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Peter Martins Sexual Harassment Allegations


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36 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

Perhaps Martins should step down "for the good of the company".   His daughter's struggles give him the perfect out.  She could probably benefit from some parental attention. 

I think any remote hope that Martins' job could be saved are long in the rearview mirror.  With what is out there, there is just no plausible deniability that the Board could not know there there are significant issues with Martins' management style, and the potential liability going forward is far too great.  There is just no way that they can risk putting him in charge of minors at this point.  

At this point, it's all about saving the institutions of the NYCB and the SAB, and the risk is real.  A multi-million dollar lawsuit from an alum could probably cripple the institutions for a generation.

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2 minutes ago, sidwich said:

At this point, it's all about saving the institutions of the NYCB and the SAB, and the risk is real.  A multi-million dollar lawsuit from an alum could probably cripple the institutions for a generation.

With someone like Lipp, the vice chair, making statements about hoping Martins can come back, do the Boards have a grip on reality, when so much seems to have gone down under their watches?

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1 minute ago, Helene said:

With someone like Lipp, the vice chair, making statements about hoping Martins can come back, do the Boards have a grip on reality, when so much seems to have gone down under their watches?

Well... probably not.  I don't think that that statement was advisable at all.  They really have to put out the "We are being open and transparent/Abuse will not be tolerated," message, and saying that he hopes that Martins can come back is obviously at odds with that.

Frankly, Martins will be out. The question will be whether anybody else's head will roll.  Again, it's a question of protecting NYCB/SAB at this point, and hoping no major lawsuits arise when all is said and done.  

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Arlene Croce's treatment of Heather Watts struck me as downright abusive.  It was way over the top - I used to wonder how Watts managed to go out on stage sometimes.

I also remember that Watts was interviewed after Martins' arrest for attacking Kistler,  and she maintained that he had never physically abused her.  But I realize she may have been trying to save face.

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15 minutes ago, balletforme said:

Can I ask a question with respect to the Board?  These are volunteers with deep pockets, kind of?  A kind of insiders group?  

Although this was published in 2010, when the economy was still struggling, it's an interesting overview of what it costs to join the boards of prestigious NYC institutions:

$250,000 for Lincoln Center; $10 million for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. NYCB is mentioned, although they don't put a dollar figure on their board membership. I'm guessing it's more like Lincoln Center

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/arts/03center.html

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This is looking worse and worse for Martins, even though the original investigation must take its course. The current (pre-Thanksgiving) allegations have uncorked 30+ years of apparent physical abuse that are not good for NYCB.

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Typically for major, prestigious institutions Board membership is "Pay to play," which is why Robert Gotttlieb balked at being asked initially, responding that he didn't have money and wasn't comfortable with rich people.

But there could be other reasons: honorary/emeritus status, to provide guidance/service/expertise, because that person is head of an important company in a company town or has connections to money or publicity, civic leaders, or because the person is a well-known respected name.  Smaller cities and institutions tend to be more flexible, while larger institutions don't have to.

Plus the buy-in stake and yearly contributions differ greatly from Board to Board.

I used to joke that for the cost, including corporate match, of getting my name on a major arts building in Seattle, I would get a listing in the NYCB or Met Opera program in 2-pt. type in disappearing ink.

 

2 hours ago, maps said:

The reality is NYCB has status with NYC while ABT-Ballet Theatre Foundation- is simply one of hundreds of entities that might receive tax dollars as grants from the Cultural Development Fund  

I'm not sure how the relationship to the city ties to Martins it, for that matter, the current membership of this Board.  The tie is between NYCB and NYC and because NYCB performs in a space located on city-owned property.

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39 minutes ago, balletforme said:

Thanks Helene and one more question, is it possible that the NYCB board influences casting and hiring decisions other than the AD?  Do they address hiring issues that emerge with dancers? Does the board influence apprentice choices? 

The Board is generally also responsible for hiring the Executive Director or deciding that the AD will perform both roles, sometimes permanently, and sometimes in the interim.  Then, depending on the reporting structure, they might be responsible for hiring the head of the Technical department and/or other department heads.

The Board, at least in a 501-c-3 organization is also responsible for oversight of all aspects of the company, because they are responsible, first-of-all, for managing the government's money, ie, lost tax revenue, for stewardship of the company's mission, their direct reports, and whether their direct reports are managing to the mission, meeting the terms of the union contracts (if any), terms of any restricted donations, meeting legal requirements and employment laws -- Federal, State, Local -- are compliant financially, etc.  They, essentially, are the bosses' bosses.

Should they be influencing employment decisions, other than nixing those that are not compliant: I'm not a lawyer, but I'm guessing not.  Do they?  I'm not a fly on the wall, and there have been numerous debates and questions about the ethics of Board members and major donors dating/marrying dancers, whether there are underlying pressures for dancers in fundraising galas and parties -- dancer at your gala table -- and whether dancers' named sponsors have influence over casting decisions.

 

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I believe in Wendy Whelan's movie Restless Creature, Martins mentioned to her that the Board had been asking about her after her surgery. It prompted him to contact her and find out what was going on.

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All of this talk about Board members and "pay to play" brings us back to discussions on this forum about the creepiness of ABT's "Sponsor a Dancer" program & how it sounds like a modern equivalent to Le Foyer de la Danse in Degas' age. In ABT's case, not every sponsor is a Board member. Still, it exploits the idea of paying $$$ to have "face time" with your favorite dancer. One of the ABT threads provides a link to an article in which an ABT Principal is shown spending weekends in the house of her sponsors. (Sorry, I forget which one but it was within the past year, perhaps related to the departure of Veronica Part?) This sort of pay-to-play is a tragedy waiting to happen, even if 95% of the dancer-sponsors are perfectly innocent. 

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Ballet Society, founded in 1946, changed its name to NYCB when Morton Baum (and the City Center powers that be) invited them to become the resident company at City Center -- a Masonic lodge claimed by NYC in lieu of back taxes owed -- and their name was changed to New York City Ballet at the time.  (New York City Opera was the resident opera company at City Center, and that name change meant consistency.)

Ballet Caravan was a troupe created in 1936 by Kirstein to showcase American choreography, and it toured nationally.  (I think these are the tours that Lew Christensen recalled for Barbara Newman in "Striking a Balance.").  In 1941 it toured Latin America for a State Department-sponsored "goodwill" tour that Lincoln Kirstein arranged during though his many government connections or connections' connections, and it disbanded after the tour ended.   A group of dancers from Ballet Caravan joined Ballet Society, but there was a gap during WWII.

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13 hours ago, Helene said:

The Watts that Martins "inherited" wasn't a Martins creation: she was a Balanchine creation, and Watts has said many times that Balanchine told her to ignore everyone else and to listen to him instead.  It wasn't as if Watts was a corps member or in Soloist purgatory and Martins suddenly placed her front and center.  She was promoted to Principal by Balanchine, and her career was about a 50/50 split between Balanchine and Martins.

I remember one Spring season -- I think maybe 1986 -- when, due to injury and illness and with eight performances a week, two on Saturday and two on Sunday, the substitution lists were almost as long as the programs, and where Watts danced nearly every performance, subbing in a wide range of ballets, sometimes two or three ballets a night in an eight-week season.  Kirstein and Gottlieb talked about how McBride saved the company after Farrell left, and Mazo documents the cascading injuries in one of those seasons, but Watts held up the fort in the mid-'80's, and she danced a lot of ballets really well, when it was a amazing that she was still standing by the end.

Watts has also described as being a mess after Balanchine's death, and the more Martins choreographed for her and codified her mannerisms during this period, the more her dancing in Balanchine diminished.

Croce addressed the point about Balanchine making her a principal in the piece.  She also mentioned that Watts's repertory was big in part because she never got hurt. I never heard that Watts blames Martins for the decline in her dancing, but wow. 

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Arlene Croce's treatment of Heather Watts struck me as downright abusive.  It was way over the top - I used to wonder how Watts managed to go out on stage sometimes.

Well, Croce thought she was watching the repertory she cherished go down the drain and that what Watts was doing with her roles was a part of it.  But no question, it was rough stuff.  

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13 minutes ago, dirac said:

"Croce addressed the point about Balanchine making her a principal in the piece.  She also mentioned that Watts's repertory was big in part because she never got hurt. I never heard that Watts blames Martins for the decline in her dancing, but wow. 

I wasn't clear: Watts said what was before the "and" and I said what was after the "and."  Watts never blamed Martins for anything in any interview I've ever read or heard.  Even as recent as her interview with Conversations on Dance from this summer, she was still a stalwart supporter of how Martins handled and has continued to handle the job.

Watts has said in several interviews that she was a mess after Balanchine's death, and that she wasn't the only one.  In my observation, performance-wise, the dancers had a few years, until 1986-7, where they were running on shock and adrenaline, and some dancers have described dancing for (in homage to) Balanchine.  Personally, they may all have been a mess, but it wasn't evident in their performance levels for several years.  That could only last so long, and some dancers, like Watts, were clearly diminished after the tank hit empty.  That also coincided with Martins creating more and more works that relied on her mannerisms, and, in my eyes, this trickled down into her Balanchine dancing, which I had witnessed for almost two decades by then.  And I saw her give some of the best performances in Balanchine I'd ever seen, ironically in more romantic roles, given how she was associated almost entirely with leotard ballets.

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13 hours ago, sidwich said:

Well... probably not.  I don't think that that statement was advisable at all.  They really have to put out the "We are being open and transparent/Abuse will not be tolerated," message, and saying that he hopes that Martins can come back is obviously at odds with that.

Frankly, Martins will be out. The question will be whether anybody else's head will roll.  Again, it's a question of protecting NYCB/SAB at this point, and hoping no major lawsuits arise when all is said and done.  

Definitely.

Outgoing leaders - and it feels safe at this point to say that Martins will be outgoing - often have Board loyalists that go along with them, voluntarily or otherwise. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens here.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

Watts has said in several interviews that she was a mess after Balanchine's death, and that she wasn't the only one.  In my observation, performance-wise, the dancers had a few years, until 1986-7, where they were running on shock and adrenaline, and some dancers have described dancing for (in homage to) Balanchine.  Personally, they may all have been a mess, but it wasn't evident in their performance levels for several years.  That could only last so long, and some dancers, like Watts, were clearly diminished after the tank hit empty.  That also coincided with Martins creating more and more works that relied on her mannerisms, and, in my eyes, this trickled down into her Balanchine dancing, which I had witnessed for almost two decades by then.  And I saw her give some of the best performances in Balanchine I'd ever seen, ironically in more romantic roles, given how she was associated almost entirely with leotard ballets.

Those who have only seen late career Watts in the leotard roles Martins created for her might be surprised by something like this.  Watts and Helgi Tomasson in the pas de deux from Bournonville's Kermess in Bruges. There was more to her career — and her dancing — than a lot of people remember. 

 

 

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The current board members are listed on the NYCB website. Many seem to be heads of financial corporations, a few are philanthropists. I would assume that strict corporate governance rules would guide their thinking. Bill de Blasio is also listed as an "ex officio" board member meaning the position comes with his elected office, as is Gale Brewer's as Manhattan Borough President. A few of them might be as hands-on active as Anne Bass seemed to have been – in the beginning helping to retire Lincoln Kirstein (:Duberman) and at the end in a kind of proxy fight with Martins over a student she favored at SAB (:NY Observer).

What a meeting the next one will be!

https://www.nycballet.com/About/Board-and-Staff/Board-of-Directors.aspx

 

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28 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Those who have only seen late career Watts in the leotard roles Martins created for her might be surprised by something like this.  Watts and Helgi Tomasson in the pas de deux from Bournonville's Kermess in Bruges. There was more to her career — and her dancing — than a lot of people remember. 

Thank you for sharing that video, Kathleen! Beautiful... such ballon Watts had!

I'm just jumping on here, though I've been keeping up with the posts over the last few days. What I wanted to respond to was Kathryn Morgan's video. Some mentioned that they were surprised that she brought up the term "rape" when that particular word hadn't yet been used, but I would venture to guess that she was responding to the questions she's received privately from her followers. So even though the articles were referring to sexual harassment and physical abuse allegations, perhaps Morgan's fans have been peppering her with questions about whether or not he'd raped anyone while she was at NYCB, so however imprecise the wording might have been in terms of what was truly being alleged, she was just answering them in the way they were asked. Just a guess -- can't think of why else she would have made that substitution!

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3 minutes ago, 83firefly said:

I'm just jumping on here, though I've been keeping up with the posts over the last few days. What I wanted to respond to was Kathryn Morgan's video. Some mentioned that they were surprised that she brought up the term "rape" when that particular word hadn't yet been used, but I would venture to guess that she was responding to the questions she's received privately from her followers. So even though the articles were referring to sexual harassment and physical abuse allegations, perhaps Morgan's fans have been peppering her with questions about whether or not he'd raped anyone while she was at NYCB, so however imprecise the wording might have been in terms of what was truly being alleged, she was just answering them in the way they were asked. Just a guess -- can't think of why else she would have made that substitution!

Keep in mind that Morgan's comments are being made in the context of a flood tide of harassment charges against any number of prominent arts, media, and political figures, not just Martins. Many of those charges include rape, attempted rape, and extremely coercive behavior. She may have been trying to draw a distinction between what men like Weinstein and Lauer have been accused of an the kind of behavior Martins was rumored to have engaged in. 

And yes, Watts had a beautiful jump.

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Watts was also lovely in the Dance in America "Emeralds" excerpts.  The dancers in the Pas de Trois -- she did the first solo --  were the highlight for me.  I remember a particularly juicy extra nano-second retard at the bottom of the plies in second.  Her timing and phrasing were just sweet (and not in the sugar sense).

A friend from another part of the internet drew my attention to this long article (8 pages) in the LA Times from December 1993 about the impacts of Martins' arrest in 1992, ie, his resurrection:

http://articles.latimes.com/1992-12-06/magazine/tm-3085_1_city-ballet

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The City Ballet's board has been nothing if not supportive, and for now, Martins' job seems secure. "We have the highest regard for Peter and the deepest admiration for the work he has done, as we do for Darci," says Theodore C. Rogers, the board's chairman. "We believe they are doing everything that a prudent person would do to address the situation in which they find themselves."

They find themselves?  Kistler was equally responsible for being attacked by her husband?  Really?

This is exactly the attitude that enables abuse to be mainstreamed, and it comes, once again, from a Board apologist.  It was as appalling then as it is appalling nearly a quarter century later.

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9 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Keep in mind that Morgan's comments are being made in the context of a flood tide of harassment charges against any number of prominent arts, media, and political figures, not just Martins. Many of those charges include rape, attempted rape, and extremely coercive behavior. She may have been trying to draw a distinction between what men like Weinstein and Lauer have been accused of an the kind of behavior Martins was rumored to have engaged in. 

Yes, great point!

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I saw Watts early in her career as well as late. My memories include good and, indeed, rather intriguing performances but truthfully my reactions to her dancing were always, even at the height of her career, rather less enthusiastic than those of others on this thread. Do my memories do her an injustice? Perhaps, especially as I saw her less than some others have...so I will leave it at that.

In any case, given her history--and echoing Dirac--I personally would not have seen her as an obvious candidate to bring calm and sanity to backstage life at New York City Ballet should Peter Martins be ousted. But history is just that...history. So on to the future: which, whatever happens to Peter Martins, I still hope includes Suzanne Farrell coaching and staging at New York City Ballet.Though I'm not holding my breath.

Edited by Drew
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