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Peter Martins Sexual Harassment Allegations


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I'm not sure if this was mentioned previously, but the NYT article about Team to Lead City Ballet During Martins Sexual Harassment Probe has this correction tacked on to it:

Correction: December 9, 2017

"An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the recipient of an anonymous letter accusing Peter Martins, the ballet master in chief of New York City Ballet, of sexual harassment in the company and at the affiliated School of American Ballet. The letter was sent only to the school, not to both the school and the company."

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11 hours ago, vagansmom said:

Let's be clear: Sexual abuse IS physical abuse. As long as we consider those two terms as separate, sexual abuse will never be taken seriously.

Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't.  Sometimes it is verbal, but that doesn't make it less abusive.

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18 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Also, diverse. And not just in terms of race and gender. 

It would be interesting to know what the decision making process will be and how Martins' various duties will be parceled out on a day to day basis. 

Agree. I wish the article had given more detail about how these four individuals will lead. 

Separately, even though NYCB does not forbid an AD to have family in their charge (unlike romantic/spousal relationships) I still think that's never a great idea. To me, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, dating partners, family, all run the risk of perceived favoritism even if there isn't any, and I think perception is important. Though spouses seem to garner the most wariness, understandably. But, by my saying that I am in no way accusing or assuming that Stafford will favor his sister in any casting decisions (if he will even have any say in casting, because that isn't known yet). Martins got plenty of flack over casting his son, Nilas, in certain roles. I'm not saying those decisions were based on favoritism, I don't know. But, again its perception.

I also find it odd that NYCB has yet to issue a press release announcing Martins' LoA and now the intermediary team. If they have, there's nothing on their website.

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1 hour ago, ABT Fan said:

Martins got plenty of flack over casting his son, Nilas, in certain roles. I'm not saying those decisions were based on favoritism, I don't know. But, again its perception.

I

Perception??  If you saw his later performances, there would be little doubt as to what was happening.......

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On the other hand, there were other dancers who were not related to Martins who were cast beyond their talents for many years.

There's a wonderful Danish documentary called "Dancing Bournonville" that features on Hans Brenaa coaching Mette Ida Kirk and Ib Andersen in "Kermesse in Brugges, but there's also a segment of, if I recall correctly, Alexander Ryberg coaching RDBS students for their roles in "Konservatoriet."  One of those boys is Nilas Martins.  He's the one with superb musicality.  I've always wondered if he'd have been more fulfilled pursuing music instead of ballet, the family business on both sides.

There are reasons that ballet runs in families besides nepotism: for one, the gene pool for ballet body types, and, for another, the kids of ballet professionals are often around the theater and especially the studio, if a parent teaches.  LIke with figure skating coaches, it's cheaper to bring them along than to hire a babysitter, you can keep an eye on them, and, sometimes, it sticks.

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8 hours ago, Helene said:

Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't.  Sometimes it is verbal, but that doesn't make it less abusive.

I disagree.

Can you explain how you came to this conclusion?  Maybe there is hair splitting with terms???? 

How about this . . .sexual assault is physical assault.  Could you agree with that? 

I don't mean to detract from the thread but I find this honestly, insensitive given the context in which the statement was made.  Why in the world choose to make this point? 

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33 minutes ago, balletforme said:

I disagree.

Can you explain how you came to this conclusion?  Maybe there is hair splitting with terms???? 

How about this . . .sexual assault is physical assault.  Could you agree with that? 

I don't mean to detract from the thread but I find this honestly, insensitive given the context in which the statement was made.  Why in the world choose to make this point? 

What I took Helene's post to be saying is that sexual abuse can be physical, verbal or both. I think this is an important point to make  -- verbal sexual harassment/abuse is unacceptable, just as physical sexual abuse is. 

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I am trying to find the quote where a member (who seems to have disappeared) who stated 'that there is sexual favoritism also found on college/university levels'.

Is there another thread for that or can somebody explain or share insight into these allegations which to me were equally disturbing as well as the aforementioned ongoing discussions.

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Maybe we need to clarify the terminology we're using as part of this discussion. 

Sexual Harassment, per the EEOC:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.

Sexual Assault, per RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):

The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:

  • Attempted rape
  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
  • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape

Force doesn’t always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force a victim to comply, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family or other intimidation tactics.

Child Sexual Abuse, also per RAINN:

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. Child sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact between a perpetrator and a child. Some forms of child sexual abuse include:

  • Exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor
  • Fondling
  • Intercourse
  • Masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate
  • Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction
  • Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children
  • Sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal
  • Sex trafficking
  • Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare

 

Note that legally, assault is distinguished from battery, even though we may use them interchangeably in conversation. Generally, assault is a credible threat of bodily harm; battery is the actual infliction of bodily harm. (I learned this while on Jury Duty.) From Wikipedia: "In criminal and civil law, assault is an attempt to initiate harmful or offensive contact with a person, or a threat to do so. It is distinct from battery, which refers to the actual achievement of such contact." It's not clear to me whether sexual assault requires actual physical contact or whether the credible threat of contact is sufficient for something to be deemed sexual assault.

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20 minutes ago, tarantella2000 said:

I am trying to find the quote where a member (who seems to have disappeared) who stated 'that there is sexual favoritism also found on college/university levels'.

Is there another thread for that or can somebody explain or share insight into these allegations which to me were equally disturbing as well as the aforementioned ongoing discussions.

I don't want to drag this too far off topic, but there have been numerous allegations and law suits against many professors around the country for inappropriate conduct with their students. The Chronicle of Higher Education has been naming names for years of the alleged perpetrators - faculty at many famous institutions: Yale, Columbia, Berkeley, U of Colorado-Boulder, Northwestern, etc. Here's just one example of this problem at Berkeley, from a well-regarded site in philosophy:

http://dailynous.com/2017/03/23/sexual-harassment-assault-retaliation-lawsuit-john-searle/

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Kathleen's definitions above correspond with how, in my experience, the terms are most typically used. I've most often heard the term "sexual harassment" in the context of workplace sexual harassment; I've most often heard the term "sexual abuse" in the context of sexual abuse of children (which is often physical in nature, but, as the definitions above note, not exclusively); I've most often heard the term "sexual assault" in the context of sexual violence perpetrated against an adult.

That said, some of these terms can and have been used in other ways. I suspect that at least some of the disagreements in this discussion are rooted in those variations. It's useful to keep those variations in mind when considering the various views that get expressed.

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Thank you California and apologies for not being clearer from the get go, but I was under the impression that it also involved colleges/universities particularly affiliated with dance programs. Anyhow, I will follow your link (Chronicle......) a bit more closely.

Edited by tarantella2000
Elaboration
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Semi-related question, but when dancers/choreographers within the company are casting works, is there any roadblocks to casting their spouses? I was thinking of Troy and Ashley--not sure if that has ever been an issue though, especially since they don't report to each other, but I wonder how that works. Are they the only marriage left within the company (within the current roster of dancers)?

Edited by wonderwall
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5 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

But, by my saying that I am in no way accusing or assuming that Stafford will favor his sister in any casting decisions (if he will even have any say in casting, because that isn't known yet). Martins got plenty of flack over casting his son, Nilas, in certain roles. I'm not saying those decisions were based on favoritism, I don't know. But, again its perception.

Abi Stafford is in the twilight of her career. She isn't cast in many ballets, and seems to have a small and specific rep that she still does well. It seems very unlikely that that will change.

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40 minutes ago, vipa said:

Abi Stafford is in the twilight of her career. She isn't cast in many ballets, and seems to have a small and specific rep that she still does well. It seems very unlikely that that will change.

Stafford joined the corps in January 2000, so she's roughly in the same cohort as Bouder (October 2000), Reichlen (October 2001), Fairchild (October 2002), and Hyltin (June 2003).  In a dance, twilight is a relative thing.

ETA: Lowery (October 2002) and Laracey (February 2003). 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell
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On 12/9/2017 at 2:37 PM, DC Export said:

Pleased to see such a respected group of people leading, but worried it may signal a final departure from Balanchine's dancers. This could be an opportunity for NYCB to reconnect to that generation, so many of which have been pushed out by Martins. If he does not make a return as AD, my biggest hope is that they install someone who can reconnect NYCB's legacy while staying true as an innovator in choreography. I am feeling this especially strongly after having seen Suzanne Farrell's company yesterday evening. What a triumph. 

I certainly want to see all those artists fully involved in teaching and coaching, but I don't want to lay the burden of the AD position on any of them.  A few, like Farrell, have been running companies and would have had some experience with that (and you notice that she's closed up shop in part because she feels she doesn't want that job any more) -- most of them have not been in administration, and this is not the time in their life to learn that job.  Depending on what the board discovers/decides in the next phase, this interim committee may be holding a place for Martins to return, or for a new director to be chosen.  If it's a new director, I want it to be someone who has the potential for a long enough tenure to insure the health of the organization.  I don't think we'd get that with someone from Martins' generation.

 

7 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

Agree. I wish the article had given more detail about how these four individuals will lead. 

...

I also find it odd that NYCB has yet to issue a press release announcing Martins' LoA and now the intermediary team. If they have, there's nothing on their website.

I have a feeling that they're still working that out -- remember that the internet makes many of these decisions, which used to happen with a bit more deliberation, occur much more quickly than in the past.  The scenery is whizzing by...

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There are so many variables with regard to harassment and abuse that there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer:

  • Constitutional Federal law, state, and local law, explicit and interpreted
  • Precedents
  • Company-/institution-specific rules and guidelines
  • Union-specific rules and guidelines
  • Contract-specific rules and guidelines
  • Professional codes of conduct

Plus there are criminal laws, ex: statutory rape laws, vs. civil penalties and lawsuit precedents, and sometimes both (can) apply.  (With regard to statutory rape, a number of states have so-called "Romeo & Juliet" laws that use an age formula to determine if statutory rape applies:  if the age differential is small enough, then, for example, the 17-year-old dating another 17-year-old isn't charged for statutory rape on their 18th birthday; they may be charged a misdemeanor or fined.)

There's no one rule currently that covers all universities:  some have no rules about consensual faculty relationships with students, some define it as the same as a reporting relationship, including between a thesis advisor and graduate student, and there are certainly colleges and universities that have rules against it, particularly religious institutions that address relationships outside of marriage.  Three young professors at my university married women in my class and the class before within several years of graduation:  that was acceptable at my university in the early '80's.  

The professional organization in the US that figure skating coaches must belong to in order to be considered accredited by United States Figure Skating prohibits at least coach/student relationships, on the same grounds that other organizations and schools do:  that the power imbalance is too dangerous for the students.  I'm not sure if this is still true, but in 2014 Northwestern University's policy included the following:

Quote

When undergraduate students are involved, the difference in institutional power and the inherent risk of coercion are so great that no faculty member or coaching staff member shall enter into a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with a Northwestern undergraduate student, regardless of whether there is a supervisory or evaluative relationship between them.

Plus rules can be in flux and revised; from a 2015 article in Time Magazine about Harvard's change in policy:

Quote

Harvard University has banned “sexual and romantic relationships” between faculty and undergraduate students, revising a narrower policy that had deemed relationships with “one’s students” inappropriate. That policy left some leeway for students and professors who were not in the same class.

From the same article, there are rules for dating graduate students are different:

Quote

Faculty, staff, undergraduate, and graduate students are prohibited from engaging in relationships with any graduate student “who is enrolled in a course taught by that individual or otherwise subject to that individual’s academic supervision before the supervision has concluded.”

This article from 2003 shows that Berkeley had already prohibited "romantic or sexual" relationships between faculty and students over 14 years ago, and it discusses other universities and their policies:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/30/national/universities-tighten-rules-on-facultystudent-relationships.html

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5 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Note that legally, assault is distinguished from battery, even though we may use them interchangeably in conversation. Generally, assault is a credible threat of bodily harm; battery is the actual infliction of bodily harm. (I learned this while on Jury Duty.) From Wikipedia: "In criminal and civil law, assault is an attempt to initiate harmful or offensive contact with a person, or a threat to do so. It is distinct from battery, which refers to the actual achievement of such contact." It's not clear to me whether sexual assault requires actual physical contact or whether the credible threat of contact is sufficient for something to be deemed sexual assault.

Generally, "sexual assault" is distinct from "assault" in that it usually does require actual physical contact.  As an aside, "battery" does not necessarily require infliction of bodily harm ("offensive contact" can usually suffice), but it does require physical contact with the person or something closely associated to them.  So for example, If A threatens B, "I'm going to beat your face to a bloody pulp!!!" and then proceeds to knock B's hat off their head (but not come in contact with B themselves), the threat would be assault, and the knocking off of the hat would be battery.

I say "generally" because criminal law is different from state to state, so it always depends on the state in question.

Re: the question of the Martins investigation: I think it's important to keep in mind that what is being reported in the media is probably a small fraction of what Barbara Hoey and her team at Kelly Drye are finding, both positive and negative.  I suspect there are plenty of folks who would not be willing to speak on record to media, but would cooperate with an official investigation.

And I think it's extremely likely that we will never know the full scope of what they uncover.  That's basically what happened when Paul Weiss investigated the Gretchen Carlson/Roger Ailes/Bill O'Reilly situation, and I don't expect that it will be any different here.

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1 hour ago, sandik said:

If it's a new director, I want it to be someone who has the potential for a long enough tenure to insure the health of the organization.  I don't think we'd get that with someone from Martins' generation.

How I wish I disagreed with your second sentence. But whoever takes over, whether it's soon in response to these accusations or some years (please not too many!) down the road, I hope he or she scours the hills for every one of Balanchine's own dancers still living and willing and able to help and finds them someone and something to coach. I'm dreaming I know, and even if that were practical it probably wouldn't be ideal. But all those stagers for the Trust - I wish they'd all be invited to work in New York. Farrell most of all.

 

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On 12/9/2017 at 7:44 PM, On Pointe said:

I am distressed by my post being so misunderstood.  I must try harder to make my point.

By no means am I suggesting that Martins gets a pass because of his looks.  

 

I for one never thought you were suggesting that.

 

Edited by Olga
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On 12/9/2017 at 7:44 PM, On Pointe said:

I am distressed by my post being so misunderstood.  I must try harder to make my point.

By no means am I suggesting that Martins gets a pass because of his looks. 

Just to clarify, I didn't think you were suggesting that. But I did think you (and Olga, in responding to you) were suggesting that it was unlikely he was guilty because of his sexual attractiveness.

I'm sorry if I was mistaken — that's why I hoped Olga might clarify, because I knew it was possible that I was.

 

Edited by nanushka
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3 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Stafford joined the corps in January 2000, so she's roughly in the same cohort as Bouder (October 2000), Reichlen (October 2001), Fairchild (October 2002), and Hyltin (June 2003).  In a dance, twilight is a relative thing.

ETA: Lowery (October 2002) and Laracey (February 2003). 

I guess I think of Stafford as in the twilight of her career because she was out a lot with injuries and took a lot of time off after giving birth. This is not criticism of her, but my observation as an audience goer is that she was gone a lot. Since her return, she's been cast infrequently and specifically. She's in her mid 30's, and with all the up and coming talent, I don't expect her rep to expand.

 

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1 hour ago, kfw said:

 But all those stagers for the Trust - I wish they'd all be invited to work in New York. Farrell most of all.

 

I feel, too, that people who worked closely with Balanchine and have a track record as stagers and coaches...well, it would be great to have some of them back at New York City Ballet and "Farrell most of all." There is no longer a question of fighting over succession--that's done. Martins won and has more than proved his value as a steward of the company's legacy--this seems to me so, whatever comes out about some aspects of his leadership and also allowing for ups and downs in the performance of any historic repertory whether Bournonville or Balanchine.

But if the company's doors could be opened a little wider to the older generation of Balanchine dancers...without disrespecting the people there now and their huge accomplishments...it's hard to believe that might not be a very good thing. I had given up thought of its happening under Martins and since, on the whole, the company has been on a high in recent years, it seemed silly to constantly come back to this point especially since I know there also may be difficulties with bringing in people who may have differing memories of ballets, old resentments or arguments etc. etc.  But seeing Farrell's company last year did renew my hope that she might work again one day at New York City Ballet.  And if there is talk about changes in leadership, then...

Edited by Drew
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