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Peter Martins Sexual Harassment Allegations

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And the inebriated Basilio in the tavern scene of Baryshnikov's Don Quixote. And Lescaut's drunk scene in Manon.

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I would like to see Tharp's  Bakers Dozen done by more ballet companies...    when I was young, I used to find her work too much  "and the kitchen sink", but I've changed my mind.  I think her work may look better in a small frame like a video tight shot than in a big frame like the opera stage... the quick details are harder to catch from the top ring.

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Twyla Tharp has been the smartest person in the room for most of my dancegoing life -- her work isn't for all tastes, but I've always loved the combination of kinetic and intellectual challenge.  She was able to combine post-modern choreographic tools and really high-level dance technique early on, and just kept exploring that part of the art form.  Her curiosity hasn't always served her well, I think -- while some of her Broadway work really flew, I think her desire to make something that everyone would see took her into some less-than-successful projects.  And her ultimate frustration with maintaining a company meant that she gave up the chance to work with people in a long-range way that were totally devoted to her style.  (writing this it occurs to me that really she's an old-time modern dance doyen -- creating a movement style and body of work that are mutually dependent)  But I've learned so much watching her work, and have been so enchanted by her discoveries that I'm forever grateful for the body of knowledge. 

When she first started making dances, the ballet world wasn't really able to absorb her style, but as neo-classical work is gradually outpaced by contemporary ballet (whatever that eventually means) Tharp's work is right in the middle of the repertory.  I agree with Amy, works like Baker's Dozen would fit right into a ballet season today.  Tharp and her son have been working on getting the repertory out into the bigger world -- she hasn't been making as much stuff as in the early part of her career (though she put a lot of work into her anniversary tour).  I think now at least part of her attention is on the legacy, and I'm glad she's doing that.  Even with video, it's still too easy to lose our heritage.

 

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On 1/14/2018 at 7:36 PM, Amy Reusch said:

BalanchineFan... and I believe stage managers are also AGMA.   Probably confuses things further...

What I remember is that in the 1970's ballet dancers were complaining that AGMA did not represent their interests well. In many cases the union didn't follow up on complaints and didn't adequately recognize that dancers had different concerns than musicians or other union members. One issue had to do with differences in the average length of their careers since dancers can't usually dance as long as people in other professions. I think that is why Willie Frankfurt refers to AGMA as a musicians' union. It's how the union started and, in her day, AGMA was more closely concerned with musicians' needs.

Edited by BalanchineFan

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On 1/17/2018 at 12:03 AM, Helene said:

Tharp did a residency at PNB in which she helped marketing and other admin departments, and people were in awe of her.

I particularly dislike the works that poke fun at ballet with a stacked deck: for that reason I can't stand "In the Upper Room."  But I do love two of the works she made for PNB that specifically don't:  "Waiting at the Station," which is a lot like the shows she been creating, and "Afternoon Ball," which was just revived and is a character-driven piece, and "Waterbaby Bagatelles."

How do you see In the Upper Room poking fun at ballet with a stacked deck? That's not my take on the ballet at all. I just remember phrase after phrase of incredible movement. If you said that about Push Comes to Shove I'd understand, even though I wouldn't agree.

Edited by BalanchineFan

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A related question:  Upper Room wasn't made for a ballet company -- it was one of the last things she made for her own company, which by that time had many people with significant ballet experience.  If you weren't seeing it in a ballet environment, would you have a different experience with it?

 

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I find the point of it is when the ballet person "defects" to the other side.  Because, sneakers, fun.  It's like in the movie "Center Stage," where the happy, pizza-eating jazz dancers are the ones to emulate.

One of the reasons I admire "Emergence," is that both work side-by-side, doing different things, but living cooperatively.

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23 minutes ago, fondoffouettes said:

Just in from the NYT:

“Abuse Accusations Against Peter Martins Are Not Corroborated, Inquiry Says”

https://nyti.ms/2BuFYbc

I'm not sure the report will change any perceptions, especially on the part of those individuals who always thought the report would be a whitewash.

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I would expect nothing less than a warning not to bring suit; Hoey's specialty is damage control.

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15 minutes ago, miliosr said:

I'm not sure the report will change any perceptions, especially on the part of those individuals who always thought the report would be a whitewash.

As I was reading the article I kept thinking, "define corroborate, please". There were witnesses to a few of these occurrences. And that's always the tricky part in a legal proceeding - finding reliable, believable (by a jury) witnesses.

It's always a problem when the interviewer betrays a bias.

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To be completely pragmatic, without regard for anything else for a moment, I feel like this is bad for the company. This transition is not going to be smooth.

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27 minutes ago, pherank said:

It's always a problem when the interviewer betrays a bias.

One of the reasons this is so difficult is that we don't know, and will never know, if the interviewer betrayed a bias. We know that the interviewee perceived a bias. That is entirely different. If someone is speaking about an incident that took place many years ago, with no witnesses, that person could perceive bias when the questioner asks specific and unexpected questions instead of seeming to lend a sympathetic ear. 

At this point I think that everyone will believe those things that support their own experiences or expectations. Half of the people will say "whitewash" and the other half will say "I told you so."

 

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11 minutes ago, vipa said:

One of the reasons this is so difficult is that we don't know, and will never know, if the interviewer betrayed a bias. We know that the interviewee perceived a bias. That is entirely different. If someone is speaking about an incident that took place many years ago, with no witnesses, that person could perceive bias when the questioner asks specific and unexpected questions instead of seeming to lend a sympathetic ear. 

At this point I think that everyone will believe those things that support their own experiences or expectations. Half of the people will say "whitewash" and the other half will say "I told you so."

 

I doubt we will ever see a transcript of these interviews. For the investigations to be taken seriously though, it's important for the questions and the demeanor of the investigator to be as neutral as possible. When the interviewee feels that they are being questioned by a prosecutor, rather than an investigator simply gathering facts, then things go awry. It's not about demonstrating "sympathy" per se - it should have been made clear that the company needed to know  everything they could about these 'harassment' episodes. “Ostrovsky's comment, She wasn’t blatantly discrediting me, but it felt like she was suggesting that maybe I didn’t experience that” is a description of what court prosecutors do routinely as part of their job.

I kind of tripped up on this statement from Earle Mack: “It was a kind of knee-jerk reaction,” Mr. Mack said, “and he did not deserve that kind of treatment after 34 years of his life running the company, rebuilding the company.” Many people would suggest that it was Martins who let various things lapse in the company before "rebuilding" it to a more secure position years later.

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The School of American Ballet just sent out this e-mail.  I don't see it on their web site, so I'll paste it in:

Dear Friends of SAB,

We are writing to inform you of the outcome of the independent investigation concerning allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by Peter Martins and how we are moving forward, together with New York City Ballet (NYCB).

As we previously informed you, an independent law firm with expertise in such matters thoroughly investigated the non-specific allegations of sexual harassment by Peter Martins contained in an anonymous letter received by SAB. During the course of the investigation, other allegations were made directly to the media, which the investigation then also examined.

The Boards of SAB and NYCB take very seriously the information and concerns shared by all who participated. Investigators conducted interviews with 77 people, including current and former dancers, across generations, who came forward during the process to share their experiences. We are grateful to all those who came forward during the process to help.

Ultimately, the investigation did not corroborate the allegations of harassment and violence made regarding Mr. Martins in the letter and media; and, more specifically, the investigation did not indicate any reason whatsoever for concern about student safety.

Nevertheless, we want you to know that both Boards remain fully committed to assuring that all students, dancers and employees at SAB and NYCB operate in an environment where they feel safe, respected, and able to voice their opinions and concerns freely. Even though the allegations were not corroborated, both Boards have taken this opportunity to reexamine their governance practices and structure to assure added accountability and effective oversight. 

Therefore, in conjunction with the search for a successor to Mr. Martins, who retired from his positions with SAB and NYCB while the investigation was ongoing, the Boards will also evaluate the current responsibilities of the position to determine if changes to the structure of the role are also advisable.

SAB has developed a wide range of program enhancements over the past several years – including improvements in the overall scope and responsibilities of its Student Life staff and has continuously improved and strengthened its policies and procedures. Most recently, the School instituted a system for anonymous reporting of any concerns or specific incidents of inappropriate conduct. SAB also provides ongoing training programs for faculty, students and staff to assure full understanding of expectations regarding appropriate interaction at all levels and the consequences for violations of its policies.

All of these efforts are being conducted within the context of the unique and vital mission of both SAB and NYCB to preserve and protect the artistic legacy of George Balanchine, and to ensure that the institutions continue to provide and present the world-renowned performances and training that they are known for. Both organizations are grateful for Peter Martins’ contributions that have kept this legacy alive and vibrant and have upheld the highest standard of artistic excellence.

Over the past several months we are fortunate to have had the stability and continuity provided by our outstanding Co-Chairman of Faculty, Kay Mazzo. Together with the ongoing involvement of Jonathan Stafford, who is head of the NYCB interim artistic leadership and our primary liaison to the Company, we are helping our students and faculty to stay focused on the education and training that are the foundation of our institution.

Most of all, we appreciate your support throughout this period, and we will continue to ensure that our students feel safe, respected and supported at SAB. 

Sincerely,

Barbara M. Vogelstein

Chairman of the Board of Directors

 

Carrie W. Hinrichs

Executive Director

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1 hour ago, pherank said:

...  “Ostrovsky's comment, She wasn’t blatantly discrediting me, but it felt like she was suggesting that maybe I didn’t experience that” is a description of what court prosecutors do routinely as part of their job.

I kind of tripped up on this statement from Earle Mack: “It was a kind of knee-jerk reaction,” Mr. Mack said, “and he did not deserve that kind of treatment after 34 years of his life running the company, rebuilding the company.” Many people would suggest that it was Martins who let various things lapse in the company before "rebuilding" it to a more secure position years later.

I agree with both of these points.

Regarding the first, here are excerpts from Barbara Hoey's page at Kelley Drye. Her clients, I would assume, are from the management part of the spectrum, not that of labor (except perhaps in some pro bono work).

 

Quote

An effective communicator and negotiator, Barbara is known as a pragmatic yet tough litigator and dynamic and persuasive trial attorney.  She is consistently recognized in Chambers USA (2008–2017) as among the “best of the best,” where she is described as “extremely good at negotiating,” “tenacious” and has a “laser-like focus.”  Barbara’s objective is to work with her clients to avoid expensive disputes while positioning them in the most advantageous way should litigation ensue. 

&

Barbara routinely represents clients in high-profile litigation.  She has litigated and won more than a dozen jury and bench trials involving claims arising under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the False Claims Act, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), New York State Whistleblower Law, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). 

https://www.kelleydrye.com/Our-People/Barbara-E-Hoey

Edited by Quiggin

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I wonder if there’s any chance Martins would get his job back. The position is still open, and he’s been officially cleared. 

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Glad Martins is formally cleared after having his reputation destroyed.  

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2 hours ago, Quiggin said:

I agree with both of these points.

Regarding the first, here are excerpts from Barbara Hoey's page at Kelley Drye. Her clients, I would assume, are from the management part of the spectrum, not that of labor (except perhaps in some pro bono work).

https://www.kelleydrye.com/Our-People/Barbara-E-Hoey

Great information, Quiggin. Yes, that's the kind of person to employ if one has an agenda, or 'viewpoint' to maintain. It doesn't sound like a simple fact-finding mission; rather, the board is worried about containing fallout from the accusations (naturally). But is this the best way to go about getting statements from employees?

Presumably Hoey pressed the accusers in ways that would help her decide if they had a strong case to use in court against Martins - and she felt their accusations wouldn't hold up. That's always going to be a problem with complaints over an event from years past: there often isn't much beyond hearsay and the memories of one or two witnesses, and those things can be made to look shaky by a good trial lawyer.

I never got the sense that Kelly Cass Boal was lying - the information was just too specific, and plausible.

Edited by pherank

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I wonder, too, if the transcripts and documents in the investigation are property of the company/board and could be used against any of the interviewees, were they to go to court.  For example, if timelines or details were confused in the interviews, or if the interviewees were flustered, if the transcripts could be brought into play.

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6 hours ago, nanushka said:

To be completely pragmatic, without regard for anything else for a moment, I feel like this is bad for the company. This transition is not going to be smooth.

It's possible that he will go quietly, with his retirement package intact.  It might make the path for the next director more complex...

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9 hours ago, pherank said:

I kind of tripped up on this statement from Earle Mack: “It was a kind of knee-jerk reaction,” Mr. Mack said, “and he did not deserve that kind of treatment after 34 years of his life running the company, rebuilding the company.” Many people would suggest that it was Martins who let various things lapse in the company before "rebuilding" it to a more secure position years later.

The board members have done Peter Martins no favors with some of their public statements. The clear implication from certain comments made was that the board wanted the investigation to be in Martins' and, perhaps more importantly, the board's favor.

And Earle Mack's comment about "rebuilding" gave me a chuckle. If ever someone inherited a fabulously endowed (artistically and financially) dance company, it was Martins upon Balanchine's death.

7 hours ago, cobweb said:

I wonder if there’s any chance Martins would get his job back. The position is still open, and he’s been officially cleared. 

Anything's possible but, if this whole sorry spectacle revealed anything, it has been that the board (a) had let too much power accrue to one person over the course of three decades, and (b) hadn't give much consideration as to what the post-Martins era would and should look like. Reinstalling a weakened Martins as artistic director (at age 71) just puts off the inevitable succession reckoning to another day.

5 hours ago, pherank said:

I never got the sense that Kelly Cass Boal was lying - the information was just too specific, and plausible.

I agree.

Edited by miliosr

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4 hours ago, sandik said:

It's possible that he will go quietly, with his retirement package intact.  It might make the path for the next director more complex...

He might. But his supporters might not. That could definitely be a major factor in that complexity. I'm worried for the company.

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