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Peter Martins Sexual Harassment Allegations

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With all due respect to the Balanchine-era artists we love and admire, it's time for NYCB to embrace the contributions of a new generation when it selects its next AD*. It's no longer sufficient to have once worked closely with Balanchine. He's been dead for 34 years and a lot has happened to ballet, to dance, to the arts, to the media, to our society, and to the world in the interim. Those artists still have valuable, indeed invaluable, roles to play — as teachers, as mentors, as sources of first-hand knowledge, as touchstones, as keepers of the flame — but running a company isn't necessarily the best way to fulfill them. I say this as an aging Boomer who's delighted, excited, and charmed by the energy and creativity of the generation that's come after mine, and well aware of the things they are alert to, both good and ill, that I am not until they tell me. 

And, with all due respect to the younger, up-and-coming talent we love and admire, that AD has to come on board with a full portfolio of well- tested skills, including both artistic judgment and managerial expertise. Being an emerging choreographer isn't enough; running a pick-up company in the off-season isn't enough. Running a dance program at a university isn't enough. (One might argue that the opening decade or so of Martins' tenure shows what happens when someone is selected on promise rather than achievement, but i digress ...) 

A successful AD needs to be able to present a coherent artistic and organizational vision to the Board and convince them to 1) pay for it and 2) trust that he or she can and will make it happen, especially when there are setbacks. It's not job that can be handed to a novice or even a relative novice, especially given NYCB's financial and organizational scale, its position as one of Lincoln Center's resident companies, and the firepower of its Board and major donors. 

A successful AD needs to be a leader. And although a clear artistic vision is paramount, managerial and organizational savvy is not something that can be dismissed lightly: all one has to do is look at the PA Ballet's various personnel and PR debacles in the Corella era to see what ill can be wrought by an indifference to the niceties of sound leadership. 

Finally, if Martins is relieved of his position for reasons related to harassment or fomenting a hostile work environment or toxic culture, the Board may well elect to look outside the organization for his replacement.

* Even if Martins survives the current firestorm, he is 71 and in the twilight of his NYCB tenure. If we aren't discussing his replacement now, we will be soon enough. 

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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4 hours ago, balletforme said:

The likely scenario (and really what is being alleged) is a pattern of a series of relationships that may have advantaged certain dancers or retaliated against others. I agree that it is hard to prove because there is so much casting at NYCB and, in the end, casting is subjective.  Also, you would need people to come forward with specific incidents, which is unlikely.

What's missing in this interpretation is that the WaPo article specifically describes at least part if the the investigation as an SAB issue, and the ED of SAB interviewed Frankfurt as part of it.  It is SAB, not NYCB, from which he has been suspended.

On Peck, what great administrative experience did Tomasson, Hubbell,  or Millipied on have when they took over major institutions, or for that matter, Gilbert?  Villella's, d'Amboise's, and Boal's experience was their own small troupes.  What was Woetzel's before managing Vail?

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The allegations are at both school and company.  Yes, the suspension is from teaching minors.  But the allegations involve both organizations.

This is stated in the WaPo and NY Times

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/ballet-chief-peter-martins-under-investigation-after-sexual-harassment-allegations/2017/12/04/a474eae6-d3a3-11e7-a986-d0a9770d9a3e_story.html?utm_term=.a61518d2a991

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/04/arts/dance/peter-martins-new-york-city-ballet.html

The quotes appear to be taken from a letter sent out by SAB. But it names both organizations.

Also a careful read will also reveal that said interviews with Frankfurt occurred "Shortly before Thanksgiving."  And yet SAB/NYCB did not release or go public until Dec. 4? At least 1.5 weeks after they interviewed someone?

Is it possible that the letter was received by the organization sometime before Thanksgiving, that they investigated it quietly and non-publically and then decided to be formal and transparent because they thought that the allegations had some plausibility?

It's likely that both NYCB and SAB have received anonymous letters of all sorts, ones that they have not acted upon.

Edited by balletforme

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11 minutes ago, Helene said:

What's missing in this interpretation is that the WaPo article specifically describes at least part if the the investigation as an SAB issue, and the ED of SAB interviewed Frankfurt as part of it.  It is SAB, not NYCB, from which he has been suspended.

 

I think this is a central part of the discussion which the thread isn't delving into: Mr. Martins may be accused of having improper relationships with children. We discuss the merits of up and coming artists as though they are fully fledged adults in this forum. Art may have no age, but the year on a birth certificate is not up for interpretation.

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1 minute ago, balletforme said:

The allegations are at both school and companyhttps://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/04/arts/dance/peter-martins-new-york-city-ballet.html

That is actually taken from a letter sent out by the organizations.

Exactly.  "What this is really all about" goes much further than who gets cast for what and the SAB part could have much bigger legal implications.

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Even if Martins had decided to resign on his own without any of the allegations being aired, the only way Kistler would have been considered, IMO, is if they specifically wanted continuity, with the assumption, being that he would be highly influential.  This was one of the big issues at Miami City Ballet, where a former company dancer was viewed as "more of the same" rather than a change from it, whether the person making the judgement was for or against a continuation of the Villella regime.

Now were she to be installed, I think the assumption would be that she was a front-person, with him still pulling the strings from the background.  

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14 minutes ago, Helene said:

Even if Martins had decided to resign on his own without any of the allegations being aired, the only way Kistler would have been considered, IMO, is if they specifically wanted continuity, with the assumption, being that he would be highly influential.  This was one of the big issues at Miami City Ballet, where a former company dancer was viewed as "more of the same" rather than a change from it, whether the person making the judgement was for or against a continuation of the Villella regime.

Now were she to be installed, I think the assumption would be that she was a front-person, with him still pulling the strings from the background.  

I think that's all true Helene. I also think it is a shame that she can't be assessed for her own merits. That's the way it is. 

Would Ib Anderson be a contender. He heads a company & school in Arizona. Does anyone know how that company is doing?

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1 hour ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

With all due respect to the Balanchine-era artists we love and admire, it's time for NYCB to embrace the contributions of a new generation when it selects its next AD*. It's no longer sufficient to have once worked closely with Balanchine. He's been dead for 34 years and a lot has happened to ballet, to dance, to the arts, to the media, to our society, and to the world in the interim. Those artists still have valuable, indeed invaluable, roles to play — as teachers, as mentors, as sources of first-hand knowledge, as touchstones, as keepers of the flame — but running a company isn't necessarily the best way to fulfill them. I say this as an aging Boomer who's delighted, excited, and charmed by the energy and creativity of the generation that's come after mine, and well aware of the things they are alert to, both good and ill, that I am not until they tell me. 

And, with all due respect to the younger, up-and-coming talent we love and admire, that AD has to come on board with a full portfolio of well- tested skills, including both artistic judgment and managerial expertise. Being an emerging choreographer isn't enough; running a pick-up company in the off-season isn't enough. Running a dance program at a university isn't enough. (One might argue that the opening decade or so of Martins' tenure shows what happens when someone is selected on promise rather than achievement, but i digress ...) 

* Even if Martins survives the current firestorm, he is 71 and in the twilight of his NYCB tenure. If we aren't discussing his replacement now, we will be soon enough. 

First, it's been challenging to keep up with this fast and furious thread. What a sad situation!

I agree with Kathleen that it's time for a new generation of leadership, although, I'd love to see Farrell, Villella, and others from the Mr. B generation brought in as coaches for Balanchine rep. It's a shame that they've not been utilized. I do think Lourdes Lopez would be a good candidate, though she's from the "older" generation, but it would be a shame if she left Miami after only 5 years and while she's making, what seems to me, like great progress.

That said, if Justin Peck were named AD anytime soon I'd be appalled; and worried. He's way too young and has no experience leading an organization, small or large. And, at least for now he's purely focused on his choreography. I don't think Millepied is a good choice either. Yikes.

It's too bad Woetzel is already committed to Julliard because IMO I think he could do great things. But, I can't imagine he'd want to wrangle himself out of a prestigious and much-publicized appointment. That aside, I can't imagine who else they could consider when the time comes (sooner rather later?).

Separately, the dance world IS a very touchy, feely environment and the ability to teach and coach would be severely impacted if touching were banned or restricted. I never felt uncomfortable whenever any teacher/coach/director, male or female, would poke or prod me in class or rehearsal. Words aren't always enough to fully explain choreography or a correction. And, dancing with others, partnering and otherwise, requires a lot of very close touching. So, dancers become immune to it (not immune to say someone grabbing your crotch or your breast, for example, because that would never be necessary for a correction. If a choreographer puts that in dance, though, well I'm not going to go into that...). That is why you can watch rehearsals and see dancers "not responding" or not seemed fazed by a director or another dancer touching them whether it's during notes, while they're talking, just standing around, etc. 

Regarding Martins, I don't really know what else to say other than that I'm appalled this is happening and I hope the investigation is thorough and unsparing (whatever the results). I think a few others have already said that even if he's cleared, it's hard to see how he'd come out of this smelling like roses. 

Lastly, I feel really bad for the dancers who are in the beginning of their Nutcracker run and have to go out on stage every night during this. They're professionals obviously, but they're human too and this has to be a huge distraction. I hope they can focus as best as they can and still dance their hearts out.

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3 hours ago, aurora said:

The very fact it is perceived that a boss is favoring his sexual partners can be considered sexual harassment by other workers.

 

It can be but as the article you linked to points out, there is a bar to reach. From the Seattle Times article (which is about a pretty egregious case):

Quote

Despite employers’ fears, California companies will not be vulnerable under the ruling because of “mere office gossip,” the court said. Evidence of widespread sexual favoritism will be required to prevail in a suit, the court said.

“An isolated instance of favoritism on the part of a supervisor toward a female employee with whom the supervisor is conducting a consensual sexual affair ordinarily would not constitute sexual harassment,” George wrote.

 

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Thanks Dirac. .. yes.  Harassment cases are not easy to win.  Widespread means a pattern and there must multiple people coming forward with very clear cut facts that are not subjectively interpreted. 

Edited by balletforme

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2 hours ago, ABT Fan said:

First, it's been challenging to keep up with this fast and furious thread. What a sad situation!

I agree with Kathleen that it's time for a new generation of leadership, although, I'd love to see Farrell, Villella, and others from the Mr. B generation brought in as coaches for Balanchine rep. It's a shame that they've not been utilized. I do think Lourdes Lopez would be a good candidate, though she's from the "older" generation, but it would be a shame if she left Miami after only 5 years and while she's making, what seems to me, like great progress.

That said, if Justin Peck were named AD anytime soon I'd be appalled; and worried. He's way too young and has no experience leading an organization, small or large. And, at least for now he's purely focused on his choreography. I don't think Millepied is a good choice either. Yikes.

It's too bad Woetzel is already committed to Julliard because IMO I think he could do great things. But, I can't imagine he'd want to wrangle himself out of a prestigious and much-publicized appointment. That aside, I can't imagine who else they could consider when the time comes (sooner rather later?).

Yes, this is a fast breaking topic, and added to the rest of the political scene and the season, many of us are getting whiplash just trying to follow along with the song sheet.  What do I want for Christmas?  A break!

I agree with your agreement here, about the need to bring the next generation along into administration and direction.  It's a healthy timing, and a smart way to access fundamental knowledge about evolving audiences.  But having said that, I want them to be have a wide variety of experiences before they come to run the 800 pound gorilla that is NYCB.  There have in the past been successful companies founded and/or run by dancers, and certainly the history of modern dance is stuffed full of choreographer-led groups, but these are not the only models available at the beginning of the 21st century.  I know that NYCB has a large cohort of skilled ballet masters -- they have an intimate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the company, of scheduling, of repertory building and coordination -- are any of them considered for this kind of position?

I know that Balanchine spent a chunk of time cultivating Martins, talking with him about casting and coaching and administration (much as Diaghilev educated the your choreographers in his employ) -- has Martins been doing that kind of development with anyone?  I'm not close enough to the company to know, but my impression is not yet.  In some ways, this eruption could jump start a process that should have already been developing.  I'm sorry for the people who have endured such miserable treatment all this time, but grateful in a twisty way for their willingness to step up and set this ball in motion.  (Time Magazine Persons of the Year - "The Silence Breakers"

The timing now is pressured -- I think in a few years Wotezel would be a fabulous choice for this job.  He's got performance cred, administrative cred, education cred, and with the position at Julliard, he would have an invaluable connection to the larger administration of Lincoln Center and the NY philanthropic community.  But we are not living in that alternative reality, so the big question is, what do they do now?

 

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So many great point are being made. You guys are smart! It occurred to me that NYCB has had the Fordham U connection for a while now, and a lot of the dancers availed themselves of the opportunity. There may be former company members who went on to become arts administrators and/or run not-for-profits etc.  Hiring former principal dancers as AD has the benefit of star power and name recognition, but who knows, there could be a former corps member with heavy duty organizational experience and good people skills. 

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It depends on whom the Board is willing to fund.  

There is an article in Crosscut today about the "mutual" decision for the head of Seattle City Light to resign.  

Quote

 

“There is dancing in the aisles,” said another employee. This employee added, “We love [interim-director] Jim [Baggs]. He’s not a visionary necessarily but he’s good and competent and healing.”

Weis never got his feet under him as head of the utility department. Shortly after he was hired, the Seattle Times reported he’d been under a workplace investigation in Austin, Texas, where he’d been prior, over allegations of a toxic culture for women. Weis did not mention the investigation during his confirmation hearings. But he was exonerated.

 

So the answer could be an interim leader to right the ship, where age might not be an issue, until the next gen is ready to take over.  It's not like NYCB doesn't have a huge rep to draw upon, and with Martins gone, there would be people who danced under Balanchine who weren't welcome under the Martins regime, to return to coach.  I can't imagine that the usual suspect choreographers who are creating wonderful new work for NYCB wouldn't continue to be interested in making work for the company.

And a lot of healing would not be a bad thing.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

So the answer could be an interim leader to right the ship, where age might not be an issue, until the next gen is ready to take over. ...

And a lot of healing would not be a bad thing.

That could be the best path -- we've probably all been in situations where a powerful leader is replaced without the right kind of planning made for a transition.  No matter how significant the next individual is, there's almost always a rocky period.  

A friend of mine does this now as her regular gig with social service organizations.  She's a professional interim director -- she helps people assess where they are, fix immediate problems and run their search for new leadership.  She has a great time, and has seen the inside of multiple organizations, but has a specific timeframe for her commitment.

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An interim Head for a year or two is employed frequently in the world of private academic schools. Personally, I like the idea of an interim because it affords time to choose the right person rather than who's available at the time. 

I wonder how hiring an interim would affect donor contributions. In private school academia, I've worked under interim heads a few times; in a couple cases, donations went down, in the other two cases, it actually went up! 

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1 hour ago, sandik said:

That could be the best path -- we've probably all been in situations where a powerful leader is replaced without the right kind of planning made for a transition.  No matter how significant the next individual is, there's almost always a rocky period.  

Yes indeedy. Been there, done that! 

A solid interim AD who 1) is relaxed and and happy about the "interim" part of the title and 2) is committed to acting in the best interests of the company, its artists, and its audience might be ideal in the event of an unexpected departure — especially if the Board is happy with the current artistic direction and isn't looking for someone to come in and shake things up. That gives the company time to groom an internal successor or conduct a thorough and well-considered search for an outside candidate.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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Does anyone remember the chapter in Suzanne Farrel's book in which she excuses Balanchines innapropriate realtionship with her?  I re-read it today to see if I was remembering it correctly.  Yup, she didn't think Balachine's apology was necessary.  Considering the topic being discussed and many mentioning her name, I can't stop thinking about that paragraph. 

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I hope for a transition as close to normal as possible under the circumstances and that no abrupt departure by Martins will be necessary.

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You can see how Millipied was disliked by the dancers if you see the documentary film "The Paris Opera" which shows how he was dismissed. At the press conference, no one at the conference showed any sympathy for him. Also watching the documentary "Reset" will also give you hints.

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I am sure the company’s board and leadership are thinking ahead. But the investigation first...We—at least I—don’t know what will emerge. Maybe, as Dirac hopes, no abrupt departure will be necessary...

 

 

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1 hour ago, naomikage said:

You can see how Millipied was disliked by the dancers if you see the documentary film "The Paris Opera" which shows how he was dismissed. At the press conference, no one at the conference showed any sympathy for him. Also watching the documentary "Reset" will also give you hints.

Your statement makes it sound like Millepied was fired ("dismissed"), which is not the official version - he resigned. And resigning after such a short period of time made a lot of people unhappy.

There were so many people unhappy with his selection as A.D. - it was going to be an uphill battle for Millepied in any case. But the fact that he didn't stick around to make it work just made him look selfish and weak to those who had already decided they didn't want to support him.

 

 

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1 hour ago, pherank said:

Your statement makes it sound like Millepied was fired ("dismissed"), which is not the official version - he resigned. And resigning after such a short period of time made a lot of people unhappy.

I don't know if you've seen the Paris Opera documentary, but while the official version is that he resigned, the press conference happening before the film was released, the documentary tells a different story, and it's right from Lissner's mouth.  

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Just now, Helene said:

I don't know if you've seen the Paris Opera documentary, but while the official version is that he resigned, the documentary tells a different story, and it's right from Lissner's mouth.  

Actually, no I haven't seen it. You'll have to catch me up.  ;)

What was the reason given for the dismissal?

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