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Peter Martins Sexual Harassment Allegations

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I guess I'm jaded, but it seems to me that anybody who has watched a TV show about lawyers or police investigations would have  realized that  attorney Hoey would be testing Kelly Boal's memory of an event that took place decades ago, and also confronting her with evidence that she continued to have contact with Martins, voluntarily, even after she quit NYCB (the pool party). 

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11 hours ago, Pique Arabesque said:

 

Weight/body shaming isn't sexual or physical harassment, but one could argue that it does contribute to a toxic work/school environment. I think it's particularly important to be delicate with minors like Ms. Stewart. Honestly, I think that any sensitive conversations about a minor's progress at SAB should happen via the parents/guardians, not the student. And it seems like Stewart was berated by Martins for experiencing a natural developmental process. "He told me I was fat" sounds trivial, but I can understand how that might contribute to an eating disorder in an impressionable young girl.

Nowhere in the article does Ms. Stewart claim that Peter Martins told her she was "fat".  Her complaint is that he liked her work as a child dancer but seemed to lose interest in her as she grew up.  That can happen to any dancer no matter what they weigh.  Precocious talent in young artists of all kinds does not mean that adult success is inevitable.  Ms. Stewart has concluded that the onset of puberty and her mental insecurities limited her career  instead of the competition,  but that's hardly Martins' fault.  Adult dancers with weight issues need to be adult about consulting a nutritionist on their own (although I believe the school and company do provide help).

Some of the criticism of Martins is just silly - how dare the head of the school and company walk around like he's the head of the school and company!  

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I had a friend who was on track from childhood in the professional school of Boston Ballet.  As she grew up into her teenage years, her instructor told her that her hips were made for child rearing, not ballet.  She quit ballet shortly thereafter. (By the way, this woman was and still is as thin as a rail.)  This is the reality of how professional ballet companies work.  Comments are hurtful, and instructors often are not nice people.  However, making such a comment does not constitute harassment or misconduct.

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9 hours ago, minervaave said:

 

Can anyone imagine a school principal who had dated a 16 year old, been arrested once for physically assaulting his wife and twice for a DUI being allowed to continue to serve as a leader of children?  And Martins was leader not just of NYCB, but also SAB.  

If creating a great dance company means tolerating such behavior, then I, for one, think the price is too high.

EXACTLY> OR being allowed to be the CEO of a company?  You or I would never get away with that crap in our professions.  Maybe one indiscretion or possibly 2 but multiple? NO.  Rules were different for Martins and the board was either clueless or just looked the other way. 

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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.

Edited by abatt

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Martins wasn't running NYC when he was 34, and she was 16, so it wasn't a boss/employee issue.  Today, he might have been fired for having a relationship with an under-aged person, and he might have been charged.  And it wouldn't have been up to her whether to drop the charges. 

However, whether he committed sexual or physical abuse as defined under the law is the only issue only in regard to whether he can be charged criminally or sued.  Unless he has an employment contract to the contrary, the company could have fired him for any reason that is not considered discriminatory.   Had he not resigned, they could have decided that he behaved correctly, but that the damage was done. Adding:  SAB could very well have removed him from the school based on multiple DUI's, particularly since the latest was as the result of an accident, not a stop at a checkpoint, like in 2011.

37 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

Nowhere in the article does Ms. Stewart claim that Peter Martins told her she was "fat".  Her complaint is that he liked her work as a child dancer but seemed to lose interest in her as she grew up. 

The article says, 

14 hours ago, vipa said:

"Ashlee Knapp Stewart said she went from being plucked from the school by Mr. Martins at 13 in 2000 and featured in his new ballet “Harmonielehre” to being shamed by Mr. Martins after she went through puberty.

I don't equate "being shamed" to "losing interest."

 

52 minutes ago, abatt said:

I guess I'm jaded, but it seems to me that anybody who has watched a TV show about lawyers or police investigations would have  realized that  attorney Hoey would be testing Kelly Boal's memory of an event that took place decades ago, and also confronting her with evidence that she continued to have contact with Martins, voluntarily, even after she quit NYCB (the pool party). 

I've been interviewed in several workplace investigations, and my experience was little like what I've seen on TV.

Anyone familiar with the literature and a cursory glance at the Weinstein stories knows that victims can continue to appear on good terms after an assault, abuse, or pressure, especially since most takes place between people who know each other, not strangers, and most people aren't in a position, or don't feel like they are in a position, to walk.  Of course Cass would continue to make nice with Martins: his behavior, however traumatic, was normalized and accepted.

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23 minutes ago, abatt said:

I had a friend who was on track from childhood in the professional school of Boston Ballet.  As she grew up into her teenage years, her instructor told her that her hips were made for child rearing, not ballet.  She quit ballet shortly thereafter. (By the way, this woman was and still is as thin as a rail.)  This is the reality of how professional ballet companies work.  Comments are hurtful, and instructors often are not nice people.  However, making such a comment does not constitute harassment or misconduct.

And this is exactly why there are fewer ballet students nowadays. Such comments will be considered as harassment everywhere else. 

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Are there statistics that show that there are fewer ballet students nowadays?  If there are, they would have been compiled before the subject exploded two months ago.  And if there are, since the large majority of ballet students are girls, do they show that harassment is the cause for fewer girls in ballet, as opposed to far more opportunities for girls to participate in sports or other activities?

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10 minutes ago, Helene said:

And if there are, since the large majority of ballet students are girls, do they show that harassment is the cause for fewer girls in ballet, as opposed to far more opportunities for girls to participate in sports or other activities?

 

I agree Helene. Not only are there more opportunities for other kind of activities, but I think there is almost a parental shunning of stereotypical feminine activities for young women. While that will hopefully mean more women in positions of leadership and the de-gendering of certain professions, it certainly doesn't keep enrollment numbers up in ballet programs.

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Something that I think that we need to consider, as balletomanes, is that we need our moment in the mirror as well. I’m not suggesting that it’s our fault that dancers were abused and the administrative wing of the company turned a blind eye-- But I think there does need to be a reckoning for balletgoers on the contradiction of what ballet is, a multi-dimensional aesthetic art form which highly values beauty and youth, and the cultural values of today.

Most of the folks on this forum are devotees of Balanchine. We love Balanchine. We are upset when there isn’t more of his choreography on the program and when his birthday isn’t properly celebrated (35 years after his death). If we are going to go to such great lengths to discredit Martins’s accomplishments, relationships, leadership, and intellectual property, won’t we also need to scrub his predecessors whose example he followed? Robbins was mentally abusive, Balanchine leveraged his power to seduce his employees. So goodbye to the legacy of their genius? Goodbye Dances at a Gathering and Serenade? I say no.

If we are going to judge folks on their past failures, we need to look at our own past failures. Darci’s call to the police, Kirkland’s story of Heather Watts being dragged down the stairs-- none of this is new. They were widely available for public consumption and we need to take some responsibility that as ticketholders and fans, we too didn’t speak up about this behavior being unacceptable either. What we can do, today, is move on, define what our standards are in terms of workplace conduct, and stop being complicit ourselves when others don’t support that standard.

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DC Export, I agree that balletgoers do indeed to face the kind of antiquated values of traditional ballet. Hopefully, by patronizing companies that seek an integration of modern values with the art form.  I think, if any company, NYCB probably challenges many of these values with new works? And our US culture is youth-focused.  Not just ballet. Older people are the only group that it is ok to be rude to, disparage on tv programs, or to openly joke about--we are deeply ageist. 

Yes, some of the posts are " going to go to such great lengths to discredit Martins’s accomplishments, relationships, leadership, and intellectual property"

BUT

Most are simply observing that repeated negative issues with the head of an organization (and the distractions that these cause to an organization) merit a change.  You can believe that Martins needs to be replaced and has acted in abusive ways but not detract from his other accomplishments. 

And really, what kind of an argument is it that Robbins and Balanchine acted poorly?  We have come so far since then. We have higher standards. We embrace their artistic legacy but look for the organization to progress. And I think that Balanchine really was progressive in so many ways for his time. Perhaps not when it came to gender roles but, for example, he appeared to be one of the first in the US to employ dancers of color, for example?At least I think he did.  

I think Martins is gifted and skilled and amazing but apparently that is coming at a cost to him and to people in the organization.  At this point what he is offering the organization does not outweigh the damage that he is doing.  He is now a problem, a distraction, and a liability.  The organization is doing what organizations do--protect themselves.  

 

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I'm sure lots of us know (or are) individuals who serve on boards--hard-working, dedicated, generous people, every single one of them. But then they get together to form boards, and what happens with this kind of thing? On the one side, you have the boards of NYCB and the Met whitewashing over complaints for years. On the other, you have ABT suddenly letting one of their greatest dancers resign over a complaint about something that happened outside the company. Whether ignoring or overreacting, it's all just feckless, it seems to me. In ABT's case, it's seat-of-their pants stuff masquerading as being tough and principled. I'm sure these smart people know it, but they need to come up with a real plan to deal with sexual misconduct. Right now! Way past due. I'm just sorry, and kind of angry (in the to my mind ridiculous case of Gomes), that they hadn't done so previously. What a mess.

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1 hour 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 disagree.  NYCB is not a court of law.  They are a private employer who can fire Martins at will, whether or not he broke any laws.  The only standard they should be looking at is what is best for their organization.  And it is completely within their rights (and many would say part of the board's fiduciary duty) to remove someone who will tarnish the reputation of the organization and pose a potential risk to the students under his charge.  And I will say that his dating of Kistler when she was 16 is certainly germane to the initial issue, which is an accusation of sexual harassment by someone at SAB.  Yes, it appears to have been accepted when it happened by the people who were aware of it at the time, but can anyone really justify it morally today?  It indicates that at least at one point, he conclusively engaged in what we would now describe as sexual predation.  And in terms of the DUI's, I think the last one is the absolute  proof that this man is unfit to be in a position of leadership.  He caused a 3 car accident because of his reckless disregard for the safety of people around him.  He could have killed someone, and no, it would not have been an accident.  If it were the first DUI, maybe the board could have pleaded ignorance.  But after the second one, any continuing assocation between NYCB and Martins would have inevitably damaged NYCB's name, in addiion to Martin's.  (And rightfully so, in my opinion.)

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4 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Barbara Hoey is a litigator. Her clients are corporations. Per her Kelley Drye & Warren bio, Hoey "works with human resources, in-house counsel and boards of directors to conduct investigations into complaints of alleged wrongdoing by upper level executives" and "[Her] objective is to work with her clients to avoid expensive disputes while positioning them in the most advantageous way should litigation ensue."  She's doing her job, but that may not be what the parties she's spoken to expected when told they were being contacted in connection with the Board's investigation into Martins' conduct. Nor may it be what the company needs, or at least, it may not be the only thing it needs.

I didn't realize that from my over-fast reading -- it is, as they said in The Wizard of Oz, a horse of a different color.

Quote

Martins was (and probably still is) powerful; Robert Lipp, the vice chairman of the Board told the dancers he hoped that Martins could return to his role once the investigation was complete; 

This seemed absolutely unrealistic at the time he said it -- it's only worse now.

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43 minutes ago, DC Export said:

Most of the folks on this forum are devotees of Balanchine. We love Balanchine. We are upset when there isn’t more of his choreography on the program and when his birthday isn’t properly celebrated (35 years after his death). If we are going to go to such great lengths to discredit Martins’s accomplishments, relationships, leadership, and intellectual property, won’t we also need to scrub his predecessors whose example he followed? Robbins was mentally abusive, Balanchine leveraged his power to seduce his employees. So goodbye to the legacy of their genius? Goodbye Dances at a Gathering and Serenade? I say no.

Clare Dederer has a perceptive essay in Paris Review about this quandry.  And we have been grappling with the question for many years -- some of us in dance, and many more in the visual arts, film, theater, popular culture, etc.  You're correct when you say we need to look at ourselves -- we need to look at all the counterbalanced elements of culture that allow us to see the art separate from the artist.

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6 minutes ago, Anthony_NYC said:

I'm sure lots of us know (or are) individuals who serve on boards--hard-working, dedicated, generous people, every single one of them. But then they get together to form boards, and what happens with this kind of thing? On the one side, you have the boards of NYCB and the Met whitewashing over complaints for years. On the other, you have ABT suddenly letting one of their greatest dancers resign over a complaint about something that happened outside the company. Whether ignoring or overreacting, it's all just feckless, it seems to me. In ABT's case, it's seat-of-their pants stuff masquerading as being tough and principled. I'm sure these smart people know it, but they need to come up with a real plan to deal with sexual misconduct. Right now! Way past due. I'm just sorry, and kind of angry (in the to my mind ridiculous case of Gomes), that they hadn't done so previously. What a mess.

Anthony_NYC, just curious --  do we know that ABT were overreacting, or is that your surmise?  The fact that Gomes' actions took place outside the company isn't necessarily relevant to whether an investigation was called for within the company. I'm not saying they couldn't have acted out of panic, or even that it's unlikely that they did, but it's hard to say without knowing all the details, it seems to me (?)

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2 minutes ago, dirac said:

Anthony_NYC, just curious --  do we know that ABT were overreacting, or is that your surmise?  The fact that Gomes' actions took place outside the company isn't necessarily relevant to whether an investigation was called for within the company. I'm not saying they couldn't have acted out of panic, or even that it's unlikely that they did, but it's hard to say without knowing all the details, it seems to me (?)

I was going to ask if there was more reliable information released while I was hip deep in holiday stuff -- it seems to me that we don't know much even now.  Yes, that makes the situation fraught, and frustrating -- I have to assume that reasonable people have their reasons.

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24 minutes ago, Anthony_NYC said:

I'm sure lots of us know (or are) individuals who serve on boards--hard-working, dedicated, generous people, every single one of them. But then they get together to form boards, and what happens with this kind of thing? On the one side, you have the boards of NYCB and the Met whitewashing over complaints for years. On the other, you have ABT suddenly letting one of their greatest dancers resign over a complaint about something that happened outside the company. Whether ignoring or overreacting, it's all just feckless, it seems to me. In ABT's case, it's seat-of-their pants stuff masquerading as being tough and principled. I'm sure these smart people know it, but they need to come up with a real plan to deal with sexual misconduct. Right now! Way past due. I'm just sorry, and kind of angry (in the to my mind ridiculous case of Gomes), that they hadn't done so previously. What a mess.

The press never said "happened outside the company."  The words used were, “does not involve any current or former members of the ABT community, aside from Mr. Gomes, and did not occur in relation to his employment duties with the Company.”  This language is vague. I am not speculating anything, however, as Sandik says, did I miss something further?  Do we know more details?  Do you know that ABT overreacted?  One has to assume it was a serious enough situation for Gomes to resign.  

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24 minutes ago, balletforme said:

And really, what kind of an argument is it that Robbins and Balanchine acted poorly?  We have come so far since then. We have higher standards. We embrace their artistic legacy but look for the organization to progress. And I think that Balanchine really was progressive in so many ways for his time. Perhaps not when it came to gender roles but, for example, he appeared to be one of the first in the US to employ dancers of color, for example?At least I think he did.  

Exactly my point: We need to protect what deserves protecting: the history and legacy of the dances. The art form can't survive and progress if we tear down the entire institution because of the flaws of the people who contribute to its creation and continuation. That includes Balanchine, Robbins, and now, Martins.

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So far, we don't know anything more about Gomes than what was in the ABT press release.   

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10 minutes ago, minervaave said:

 And I will say that his dating of Kistler when she was 16 is certainly germane to the initial issue, which is an accusation of sexual harassment by someone at SAB. 

I feel this is perhaps an overstatement. If it was statutory rape it was a crime. If it was a post rehearsal - let's go get some coffee - I see nothing wrong or even strange. There is a lot in between those two examples but I wouldn't make any assumptions based on a news article saying Martins dated Kistler when she was 16.

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Really?  It's OK for an adult male to date a 16 year old even if they didn't actually have sex?  And according to the LA times, they were publicly dating, not just grabbing coffee together.  I didn't say it was statuatory rape; I said it was sexual predation.  I thought we could agree that in our culture today, an mature adult (not a 19 year old) showing romantic interest in a minor is a line that should not be crossed.  Yes, it happened in the past, and people shrugged it off at the time, but I think with our greater awareness today, we can see that this is predatory behavior.

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Greetings from a lurker who appreciates finding such nuanced, wide-ranging, and enthusiastic commentary!

Former low-level student dancer who enjoys ballet history, set and costume design, documentaries/memoirs, and of course performances.

Admit the issues within the dance world have often tarnished my enjoyment and led to long periods of stepping away from the above.

Found this forum because of the Martins 2017 situation...and have been following the thread here. Registered because I hadn't seen anyone reference a [online] People magazine article from 1978 which [casually!] references Martins and Watts living together since 1970 (from the time she was ~16 and he ~ 23). I hadn't realized their non-professional relationship started when she was a minor.

Source (People 1978) 

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1 hour ago, minervaave said:

I disagree.  NYCB is not a court of law.  They are a private employer who can fire Martins at will, whether or not he broke any laws.  T

That's true.  They probably could have terminated him for any reason or no reason, provided the termination wasn't motivated by racial bias, age discrimination or other protected categories.  But NYCB did not go that route. Instead, they chose to hire a leading law firm in employment law to investigate and to render a legal opinion based on the factual investigation.  It's fair to conclude that the law firm's legal opinion will address whether Martins' conduct constituted a violation of  employment law, and whether his conduct constituted abuse under the law.

 

Edited by abatt

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9 minutes ago, abatt said:

That's true.  They probably could have terminated him for any reason or no reason, provided the termination wasn't motivated by racial bias, age discrimination or other protected categories.  But NYCB did not go that route. Instead, they chose to hire a leading law firm in employment law to investigate and to render a legal opinion based on the factual investigation.  It's fair to conclude that the law firm's legal opinion will address whether Martins' conduct constituted a violation of  employment law, and whether his conduct constituted abuse under the law.

 

Yes, but then he started to get massive negative coverage in the press, all the old skeletons in his closet started getting rehashed (like the assault on Darci Kistler, which really does not look good in 2017) and then he really sealed his fate with his causing a 3 car accident while driving drunk.  After that, he became a liability regardless of what the law firm found out.

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