay wrote an article about his nightmare of being arrested for such innocent activity and published it in the UK Telegraph complete with a smiling picture of himself. This was in 2005, fewer than two years before The New York Times hired him as its chief dance critic. Did they investigate that incident as thoroughly then as they are investigating all of the claims they have been publishing over the past month?
“At 6.15pm, I was detained by two policemen. It seems that, among all the people on the beach, one father and his brother had decided that there must be something wrong about the photographs I had been taking.
They had gone to the lifeguard. The lifeguard had rung the police. The police had activated a close circuit television on the beach, recording my actions, and then they came to the beach to take action.”