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NYC Ballet Cuts Corps as Deficit Widens

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:off topic:

I wasn't going to be the one to bring this up, but I'm too snarky to control myself:

Do you know what happens when an AD decides that a soloist or principal has come to the end of the road and wants to terminate a contract in US companies? Can they actually do that?

An AD can't do that (at least at NYCB, and, from what I know, ABT too).

It has to be some major breach: being arrested for a major crime etc.

Like, say, being arrested for felony cocaine possession?

Edited by Admin: There is no known real life example of a conviction that has been made public by the company, the court system (where almost all are documented in the public record), or by law enforcement.

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I'm sort of puzzled by the suggestion made several times in this thread that we now know that cuts to NYCB were not really financially motivated, that there is "more" behind the company's motives. (Flack says so pretty directly, but her statement doesn't puzzle me because I more or less understand her emotions.) But to take a few steps back...

In my work place, cuts have taken place due to the financial crisis. Once a decision had to be made who to let go, what to cut etc. the managers in question brought various criteria to bear--who could be spared, who couldn't be spared, who was most productive, "efficiency indices" etc.--and they made the cuts while still doing some hiring in areas that they felt could not be left to stagnate entirely.

Do I agree with all of their criteria and think they made the best decisions? Certainly not. I could give an interview in which I sound at least as angry as Rachel Flack and I still have my job! But I don't think there was anything "shady" in what they did or the reasons they gave: the financial crisis led to cuts, but the cuts were still made using criteria that, in different circumstances, would not have been brought to bear.

In other words, I don't think there is anything "shady" or dishonest about NYCB announcing the cuts were taking place for financial reasons. In the context of financial crisis -- facing the reality of having to choose who/what to cut -- management inevitably set some criteria. Publicly emphasizing the financial motive might, and I think should, be seen as a way to protect the dancers by acknowledging that they would not, under other circumstances, have been cut.

As a matter of course, cuts made in such circumstances are going to be problematic. If they weren't--well, it wouldn't take a financial crisis for them to occur. The fact that Martins met with each dancer individually is decidedly to his credit, but the truth is there is no nice way to lay people off; it's not a nice thing to do or to have to do. (One at least recalls that management at NYCB, including Martins, has taken a ten percent pay cut.)

Now perhaps I or someone else would have employed different criteria when deciding who/what to cut at NYCB, but it would hardly be better to have the company be deliberately arbitrary just so one could say "ah it really was purely financial and nothing else was involved."

(To get more speculative: depending on the timing of Flack's narrative, it's even possible that Martins really was, at one point, willing to consider her for a feature role, but then when the financial crisis hit, realized he saw her as someone he might in the coming weeks/months be cutting from the company and thus was not prepared to invest in her...I'm not saying that's how it happened. Rather, the point is we don't know. Of course, it's understandable that she experienced the scenario she describes as puzzling and dishonest.)

Now it's also true that some institutions use financial crises as an excuse to do 'dirty work'--cut things they wanted to cut anyway etc.--but usually there is a pretty clear trail of evidence. It's fair enough to debate Martins' leadership, but I don't see any reason to believe that he "wanted" to cut a bunch of dancers from his corps...

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Well, in my opinion it "got her" the chance to perform with one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world. For whatever reason - and we will never know the entire story - that chance did not develop exactly as she would have liked. I hate the fact that she is in pain, however, things that she expressed in this article gave me a glimpse into the possibility that she was not the most professional or most hard-working dancer on the roster. Of course, I don't know the specifics and I am only going on things she said. But reading between the lines, I questioned her professionalism.

Of course she needs to grieve and she's entitled to her pain. I'm not even saying that she needs to look at the economy or the bigger picture at the moment. I'm just saying that there IS a bigger picture. And included in that picture is the fact that the arts community in NYC is very small. Once you get a reputation of being difficult to work with or entitled, it's hard to get a job. I don't think it's naive to say that she probably didn't do herself any favors in the long run with that interview.

Beatrice,

Again you are being incredibly defensive and rather unfair. Anais' Nin's dictum of "we don't see things as they are but as we are", springs to mind equally applicable to Flack and yourself.

YOU read between the lines and decided she must be unprofessional and slack in her approach to her work and life. Why? You also decided that the mere fact of being in the back of the corps for nine years, never given opportunities to advance is recompense enough. Flack didn't and talks feelingly about her sincere efforts to advance - as well as candidly about her shortcomings.

Have you ever seen Flack perform? Seen her in class, seen the approach and dedication she brought to her work? Or have you ever worked within a large arts organisation and been subject to the internecine politics therein?

You did state that you thought she should have been aware of the larger economic crisis and effect on the arts in relation to her own predicament. Why the hell should she? When all is said and done Flack is a woman who needs to meet her rent, bills and living expenses; and now everything is a struggle, like for hundreds of thousands across the world laid off due to factors no fault of their own.

And why should she shut up and play the good girl? It's a role corps dancers play their entire lives - like Helene I'm glad she was so candid. The economic reasons given to sack almost a tenth of the roster do seem specious when a large spate of hirings followed. And what do NYCB intend to do when the year is up and they have to offer contracts? Is there going to be an endless rolling of apprentices till the corps is nothing but a background for soloists and principals?

As many have stated the talent in the principal level is rife with dancers who frankly should have retired and are untouchable.

I very much doubt Flack wants to be part of the arts scene anymore. This interview had an "end of the affair" feeling and good for Flack, I'm so glad there are people unafraid to stand up be counted and blow the whistle. It's only through people brave enough to say "I was there and it stank" that change ever comes. And having seen NYCB perform on several occasions I agree, "prestigious" means nothing if that prestige is varying degrees of brilliance versus mediocrity cruising on an illustrious past.

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Like, say, being arrested for felony cocaine possession?

Tutu --

Arrested, yes. But the verdict was "disorderly conduct, " as reported in many NYC papers.

I don't think snarky has a place on this board (especially when posters don't know all of the facts).

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Just a clarification:

I employed the "dead wood" phrase but it wasn't my opinion of the affected dancers. I was merely trying to articulate a potential mindset on the part of management.

I'm sort of puzzled by the suggestion made several times in this thread that we now know that cuts to NYCB were not really financially motivated, that there is "more" behind the company's motives. (Flack says so pretty directly, but her statement doesn't puzzle me because I more or less understand her emotions.) But to take a few steps back...

In my work place, cuts have taken place due to the financial crisis. Once a decision had to be made who to let go, what to cut etc. the managers in question brought various criteria to bear--who could be spared, who couldn't be spared, who was most productive, "efficiency indices" etc.--and they made the cuts while still doing some hiring in areas that they felt could not be left to stagnate entirely.

Do I agree with all of their criteria and think they made the best decisions? Certainly not. I could give an interview in which I sound at least as angry as Rachel Flack and I still have my job! But I don't think there was anything "shady" in what they did or the reasons they gave: the financial crisis led to cuts, but the cuts were still made using criteria that, in different circumstances, would not have been brought to bear.

In other words, I don't think there is anything "shady" or dishonest about NYCB announcing the cuts were taking place for financial reasons. In the context of financial crisis -- facing the reality of having to choose who/what to cut -- management inevitably set some criteria. Publicly emphasizing the financial motive might, and I think should, be seen as a way to protect the dancers by acknowledging that they would not, under other circumstances, have been cut.

As a matter of course, cuts made in such circumstances are going to be problematic. If they weren't--well, it wouldn't take a financial crisis for them to occur. The fact that Martins met with each dancer individually is decidedly to his credit, but the truth is there is no nice way to lay people off; it's not a nice thing to do or to have to do. (One at least recalls that management at NYCB, including Martins, has taken a ten percent pay cut.)

Now perhaps I or someone else would have employed different criteria when deciding who/what to cut at NYCB, but it would hardly be better to have the company be deliberately arbitrary just so one could say "ah it really was purely financial and nothing else was involved."

(To get more speculative: depending on the timing of Flack's narrative, it's even possible that Martins really was, at one point, willing to consider her for a feature role, but then when the financial crisis hit, realized he saw her as someone he might in the coming weeks/months be cutting from the company and thus was not prepared to invest in her...I'm not saying that's how it happened. Rather, the point is we don't know. Of course, it's understandable that she experienced the scenario she describes as puzzling and dishonest.)

Now it's also true that some institutions use financial crises as an excuse to do 'dirty work'--cut things they wanted to cut anyway etc.--but usually there is a pretty clear trail of evidence. It's fair enough to debate Martins' leadership, but I don't see any reason to believe that he "wanted" to cut a bunch of dancers from his corps...

Just to be clear Drew -- I think management at City Ballet would have stumbled along with its bloated number of dancers (101!) in the absence of the economic crisis. And I have maintained all along that balancing the needs of the company vs. the needs of the individual dancers was and is a perfectly defensible thing.

Where I think management looks shady is by claiming poverty when the decision was announced but then stepping on their own narrative by quietly hiring the apprentices. In addition, emphasizing the economic decision doesn't really protect the dancers because anyone can look them up on the company's Web site and figure out pretty quickly that the firings weren't made on a strictly seniority basis (nor should they have been.) Peter Martins got rid of (in his eyes) the "dead wood" and no amount of casting that as a purely economic decision will change that.

I still say -- vehemently -- that the best way to have dealt with this situation would have been to lay out the complicated nature of the firings to the affected dancers and to the press. I think most people (maybe not the affected dancers themselves) would understand the rationale that you can't go a season (or more) without bringing in new blood and you can't have the nightmare scenario where the feeder school's brightest graduates can't find work in the parent company and go elsewhere.

(Let me rephrase that last paragraph. The best way would have been to do what ABT did. Failing that, the next best thing would have been to lay out the complicated situation City Ballet found itself in.)

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Of course, gaining soloist roles is, in a way, very different at a company like PNB, where senior soloists are all but required to do soloist or demi roles simply because of the size of the company. There are, according to PNB's "Company Overview," 51 dancers at PNB. At City Ballet, there are over 51 dancers in the corps alone.

Such a too often encountered NYC attitude. Phooey I say.

P.S. BTW, if you read my post you will see that I specifically said that I don't consider this role to be a soloist role. In addition, you totally missed my point.

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Hi. Several times in this discussion, it has been said that soloist and principal level contracts must be renewed. Or at least that is what I understood was being said; perhaps I am mistaken. In any event, I went to the AGMA website, which provides the basic NYC Ballet contract right on line, and I must admit that I do not find wording to that effect. The basic renewal provision is as follows:

"8. REENGAGEMENT

EMPLOYER will notify Dancer(s) whom the EMPLOYER does not plan to re-engage for the following season in writing no later than February 28, however EMPLOYER will use best efforts to notify such Dancer(s) by February 1............"

This paragraph is not limited to corps dancers and therefore would apply to all dancers. Is it that perhaps some individual solo and principal dancers have put automatic renewal clauses into their contracts?

As well the company size is to be maintained at least 85 dancers under this contract; apprentices have limited performances and cost much less than Corps dancers. Technically apprentices are not supposed to replace Corps members. But what an economical way to do it and how on earth would anyone be able to figure out if that is what is happening? I say this not so much based on any information about NYC Ballet, but because I have noticed that there are some other companies that seem to be firing Corps and hiring many more apprentices this year than they did last year.

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Hi. Several times in this discussion, it has been said that soloist and principal level contracts must be renewed. Or at least that is what I understood was being said; perhaps I am mistaken. In any event, I went to the AGMA website, which provides the basic NYC Ballet contract right on line, and I must admit that I do not find wording to that effect. The basic renewal provision is as follows:

Soloists and Principal dancers are automatically renewed, unless there's a near catastrophe reason not to do so. Even then the unions will fight management.

Happy 4th of July everyone!!

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Again you are being incredibly defensive and rather unfair. Anais' Nin's dictum of "we don't see things as they are but as we are", springs to mind equally applicable to Flack and yourself.

I'm not being at all defensive. Though you may think that I'm being somewhat offensive. As for the latter part of your statement, that is certainly your perogative to believe.

YOU read between the lines and decided she must be unprofessional and slack in her approach to her work and life. Why? You also decided that the mere fact of being in the back of the corps for nine years, never given opportunities to advance is recompense enough. Flack didn't and talks feelingly about her sincere efforts to advance - as well as candidly about her shortcomings.

Have you ever seen Flack perform? Seen her in class, seen the approach and dedication she brought to her work? Or have you ever worked within a large arts organisation and been subject to the internecine politics therein?

You asked why I read in between the lines. Because to me, someone who goes to the AD and tells him how much she wants larger roles should be attending company classes with some regularity. Because to me, someone who seems to think that a benefit gala is an appropriate place to air her gripes shows a certain lack of discretion. I do not believe that being in the corps for nine years and never given opportunites to advance is recompense enough. I believe that we, quite simply do NOT know if she was given those opportunities - and if she was not, why. What I believe is that she was given an opportunity few in this world are, and the simple nature of the beast is that in the ultra-competitive world of the performing arts, if you're not the best at your game, you will be replaced.

And, yes. I have seen Flack perform. And yes, I have worked closely enough in the arts to know the politics involved. I am fully aware that it's not always fair. But I'm also aware that there are two sides to every story, and I haven't seen enough to paint this particuar girl as a martyr.

You did state that you thought she should have been aware of the larger economic crisis and effect on the arts in relation to her own predicament. Why the hell should she? When all is said and done Flack is a woman who needs to meet her rent, bills and living expenses; and now everything is a struggle, like for hundreds of thousands across the world laid off due to factors no fault of their own.

The last line here is EXACTLY why she should have been aware of the larger economic crisis and its effects on the arts. Because, I can tell you that EVERYONE living in New York right now with any common sense at all is going above and beyond. Jobs cuts are terrible things, but in this economy, they are going to happen. Now is not the time to not attend classes that are "strongly encouraged". Ballet is an art, but it's also a business. If cuts are going to happen, they are going to effect the people who, for whatever reasons, are considered the most expendable.

As many have stated the talent in the principal level is rife with dancers who frankly should have retired and are untouchable.

And as others have stated, this is largely something that the management has no control over. It may not be fair, but it's certainly not like we can say is going to change because of Flack's interview

I very much doubt Flack wants to be part of the arts scene anymore. This interview had an "end of the affair" feeling and good for Flack, I'm so glad there are people unafraid to stand up be counted and blow the whistle. It's only through people brave enough to say "I was there and it stank" that change ever comes. And having seen NYCB perform on several occasions I agree, "prestigious" means nothing if that prestige is varying degrees of brilliance versus mediocrity cruising on an illustrious past.

As I said in my very first post in this thread, I also agree that people should stand up and speak out when there are wrongdoings going on. However from *this* article, that is not the impression that I got from *this* particular performer. As I've said several times, I think within that very short article, she offered up at least two very realistic glimpses into extremely unprofessional behavior.

And as for the "prestige" of the NYCB meaning nothing, it was the ballet company that she chose. She began her training with the Boston Ballet. She sought out, NYCB. So it is unlikely that the prestige of being there meant nothing to her.

As I've said many times, I feel terribly for all of the people whose jobs were, and are about to be, cut. I just recognize that I don't know enough about what goes on backstage to automatically assume the management are the bad guys.

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Beatrice,

I appreciate your passion. However, NYCB had to make cuts. As others have said here, it would have been grand if there

had been across the board salary cuts (as they did at ABT), or principals and soloists who haven't danced much (or shouldn't) had offered to leave. But the management was not unprofessional with Ms. Flack, or any of the cut corp members.

Even if I didn't know what actually happened, that sort of accusation is just irresponsible.

Believe me -- I HATE that so many corps members were cut, but hard decisions had to be made about corp members (and they didn't just layoff the most senior corps members either). NYCB made them.

It's sad, but it's a fact of business.

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I'm sorry, but I'm confused. I have largely been defending that NYCB's management in this thread and I've said that any percieved lack of professionalism that I saw in this article came from Ms Flack, rather than the NYCB.

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You asked why I read in between the lines. Because to me, someone who goes to the AD and tells him how much she wants larger roles should be attending company classes with some regularity. Because to me, someone who seems to think that a benefit gala is an appropriate place to air her gripes shows a certain lack of discretion. I do not believe that being in the corps for nine years and never given opportunites to advance is recompense enough. I believe that we, quite simply do NOT know if she was given those opportunities - and if she was not, why. What I believe is that she was given an opportunity few in this world are, and the simple nature of the beast is that in the ultra-competitive world of the performing arts, if you're not the best at your game, you will be replaced.

And, yes. I have seen Flack perform. And yes, I have worked closely enough in the arts to know the politics involved. I am fully aware that it's not always fair. But I'm also aware that there are two sides to every story, and I haven't seen enough to paint this particuar girl as a martyr.

The last line here is EXACTLY why she should have been aware of the larger economic crisis and its effects on the arts. Because, I can tell you that EVERYONE living in New York right now with any common sense at all is going above and beyond. Jobs cuts are terrible things, but in this economy, they are going to happen. Now is not the time to not attend classes that are "strongly encouraged". Ballet is an art, but it's also a business. If cuts are going to happen, they are going to effect the people who, for whatever reasons, are considered the most expendable.

You know Beatrice, I really think you should calm down take a moment and see how defensive and incredibly presumptuous and sanctimonious you're sounding.

Firstly no one is portraying Flack as a martyr, I don't think she is, and I'm sure she doesn't either. Nor are they refusing to see the side of management - but what people are worried about is the erosion of morale and cohesion within a corps which takes a rolling appoach to apprentices as money cutting device.

I think it's incredibly sanctimonious of you to be micro managing Flack's career and incredibly presumptuous; you say none of us know the full story, quite true. Yet you seem to know enough to tell her where she went wrong, what she should have done and to question her committment and work ethic.

Your bland accusatory statement that she was a fool not to attend company class betrays how little you know about the mechanics of maintaining technique. Going to class isn't the same as going to your aerobics class after work. Approaches to technique change radically from teacher to teacher and every dancer comes to understand their body enough to know what they need to maintain an improve. While you were denigrating Flack's application to her career you might not have noticed Flack saying that "core strength" has always been her weak point and I would assume that as a professional with enough vested interest to want to push herself she chose teachers in Bielski and Burmann whose focus on technique places demands she could not find in generic company class.

Flack knew what every dancer does - the wrong teacher can have a devastating effect on dance health. You seem to see her not taking company class as a conscious snub to management. Indeed you could conversely argue that the confidence studying with Burmann and Bielski gave her in her technique is what prompted her to ask for more responsibility in the first place.

What on earth do you mean by "going above and beyond"? That's incredibly patronising why not write to Flack personally and tell her this. A dancer goes above and beyond every single second of their lives; and I'm not saying it's not the right of management to decide who to push, who they prefer and sadly who to throw away. No one here is; the debate is in the how. And this I think is the crux of Flack's unhappiness that the sacking orchestrated in such a way to seem a public PR excercise by a cash strapped company hid a behind the scenes drama of moral cowardice.

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[ADMIN BEANIE ON]

It is possible to disagree by saying "I disagree [and why]" without characterizing other people's behavior or giving them behavioral advice or taking the temperature of their feelings, behaviors which are against our rules and which have started to become prominent in this thread.

Please stop. Now.

[ADMIN BEANIE OFF]

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To touch on your comments, Simon.

In my opinion, there are certain professional standards that are necessary to be upheld whether in the arts or in a office. If you are getting a paycheck for doing whatever it is that you're doing, it is wise to attend any "optional" classes, retreats, etc that are offered. If Ms Flack was truly concerned that her technique would be ruined by the training that she recieved there, she could certainly opt to supplement that training privately or attend the class more sporadically. However, when all is said and done, a person who does not put in as much facetime as the person sitting next to her is going to be further up on the chopping block come elimination time. And a person who approaches management and asks for more responsbilities is going to be more likely given those chances if she is percieved as someone who is putting in the time. I noticed that she mentioned telling Mr Martins that she was ready for more challenging roles, but she never mentioned ASKING him what she needed to do to get them. I've never doubted that Ms Flack has dedicated her life to the ballet. I'm simply saying that somehow something -whether it was her dance or her work ethic- made her appear to be one of the more expendable members of the company during this financial crisis. It's unfortunate, but it's life.

Very few of us have enough insider information to know the details behind the huge lay-off, but I am not going to sit here and assume that just because a layed off corps member ran to a publication with little-to-no journalistic merit ( I believe last week's articles involved dirty text messages and the week before that was "sex in the air" displays) that everything falls on the big, bad NYCB crushing dreams. There are always two sides to the story and I highly doubt the management went into this without being fully conscious of ALL the implications. Sometimes what is best for the company (and the majority of people IN the company) is not what is best for a few individuals.

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Beatrice,

What's wrong with dirty text messages or sex in the air displays?

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[ADMIN BEANIE ON]

It is possible to disagree by saying "I disagree [and why]" without characterizing other people's behavior or giving them behavioral advice or taking the temperature of their feelings, behaviors which are against our rules and which have started to become prominent in this thread.

Please stop. Now.

[ADMIN BEANIE OFF]

Helene's message bears repeating. If the tone of this thread does not improve immediately, it may have to be closed.

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Neither. However when the bulk of a publication's articles are based around a sophomoric "shock value", "we're hip because every issue we put out is all about how to be sexual in New York" approach, that publication loses something in terms of integrity. "TimeOut New York" is not what I would consider to be a respected newsource around here. It's one step up from being a rag paper.

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Beatrice,

Look, I'll stop being silly and I'm sorry if I got a bit arsey, but debate aside, the one thing that I absolutely understand about Flack and a decision which she should not be judged upon is that of class.

I have no doubt that her decision to take class outside was a source of immense angst for her and can't have come lightly; and yes, there is of course the element of the rogue pack animal deserting the pack to feed elsewhere and the repercussions that must have been immense (even though company class was not contractual.)

In an ideal world she should have put her face in for show then studied outside, sure, but a corps dancer is constrained by time and money. Class is the two hours in the morning when a dancer puts themselves together, works through their diffculties, refines technique and prepares their body for the challenges to come. It would be wonderful if the teachers provided could do this for a dancer - but every dancer is different and what their bodies need highly personal.

Those two hours are all the time a dancer has. Sure a soloist or principal has more free time, plus personal coaching AND the money to pay for personal one on one tuition. A corps member doesn't and a corps member is constantly on call and in rehearsal.

Also, corps classes can be jam packed, indeed are, the one on one lacking, the class geared to maintaining corps unity not designed for individuals searching to improve the dancer they want to become.

The other thing lay men can't quite get their heads around is the fact that all ballet is not the same nor is the approach of a teacher to technique and the emphasis certain teachers place on technique can damage the body of certain dancers (as anyone schooled in the West will tell you after they've taken a hard core Vaganova barre, your knees feel as if they've been hit with a sledgehammer.)

Another problem is injury, Flack has had significant hamstring injuries and one thing serious injury does do is force you to re-evaluate your approach to class work and technique. You can't just go back to what you were doing and bash away again - injury changes the body permanently and when a dancer comes back it's as if they're training a completely new body.

When a corps member enters the corps of course they take company class, it's an absolute delight, you've finally arrived, or so you think. But as you grow and understand that your body is finite and fallible the approach you take to training it in order to get on stage which is the goal of any class, especially company class changes.

A wise management will recognise this and see that the dancer who needs to find another way of working is doing so in order to properly fulfil their obligations to the company - of course this doesn't always happen unless the dancer is soloist or principal and then they're left alone.

But whatever judgement calls one can make about Flack, and yes, trying to exhibit her painting at the corps gala was misjudged, I agree, one area which I understand completely is her need to find training which would enable her to dance to the best of her ability.

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Simon,

Thank you for that post. I was not posting defensively nor was I trying to engage in arguments. I was merely trying to post the feelings that I, personally, walked away with from reading that article.

I appreciate your explanation of the difficulties that can arise from company class. I can definitely see how the approach that you decribed may be taken by a dancer. But, I also recognize that sometimes it can also be a matter of a dancer getting too cocky for her own good. I do not presume to know which is the case in Ms Flack's case. I am just keeping myself open to the possibility that NYCB may not be completely in the wrong here. I understand that Ms Flack is angry, frustrated, hurt, sad, and a million other things right now. But there was a tone in her article that I personally wasn't crazy about - for lack of a better word, I'll call it entitlement - though that may not be exactly the right description. And when I read an interview in which the interviewee strikes me as somewhat entitled, I tend to be more sympathetic towards the other side. The simple fact that she genuinely seemed irked that she was not allowed to show her painting at Dancers' Choice spoke a lot to me. Perhaps I was reading too much into it, but my reaction was "if she thinks that behavior was appropriate, what other inappropriate attitude could she have been unknowingly displaying towards the management"?

Mr Martins seems to be in an impossible place right now. I really doubt that he made these decisions lightly. I feel for everyone involved in this. I just didn't walk away from this article with an overwhelming sense that Ms Flack was completely wronged here or that the management in the NYCB was acting irresponsibily or unprofessionaly.

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For me it was a little odd that Flack missed the end of one teacher's class to catch the end of another teacher's class. For me that is not the best way to study.

Wilhelm Burmann and Nancy Bielski teach at Steps, and I assume that that's where Ms. Flack took class with them. The classes at Steps have overlapping start times and several ballet classes are going at the same time, so in order to participate in both Willy Burmann's and Nancy Bielski's advanced classes, one has little choice but to take barre in one and center next door in the other. I think that's what was being referred to. She does mention that she also took private lessons with them.

Steps daily schedule

I'm sure you are right. It's just that my experience has been that most teachers conceive a ballet class as a whole, so I find the concept of doing one person's barre and another person's center as an odd choice.

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Often, during the season, company class is reduced from the usual hour and a half to just a 45 minute to an hour warm up. Maintaining and strengthening your technique is very hard to do in these short classes. The focus isn't on improving, but simply on warming up for the rehearsals that follow. Head to steps on any given morning, and the sign in list will read like a who's who of elite ballet. Not once does Sophie say that she never took company class. Let's not make assumptions. As someone who "just dissapeared" off a company roster, I can give first hand testimony to the sadness in thinking all those years of work have come down to just a delete key and bam, you're gone. It truly is devastating... Whether she should have done the article or not, that's her decision, and to each his own.

And Sophie, if you read this, many people will tell you "this too shall pass" and "everything happens for a reason". Perhaps that's true, but just know that the sense of loss you are feeling is shared be many who have been in similiar situations. I cried reading your words. A year after I was gone from my company, in a city 700 miles away, a woman approached me and said "did you dance with (company)? I always loved watching you dance. We miss seeing your smile on stage". So don't worry, you're not just dissapearing. Someone will notice.

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Thanks embunhead, for your post.

There are many aspects of this story, all of them interesting and important: salary levels, company economics, company politics, management styles, contract details, etc. etc. It's also natural and all to easy to second-guess Ms. Flack as to how she might have handled the interview better or whether she should have given it at all.

However, from the perspective of a young dancer -- especially one whose entire working life has been spent within the narrow world of a single company -- your point about getting the feeling that

all those years of work have come down to just a delete key and bam
is the one that strikes me as being most important.

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Thank you embunhead- from a former dancer that has "been there" your words ring true and honest as how many dancers I have known felt over the years.

To my knowledge, soloist and principal contracts are not ongoing in AGMA companies in most of the other national companies. In the companies I have worked with nationwide that were under AGMA, the contracts for all catagories were for the yearly work weeks designated unless negotiated independently by the dancer's agent. I knew many soloists and principals to be terminated, many with similar explanations to those given to Ms. Flack. Of course that may be different at NYCB but I could not find that specified in the AGMA posting of their contract on the AGMA website. I am assuming that other posters are more infomed than I am on that detail. Also I do think that sometimes management needs to make very difficult decisions because of the current economic climate. Sometimes the explanations may be to protect those they release from contract as much as themselves. It can be easier often for a dancer to move into another situation if the company claims they were part of an overall downsizing. I am not claiming this to be true at NYCB but should at least be given some thought. I also aknowledge that such an explanation may be very hard to accept for dancers that grew up in an environement that went from being a very young dancer at SAB to graduating into NYCB. The somewhat closed or often called"family" environment has many plusses along the way but can be challenging for individual dancers when confronted with a larger picture.

While Ms. Flack's complaints may draw many opinions from both the general public and those in her field, I think that it is fair to acknowledge that as a performer, and an expressive artist, her impressions are of interest and thought provoking. Certainly she has brought forth opinions one way or another from many of us on this Board. Dancers and especially those that have numerous expressive tendencies, as we can see evident in Ms. Flack's paintings on her website, find it very difficult to be reserved. I personally for that reason, will"cut her some slack". I do not take all she proclaims as truth for all, but hope her passion is soon translated to another artistic or otherwise endeavor she finds fullfilling.

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Just as a note, Gia Kourlas is well-respected critic, regardless of the publication that is paying and publishing her. A lot of people think the New York Post is only good for snarky headlines and wrapping fish, yet, Clive Barnes was its dance critic until the end of his life, and now Leigh Witchel writes for it.

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