Graham Watts posted once again:
"And, still it goes on. There's no smoke without fire, the saying goes, and there are many that will believe this to be true of the current state of English National Ballet.
A blog by the name of Ballet Position has now entered the fray (you can read the piece, below).
I have no reason to disbelieve the fact that there are a dozen past and present dancers who - under guarantee of anonymity - have spoken out about the current management.
The net has widened to include Tamara's Deputy, Loipa Araujo but no other artistic staff, of whom there are several, appear to be mentioned.
I wonder how many of this dozen are "past" and how many are "present" dancers? It makes a difference. And, why would past dancers still be living under a "culture of fear". If they have left the company what do they have to lose by identifying themselves? Some are identified as having left the profession altogether. If that is so, what possible reason could still require anonymity?
If the "culture of fear" follows dancers after leaving a company - or the profession - then it suggests something more endemic within ballet as a whole?
Ballet is not like any other job. It is an employment where to excel is the baseline of employability. It is a job where height, weight, stamina and fitness are crucial. Many people won't like that being said but - within ballet - it's a fact of life.
I know both Tamara and Loipa well enough to know that they are fair, firm and determined. Neither will accept indiscipline and failure to work to the high standards that they set for themselves and the company that they are trying to elevate to a higher level of achievement and reputation. It doesn't surprise me that they give up on dancers that are either unable or unwilling to work as hard as they need to make this journey with them.
The problem with progress is inevitably that some cannot keep up and are left behind and feel aggrieved because of it - it happens in all competitive environments and you can read the same in football, cycling.....even fencing!
Tamara is, of course, still a lead dancer herself and it must be horrendously tough to do that job and also run a company (a situation, as I understand it, that was encouraged by the Board when she took the role of artistic director, so don't blame her)!
Incidentally, and as an aside,it does seem ironic that there is supposed to be a conflict of interests occasioned by Tamara's relationship with Isaac; but not in relation to Tamara casting herself?
As Ballet Position has done, I have also made my own enquiries, although amongst current dancers exclusively; since it seems to me that ex-dancers will likely have "axes to grind" if they have been "let go" because they have been unable to keep up with the pace.
Some current dancers have publicly identified their support for the ENB management on my FB page with positive comments or support to my earlier posting. They are there for all to see.
Others have written or spoken to me privately and although one has called into question Tamara's availability to speak to dancers as-and-when needed (perhaps an inevitable consequence of her dual role) all have echoed something akin to the "firm but fair" ethos.
All of them believe that the company is progressing and that to progress means that all personnel have to be of the right quality and dedication. They all seem proud to be a part of ENB's achievements.
From those I have spoken to, I have a good idea of a few of those who have complained in comments to The Times and Ballet Position. All are former dancers.
Now, I'm turning to what I know, for sure.
I have had experiences over recent years of: a dancer not performing, not because they were injured but because they didn't feel like it; dancers routinely not taking class; a dancer saying that they were injured but sneaking off to perform in a gala in another country (I was there and was asked not to write about this dancer). These are just some examples of the indiscipline I have personally noticed - there are more that I have been told about confidentially by others.
I was the manager of an Olympic Sport for fourteen years. During that time I had many athletes who were injured. I could NEVER go against the advice of the medical staff in the way that Ballet Position suggests has happened at ENB.
Any medical personnel will abide by an ethical code that takes precedence over their loyalty to an employer. If any medic at ENB has had their advice countermanded it is a very serious matter and the medical staff concerned would be able to whistle-blow direct to the Board.
In my view, the Ballet Position allegation that medical advice has been ignored is the most serious allegation of all and I hope they have the evidence to back it up.
Much has been made of the dancers leaving the company and yet consider the number of dancers who were there, before Tamara, and are still there - I'm not going to name them but there are MANY more than 12. These dancers do not appear to be unhappy.
Much has also been made of the relationship between Tamara and Isaac. It is not an ideal situation but people fall in love. Ballet is a rarified world - look at the number of married or permanent couples in ENB; I can count four just from memory.
How many artistic directors around the world are in relationships with current or former dancers. Again, I can count many. It is an inevitable issue within a world that is SO exclusive - I can think of no other job that places so much pressure on individuals that it seems only others within the same profession can truly comprehend.
It is also worth - for perspective, if nothing else - to look at how things have been at ENB in the past. One former artistic director asked a dancer to consider having an abortion in order to dance a particular role - an allegation written by me in a book and not denied by that director when asked by journalists. It is certainly true that allegations of harassment are not new at ENB.
Casting decisions are always bound to create friction in any company and I doubt that there is a single ballet company in the world that is not immune to this problem. In one company, it led to acid being thrown in the face of the artistic director, just five years' ago. Complaints to the press seem pretty tame by comparison; but the problem of dancers' having grievances against artistic directors over casting is endemic in ballet.
It seems clear to me that Tamara's style of management is tough and that she has brought in an artistic staff that share her vision. Some have not been able to meet her expectations and have fallen by the wayside.
What I am sure about is that if these attacks on the pursuit of excellence are successful we can kiss goodbye to great ballet in the west. It will be the lowest common denominator that rules."
Just to comment on this - Nobody should be recruiting anyone based on their sexuality. I would venture to say the men she has hired for the company are the best ones for the job.