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Peter Martins Sexual Harassment Allegations

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2 minutes ago, Stage Right said:

I agree with On Pointe. We don't know that "dating" meant a sexual relationship at that time. And people can mean many different things when they say "dating", from regularly turning up at group social events together, to going out alone together, to sexual relationships.....how do we even know what's being referred to? And I agree that it is most likely the substance abuse that is at the core of all this. I hope Martins is able to address that issue; it is huge. I also wonder about any attempt to "purify" the art world--dance and otherwise-- from every behavior we find problematic. Might we end up with rather boring, but "nice" art?  Artists in all art forms have been notorious throughout history for their rather wild and non-conformist behavior.  It is part of the appeal for most people, I think, when reading biographies of famous artists. Many were very troubled people--should we reject their art because of that? As are many non-artists. Let's face it, we all learn and grow though the process of living; all of us have done some things that at the very least we are not proud of, or think back on with regret. Although I certainly don't condone sexual or physical abuse, I still find myself deeply uneasy about trying to legislate every action between men and women, or between those of the same gender, to conform to a certain set of norms that we currently feel are correct. I expect a lot of criticism coming my way in this thread now, but this is how I feel.

There are actually laws preventing adults from dating 16 year olds so we don't need to worry about legislating. If you had a 16yo daughter you would be fine with her dating a 34 year old man?

And this wasn't the 20s or the 50s. This was not a sexually repressed time. He lived (also when he was an adult) with his 16yo gf Heather Watts. Are people going to argue that wasn't a sexual relationship? I mean I suppose that is possible, but it seems highly unlikely.

You don't have to be a creep to be a good artist. But that isn't really what this is about. The issue of "can one enjoy great art made by horrible people?" applies to people like Wagner and Kevin Spacey. This case isn't about rejecting Martins' art (his dancing days are over, and his choreography is lousy), it is that he shouldn't be in a position where he is able to continue such behavior.

Nor do you have to be an artist to be a creep, for that matter. Did you think the behavior described by Roy Moore, which was denounced almost across the board was acceptable? This is virtually the same thing, yet because he is an "artist" people here seem to want to give him a pass.

 

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11 minutes ago, aurora said:

This case isn't about rejecting Martins' art (his dancing days are over, and his choreography is lousy), it is that he shouldn't be in a position where he is able to continue such behavior.

Exactly. I haven't seen anyone advocating purifying the art world. This is about preventing someone who abuses power from being in a position of institutional power. It's quite simple, actually.

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32 minutes ago, aurora said:

There are actually laws preventing adults from dating 16 year olds so we don't need to worry about legislating. If you had a 16yo daughter you would be fine with her dating a 34 year old man?

And this wasn't the 20s or the 50s. This was not a sexually repressed time. He lived (also when he was an adult) with his 16yo gf Heather Watts. Are people going to argue that wasn't a sexual relationship? I mean I suppose that is possible, but it seems highly unlikely.

You don't have to be a creep to be a good artist. But that isn't really what this is about. The issue of "can one enjoy great art made by horrible people?" applies to people like Wagner and Kevin Spacey. This case isn't about rejecting Martins' art (his dancing days are over, and his choreography is lousy), it is that he shouldn't be in a position where he is able to continue such behavior.

Nor do you have to be an artist to be a creep, for that matter. Did you think the behavior described by Roy Moore, which was denounced almost across the board was acceptable? This is virtually the same thing, yet because he is an "artist" people here seem to want to give him a pass.

 

I completely agree with you, aurora.  Martins needed to go, I’m glad he made the decision to retire instead of dragging it out.

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8 hours ago, abatt said:

Martin's dating of Kistler when she was 16 isn't the issue.  It's an irrelevant side show. So are the DUI's.  The only issue is whether he committed sexual abuse or physical abuse,as defined under the law, against dancers or students during the course of his employment since he was elevated to director in 1983.

 
I agree. I don’t think the DUIs should have anything to do with it. While it’s true that most people go through life without even one alcohol-related run in with the law, much less three, it’s also true that his have taken place nineteen years and six years apart from each other, and that this last occurred at a time of undoubtedly great stress. To me, that doesn’t signal that he has a problem that’s out of control. Even if it did, if alcoholism is a disease, he shouldn’t be fired for manifesting that disease off the job.
 
The abuse is another issue obviously, but I feel for the younger dancers who see him as a father figure and haven't seen him act badly (possibly because he'd reformed).

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Posted (edited)

I think ballet has to take these issues seriously and change some if its mores but comparing Martins to Roy Moore seems uncalled for. Martins was not a judge and did not make any part of his reputation on defending the Bible or attacking the morals of others or their sexual behaviors (as Moore did). And his relation with Watts came when he was in his young twenties and they lived together for some time. The violance troubles me more than Watts’s age. (Artists don’t get a pass on illegal behavior, but in fact I do think judges should be held to higher legal standards.)

Edited by Drew
completely misunderstood something Sandik said below.

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9 minutes ago, Drew said:

I think ballet has to take these issues seriously and change some if its mores but comparing Martins to Roy Moore seems uncalled for. Martins was not a judge and did not make any part of his reputation on defending the Bible or attacking the morals of others or their sexual behaviors (as Moore did). And his relation with Watts came when he was in his young twenties and they lived together for some time. The violance troubles me more than Watts’s age. (Artists don’t get a pass on illegal behavior, but in fact I do think judges should be held to higher legal standards.) 

34 dating a 16 year old. That he didn't proclaim himself a moral authority or claim biblical authority for his acts doesn't change that.

If your only problem with Moore was his hypocrisy I really don't know what to say.

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32 minutes ago, aurora said:

34 dating a 16 year old. That he didn't proclaim himself a moral authority or claim biblical authority for his acts doesn't change that.

If your only problem with Moore was his hypocrisy I really don't know what to say.

I know I am viewing this public dating situation differently than some or even most. But here it goes. Yes, there was a big age difference between Martins and Kistler, but they were fellow dancers. Yes, he was a principal but she was the "chosen one" who was given principal roles as soon as she joined the company.  They were in classes and rehearsals together and performed together.They shared experiences, interests and careers.  In my mind, and I know many will disagree, this is different from a District Attorney or a Judge picking up a high school student.

I feel this is very complicated and there are a lot of gray areas. One thought is that a young woman is in a ballet company. She is expected to have the maturity to fulfill the demands of a complex full time job (career) and all it entails. Perhaps that young woman should be trusted to say yes or no to dating a particular man. I am not speaking about sex I am speaking about public dating. Perhaps she feels flattered or is star struck so there is pressure. Perhaps a lot of things.

It's complicated.

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I can’t imagine anyone who has spent any time with a 16 year old girl thinking it is appropriate for a 34 year old man to pursue a relationship with her. Serious ballet dancers tend to be highly focused and responsible but that doesn’t necessarily correlate to having the maturity to enter into a relationship with a grown man. 

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5 minutes ago, vipa said:

I know I am viewing this public dating situation differently than some or even most. But here it goes. Yes, there was a big age difference between Martins and Kistler, but they were fellow dancers. Yes, he was a principal but she was the "chosen one" who was given principal roles as soon as she joined the company.  They were in classes and rehearsals together and performed together.They shared experiences, interests and careers.  In my mind, and I know many will disagree, this is different from a District Attorney or a Judge picking up a high school student.

I feel this is very complicated and there are a lot of gray areas. One thought is that a young woman is in a ballet company. She is expected to have the maturity to fulfill the demands of a complex full time job (career) and all it entails. Perhaps that young woman should be trusted to say yes or no to dating a particular man. I am not speaking about sex I am speaking about public dating. Perhaps she feels flattered or is star struck so there is pressure. Perhaps a lot of things.

It's complicated.

I don't think it's complicated at all. There is a lot of understandable admiration for the way that Martins steadied the ship after Balanchine's passing and built NYCB into the organization it is today. As a result, behavior that would be indefensible for any other man is being defended.

And depending on the laws, "public dating" between a minor and a middle aged man should be more accurately described as "grooming" (and statutory rape if the relationship was sexual at that point). Even if there was no sex in the beginning stages of their relationship, Martins was obviously courting Kistler (yuck!), which is still inappropriate. It does not matter that he is Scandinavian, or it was a different time, or they were colleagues, etc. And just because Darci was good enough to be in NYCB does not mean that she was emotionally ready (or legally allowed) to engage in a romantic relationship with a man who is old enough to be her father (as AB'sMom just said). Also, one wonders: were there no women in their late 20s or early 30s in the company that Martins could have dated? Speaking generally, I've found that predatory older men often pursue and groom younger women/teenage girls because they are looking for someone to control.

And though the Kistler/Martins relationship is not part of the investigation, the fact that it followed a relationship with an underage Heather Watts is eyebrow raising, to say the least. And according to the NYT, Martins allegedly had sexual relationships with current dancers, who are 40-50 years younger than him. There is an obvious power differential there, and paints an unflattering portrait of Martins as a figure who wants to control much younger women.

Of course, there are women (Mearns, M. Fairchild, Hyltin, etc) who have defended him publicly, and I don't want to erase their experiences. However, abusers also know how to pick and choose their victims.

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9 minutes ago, AB'sMom said:

I can’t imagine anyone who has spent any time with a 16 year old girl thinking it is appropriate for a 34 year old man to pursue a relationship with her. Serious ballet dancers tend to be highly focused and responsible but that doesn’t necessarily correlate to having the maturity to enter into a relationship with a grown man. 

Yes,  and wasn't it Balanchine who noted that all teenage girl ballet dancers have mothers?  Surely Kistler and Watts' mothers  were well aware of their relationships with Martins,  since we all knew about them.  We may all agree that it was wrong for him to be involved with such young girls,  but none of us can care more than their own parents did.  I don't remember any great outcry against Martins or demands that he be fired from his position as a principal dancer.  It's a bit late to be litigating the issue now.  It didn't disqualify Martins from being named co-ballet master decades ago.  You can't hang him for it now.  (I confess I found it ironically delicious that Watts took up with the much younger Damian Woetzel,  and that coupling didn't appear to hurt his career at NYCB.  If it did I'm sure we'll hear about it now.)

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

Yes,  and wasn't it Balanchine who noted that all teenage girl ballet dancers have mothers?  Surely Kistler and Watts' mothers  were well aware of their relationships with Martins,  since we all knew about them.  We may all agree that it was wrong for him to be involved with such young girls,  but none of us can care more than their own parents did.  I don't remember any great outcry against Martins or demands that he be fired from his position as a principal dancer.  It's a bit late to be litigating the issue now.  It didn't disqualify Martins from being named co-ballet master decades ago.  You can't hang him for it now.  (I confess I found it ironically delicious that Watts took up with the much younger Damian Woetzel,  and that coupling didn't appear to hurt his career at NYCB.  If it did I'm sure we'll hear about it now.)

He was an adult when they started dating. If you can't tell the difference that is on you. I have no problem with age differences in couples if both parties are ADULT when they start dating.

 

I'm sure all the women who are accusing Weinstein, etc. will appreciate your belief that it is too late to start litigating the issue now.

PS: it isn't their mothers' responsibility to control Martins, it is his misbehavior and HIS responsibility

Edited by aurora

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14 minutes ago, aurora said:

He was an adult when they started dating. If you can't tell the difference that is on you. I have no problem with age differences in couples if both parties are ADULT when they start dating.

 

I'm sure all the women who are accusing Weinstein, etc. will appreciate your belief that it is too late to start litigating the issue now.

PS: it isn't their mothers' responsibility to control Martins, it is his misbehavior and HIS responsibility

Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults were not public knowledge until recently.  Everybody knew about Martins and Watts and Kistler,  including the board members at NYCB.  And I disagree with you about a mother's responsibility.  Parents should protect their underage daughters.  They could have demanded an end to the cohabitation and bundled the girls back to the dormitory where they belonged.   They could have brought charges against Martins or "persuaded" him to leave their daughters alone by more forceful traditional means.  They could have blasted him in the press.  But they didn't.

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I’m not suggesting anyone hang him for it now, but if is the case that Martins or any other adult male in a position of power was engaging in relationships with minors at the school, that is surely something parents would want to be made aware of. And certainly, as a parent, something I would want to know if I were considering sending my teenage daughter to study at the school. 

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5 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults were not public knowledge until recently.  Everybody knew about Martins and Watts and Kistler,  including the board members at NYCB.  And I disagree with you about a mother's responsibility.  Parents should protect their underage daughters.  They could have demanded an end to the cohabitation and bundled the girls back to the dormitory where they belonged.   They could have brought charges against Martins or "persuaded" him to leave their daughters alone by more forceful traditional means.  They could have blasted him in the press.  But they didn't.

You are exonerating him of responsibility while blaming their parents (particularly their MOTHERS). The sexism of your statements is astonishing.

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2 minutes ago, aurora said:

You are exonerating him of responsibility while blaming their parents (particularly their MOTHERS). The sexism of your statements is astonishing.

Sorry,  I'm not going to accept that "sexism" charge.  The mothers,  and fathers,   knew what was going on and they didn't stop it when they could have.  No way am I "exonerating" Martins,  but the parents' inaction was reprehensible and inexplicable.

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Just now, On Pointe said:

Sorry,  I'm not going to accept that "sexism" charge.  The mothers,  and fathers,   knew what was going on and they didn't stop it when they could have.  No way am I "exonerating" Martins,  but the parents' inaction was reprehensible and inexplicable.

I'm only going by your posts, and you singled it out as the mothers' responsibility. You can accept it or not.  And you have done nothing but exonerate Martins.

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2 hours ago, Drew said:

I think ballet has to take these issues seriously and change some if its mores but comparing Martins to Roy Moore seems uncalled for. Martins was not a judge and did not make any part of his reputation on defending the Bible or attacking the morals of others or their sexual behaviors (as Moore did).

No he wasn't a judge.  He was their employer.

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13 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

Sorry,  I'm not going to accept that "sexism" charge.  The mothers,  and fathers,   knew what was going on and they didn't stop it when they could have.  No way am I "exonerating" Martins,  but the parents' inaction was reprehensible and inexplicable.

I don't like to label, but you're implying that only young girls who have alert parents deserve protection.  I don't think that's what you want to say.

And in many cases, we don't know what the parents did and didn't know.

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I think several things are being conflated:  when he started his relationships with Kistler (round 1) and Watts, he was their colleague.  They were both under the age of consent for a sexual relationship, because he wasn't married to either of them. (NYS law allowed 14-year-olds to marry until 2017, and they could have sex with spouses who were 14 years of age and up, regardless of age.  Similarly, if a judge signs off on a marriage with a 17-year-old [or two 17-year-olds], it is legal for the spouses to have sex.)

Martins became their boss when he was still in a relationship with Watts, and she was 29-30 -- she was born in 1953 -- and he married Kistler when he was her boss, when she was at least 26, both of which were just ducky according to NYCB policy, which was only changed upon Kistler's retirement.  I don't know if it's also policy at SAB, but Kay Mazzo is, at least nominally, co-boss.  

 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, aurora said:

34 dating a 16 year old. That he didn't proclaim himself a moral authority or claim biblical authority for his acts doesn't change that.

If your only problem with Moore was his hypocrisy I really don't know what to say.

I do think Moore's hypocrisy is part of what makes him so loathsome quite apart from politics. However, my problems with Moore are considerably MORE than his hypocrisy (which gets us into political territory of course not just ethical or moral). Nor am I yet as persuaded as you that there are substantial parallels in Martins' and Moore's behavior based on what we currently know.

(I see why we keep politics off this board because the suggestion that my only problem with Moore is his hypocrisy offends me so deeply I'm about ready to write something that would get me banned from Ballet Alert for life.)

Re the age difference, I tried to make clear in my post that I was talking specifically about Martins' first (known/long term) NYCB involvement --  Watts not Kistler. And he was in his 20s when he met Watts. As far as Kistler goes, I actually didn't know until reading this thread that she was 16 when she got involved with Martins.  (Is that right then?) I had always vaguely assumed it was 18 or so. Were there other involvements with teenagers once he was, as Helene says, the boss -- or head of SAB? I sure as heck don't know. I'm not assuming it either.

About their early relationship: my understanding from interviews is that Kistler and Martins got the nod for her involvement from Balanchine who, to say the least, had an out-sized influence on his dancers--sometimes on their parents too. So in their "world," in which Balanchine ruled, the relationship was considered acceptable....as long as Balanchine said it was anyway. Quite separately from legal issues, that has always vaguely troubled me as an example of the NYCB ethos. I saw Balanchine just once live -- he was standing in front of the Kennedy Center --  and I remember how awestruck I felt (as I should have) but I think 21st-century Dance can let go of the Director-Choreographer-as-Guru ideal. This doesn't mean I think Balanchine should have lost his job. It means I think it's a good thing for ballet to have fresh professional ethics/mores on these matters. But it would also be hypocritical on my part to pretend to be shocked that it is taking time for them to be really internalized by people in the ballet world. (Problems outside the ballet world...let's not even start...)

Edited by Drew

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27 minutes ago, sandik said:

I don't like to label, but you're implying that only young girls who have alert parents deserve protection.  I don't think that's what you want to say.

And in many cases, we don't know what the parents did and didn't know.

I'm implying no such thing.  I'm only speaking about Martins and Watts and Kistler.  How alert do you have to be to know that your underage daughter is involved in an inappropriate relationship when literally thousands of strangers know about it?  These are famous people we're talking about.  I am saying - not just implying - that NOBODY in a position to bring Martins to heel took action,  and that includes the parents,  the NYCB board or Balanchine himself.  (If I had been in a similar situation at their age,  my parents would have dragged me home,  and my older brothers would probably have beat the crap out of the guy.)  Knowing what they knew,  Balanchine and the board allowed Martins to remain a principal dancer and elevated him to head the company.  If anything they exonerated him.  

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I am not based in the US and I am not saying that any of the events talked about above are acceptable but...

I know someone who at 17 started dating a man of 33.  I actually told her that she was a "bloody fool" when she told me.  But 40-odd years later they are still totally bound up in each other and very happily married.  

 

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5 hours ago, On Pointe said:

Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults were not public knowledge until recently.  Everybody knew about Martins and Watts and Kistler,  including the board members at NYCB.  And I disagree with you about a mother's responsibility.  Parents should protect their underage daughters.  They could have demanded an end to the cohabitation and bundled the girls back to the dormitory where they belonged.   They could have brought charges against Martins or "persuaded" him to leave their daughters alone by more forceful traditional means.  They could have blasted him in the press.  But they didn't.

Per the SAB website there were no dormitories until the Rose building opened in 1991.  https://sab.org/school/history/the_1990s.php

There was zero formal supervision when Watts and Kistler were 16.  

Often, dancers who were underage became emancipated minors so that they could sign leases and contracts.  They could also board with local families or mom could move cross-country to set up housekeeping with the dancing teen.

I have vague memories of reading a few articles that looked at how child labor laws affected ballet companies and theater in general.   Ballet seemed to receive some kind of pass due to tradition and mystique, avoiding criticism or changes that would prevent underage dancers from being treated any differently than their legally adult colleagues.  

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, On Pointe said:

Parents should protect their underage daughters.

True, but irrelevant, as far as I can tell. Just because an underage girl's parents didn't intervene, just because her godlike boss gave the nod, just because that boss's board of trustees didn't step in — none of that in the least exonerates the other adult in the relationship of the responsibility for his own autonomous actions.

What do those actions mean for how we should think about Martins going forward? That seems worth considering. But what I don't understand is why his professional and artistic accomplishments, or the idiosyncrasies of the organizational structure in which he achieved those accomplishments, or the neglect of other adults within and around that structure, should be considered mitigating factors in how we view his actions.

Just adding, in light of vipa's comment below:  I'm also not suggesting that we should condemn him based on a single line in a single news article. Just that others' actions or approval seem to me to be pretty irrelevant when it comes to judging whatever Martins' own actions may have been.

Edited by nanushka

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It seems to me that the Kistler/Martins dating part of the discussion is based on a LA Times article saying they "dated publicly" when she was 16. It didn't say lived together, had a sexual relationship or even dated exclusively. What does that mean? Were they seen together in restaurants or at company galas. I am not trying to defend Martins. The allegations of sexual harassment and assault are alarming to say the least. There is no reason in the world to disbelieve his accusers. We all know that coming forward takes courage. I just don't want to take every statement made in the press as further proof of criminal and deplorable behavior. I don't see the dating thing as evil or evidence of predatory behavior.

Again, I know there are people who strongly disagree. On this one we'll have to agree to disagree. I will stop commenting on this topic (at the relief of some of you I'm sure) and continue to read comments with interest.

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