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Peter Martins Sexual Harassment Allegations

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On 12/6/2017 at 9:24 AM, DC Export said:

Do we think that Woetzel would step away from his commitment from taking the reigns at Julliard? That has been such a big slow roll out, I would think it would be difficult to extract himself from that situation. While Watts clearly has hit a goldmine in being able to foster new talent while remaining  dedicated to Balanchine, I am not convinced that the Woetzel-Watts partnership would be able to split their shared artistic vision into two distinct artistic houses.

I do not think Woetzel would leave his Julliard post, that's why said he was a longshot. But before he was appointed to it, I'd thought he would be a strong contender to lead NYCB when Martins retired. 

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I found the accusation in the NYTimes laughable.  I'm referring to the corps member who asked Martins what she had to do to get promoted to soloist, and he reportedly replied that she had to make him notice her. She  twisted those words in her mind and took that as a proposition for sex.    Having been an audience member of NYCB for about 20 years, I know exactly what those words convey in the context of NYCB dancers: awesome technician and/or charismatic stage presence.     Without more - a LOT more - this accuser's allegation is simply not  a reasonable interpretation of his alleged words.  I'm no great fan of Peter Martins, but this one is a real whopper. 

Edited by abatt

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10 minutes ago, abatt said:

I found the accusation in the NYTimes laughable.  I'm referring to the corps member who asked Martins what she had to do to get promoted to soloist, and he reportedly replied that she had to make him notice her. She  twisted those words in her mind and took that as a proposition for sex.    Having been an audience member of NYCB for about 20 years, I know exactly what those words convey in the context of NYCB dancers: awesome technician and/or charismatic stage presence.     Without more - a LOT more - this accuser's allegation is simply not  a reasonable interpretation of his alleged words.  I'm no great fan of Peter Martins, but this one is a real whopper. 

Yes, between the NYT and WaPo, it seems that neither paper has been able to identify concrete, specific examples of  sexual abuse/harassment. The example you mention above seemed to really be reaching. Physical abuse is another matter, though.

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12 hours ago, nanushka said:

I don't find the comment itself to be odd at all, really, but I do find the fact that he left a comment to be odd.

By his own admission, Clifford fancied himself Balanchine's successor before Martins became the frontrunner. 

Edited by Fleurfairy

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I don't dismiss someone who was in the room and could assess tone, body language, respect or not for personal space, facial expression, and context.

36 minutes ago, Fleurfairy said:

Interesting how it's been former corps members who all of a sudden "remember" these events. 

There's no evidence that they're "suddenly" remembering these things, any more than Anita Hill or any of the women who are speaking up about against Weinstein, Louis CK, Franken, Rose, Trump, etc. Or any of the men speaking up about Levine "suddenly" remembered abuse.  They are speaking up now.  And like Kelly Boal, many describe telling people in confidence when it happened, and, at least in the case of the SAB investigation, some are being asked to speak.

As far as it being from corps members, particularly ex-corps members, some of them are the ones who are less likely to suffer from being ostracized in the profession, especially as more and more of them earn their degrees and a sub-section of them prepare for careers either outside ballet or not entirely dependent of ballet networks.  

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I think we may be reaching a point where all  interactions and meetings between ballet master and employees must be videotaped and kept on file indefinitely, or a third party must always be present, such as a union monitor. 

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16 hours ago, Balletwannabe said:

"no where to go, no protection"?  The police perhaps?  And why was this charactized as sexual assault when the description suggests otherwise?  So many questions...

The Union. I don't know how up to the task AGMA might have been in the early 90s, but they are alert to the issue now: AGMA ESTABLISHES A SYSTEM FOR MEMBERS TO REPORT CONDUCT THAT CREATES A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT.  This is one reason why unions are important — or at least should be. As institutions, they likely have some catching up to do as well.

On a different note: I still remember Kelly Cass; she was a genuinely lovely and talented dancer. 

PS: One important aspect of the AD's job is the management of the company's relationship with the union. The Board will likely have that in mind when the consider their next course of action.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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Just now, Kathleen O'Connell said:

On a different note: I still remember Kelly Cass; she was a genuinely lovely and talented dancer.

I loved her dancing and was sad when she left.  After reading the WaPo article, I'm not sad that she escaped.

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25 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

The Union. I don't know how up to the task AGMA might have been in the early 90s, but they are alert to the issue now: AGMA ESTABLISHES A SYSTEM FOR MEMBERS TO REPORT CONDUCT THAT CREATES A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT.  This is one reason why unions are important — or at least should be. As institutions, they likely have some catching up to do as well.

On a different note: I still remember Kelly Cass; she was a genuinely lovely and talented dancer. 

PS: One important aspect of the AD's job is the management of the company's relationship with the union. The Board will likely have that in mind when the consider their next course of action.

Yup this makes sense.  I initially read that qoute as "there's nothing I can do", but I realize now that she meant specifically within the company.

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5 minutes ago, Balletwannabe said:

Yup this makes sense.  I initially read that qoute as "there's nothing I can do", but I realize now that she meant specifically within the company.

It's also quite possible that the union wouldn't have been an option back in the 90s for any number of reasons: in might not have had a clear set of policies or a reasonable grievance reporting mechanism in place; it might have been wary of making harassment or hostile workplace complaints a point of conflict if its leadership believed it needed to keep its powder dry for issues like salary and benefits; its leadership might have had personal or professional ties with important company artistic and management personnel and would not therefore be perceived as a creditable advocate, etc etc etc.

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1 hour ago, abatt said:

I think we may be reaching a point where all  interactions and meetings between ballet master and employees must be videotaped and kept on file indefinitely, or a third party must always be present, such as a union monitor. 

There are times in every workplace where a private, one-on-one conversation is the only appropriate option. Denying employees the right to have those conversations does them no good service and implies that neither they nor their supervisors can be trusted. — trusted to tell the truth in the case of the employee and trusted to behave appropriately in the case of the supervisor. Better that workplaces should be reliably free of bullying and harassment. 

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What really bothers me and speaks volumes is this section of the article:

In the underpaid world of dance, many former NYCB ballerinas piece together a living teaching ballet and staging Balanchine works for the George Balanchine Trust, which licenses these highly sought-after works. More than a dozen dancers interviewed by The Post expressed fear of speaking up about Martins, afraid that openly criticizing him could cost them their jobs.

"If you still want to work in the ballet world, it’s scary to have conversations like this," said one former NYCB dancer who stages works for various companies. "None of us can afford the ballet world saying, ‘Nuh-unh, we’re not letting that person set our ballets.'" 

 

 

 

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She  twisted those words in her mind and took that as a proposition for sex.

The comment in the quote above is opinion based on very little fact. I find it presumptuous to even have an opinion since we don't know if the dancer, by making that statement to the Times, had, during her years, seen/heard Martins using similar language in encounters with other dancers that ended up with the dancer having sex with Martins and receiving better roles, while others who didn't do so were left by the wayside. We simply don't know. A few sentences don't give us history or background details. 

What I have myself personally experienced in two different employment contexts is that a consistent undercurrent of talk throughout many years about harassment behavior by a boss has its basis in fact. Are some experiences exaggerated? Maybe. I don't know. But when it was that consistent, in my experience, there was a reason. 

Individuals in positions of power need not worry about people misinterpreting their behavior if they know they are always respectful. Although it wasn't stated, I also want to add that having an "artist's temperament" is an excuse for disrespect and should never be used as defense. 

 

Edited by vagansmom

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4 minutes ago, vagansmom said:

Individuals in positions of power need not worry about people misinterpreting their behavior if they know they are always respectful. Although it wasn't stated, I also want to add that having an "artist's temperament" is an excuse for disrespect and should never be used as defense. 

This. 

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This all reminds me of the defense of Jerry Sadusky.   Everyone jumping in to the defend a beloved organization. 

YES Vagansmom!!  That's right, consistent discussions are  usually not purely fabricated. 

Yes, sexual harassment is hard to prove and yes a corps member told to "stand out" could be interpreted multiple ways.  So dispose of that report.

But now we have 3 verifiable reports of assault:  a) Kelly Cass (and another dancer who verified seeing Martin over Cass) b) Gelsely Kirkland (Understandably not super reliable c) Darcie Kistler-- who did "report it"--to no avail; and d) an anonymous letter writer.  If we want to stick to facts, there you go. 

And, well, it seems pretty reasonable that someone would want to remain anonymous?   

And yes,  there are resources. There are places to go.   But where is the empathy?  Think about your 22 year old self and think about what you might have done.  

No someone's career should not be dismantled based on hearsay and innuendo but that's not the deal here.

If this were an occasional mistake wouldn't people want to defend Martins? Radio silence.  There is not one dancer male or female who is stepping forward to defend him. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, abatt said:

I think we may be reaching a point where all  interactions and meetings between ballet master and employees must be videotaped and kept on file indefinitely, or a third party must always be present, such as a union monitor. 

How would this be possible? 6 hours a day of rehearsal? technicals? dresses?

I think that we are reaching the point where ADs will not engage in predatory behavior, assault, or harassment.  They will learn what it is and they will stop doing it out of fear and some people actually need that. 

ADs are not the victims here and ADS who have nothing to fear will institute protections for themselves but they have nothing to fear.  

This is not a witch hunt. Martins has created these circumstances. 

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As much as we all love Suzanne Farrell and fancy seeing her leading NYCB, I'm not so sure that she would want it at this point in her life. Also, didn't her stepson--or whatever may be the term for the children of one's ex-spouse--just join NYCB as apprentice or corps (Roman Mejia)?

 Staging a Balanchine ballet every now and then might be an option.

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Farrell's relationship to Roman Mejia is the same as Martins' relationship to Ask La Cour, which is that he is the child of former spouse born after the marriage, ie, nothing formal.  A stepson would be a child of the spouse by another partner at the time of marriage.  And many people believe and treat the step-child as part of the family, even if they divorce the child's parent.

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24 minutes ago, balletforme said:

I think that we are reaching the point where ADs will not engage in predatory behavior, assault, or harassment.  They will learn what it is and they will stop doing it out of fear and some people actually need that. 

Also, to put a more generous construction on it, some will learn what it is and will stop doing it, not out of fear, but because they come to understand that it is unwelcome, disrespectful, hurtful, and wrong.

I've had well-educated, professional men explain to me in all seriousness that women should be flattered by harassment since it means that someone finds them sexually attractive. They simply could not wrap their heads around he concept that maybe, just maybe, being found sexually attractive was not the be all and end all of a woman's life, much less the concept that harasser might have been as excited by his power as by the woman's appeal, or the concept that unwelcome advances can actually be rather frightening. (I often think of Margaret Atwood's observation that "Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them.")

Some context for dancers not speaking out in the 90s and early 2000s: Although the EEOC issued regulations defining sexual harassment in 1980, the United States Supreme Court did not determine that sexual harassment was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 until 1986 (Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson). Anita Hill's charges against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court nomination hearings, which brought sexual harassment into the public eye, didn't happen until 1991. It's not hard to understand why a young woman in her 20s wouldn't have felt she had the law, much less the culture, on her side.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell

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In a way NYCB is "lucky" that it is a very strong institution right now. It is financially solvent, has a widening fanbase, and a number of excellent modern choreographers like Ratmansky willing to choreograph for the company. It's not like the old days when after Balanchine's death there was uncertainty and inconsistency of the performances.

In other words, NYCB can survive the loss of Peter Martins. 

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We can only hope NYCB can survive the loss of Peter Martins.  There has been nothing to indicate that the Board has a succession plan for their 71-year-old AD, but there could be one we've never heard of.  Without one, a rush towards next steps will take a perfect storm of good luck to not be very costly.

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23 minutes ago, balletforme said:

How would this be possible? 6 hours a day of rehearsal? technicals? dresses?

I think that we are reaching the point where ADs will not engage in predatory behavior, assault, or harassment.  They will learn what it is and they will stop doing it out of fear and some people actually need that. 

ADs are not the victims here and ADS who have nothing to fear will institute protections for themselves but they have nothing to fear.  

This is not a witch hunt. Martins has created these circumstances. 

I'm not a huge fan of Martins, so whether he's in or out of a job doesn't really matter all that much to me.  Certainly, he is far from a perfect human being or a perfect artistic director.  However, it appears that in the current culture, some  who are denied roles or promotions  are given a free pass to use the media to cry foul.   Sometimes not being promoted or not getting a role is simply because you're just not that good and/or your peers are better, rather than because of sexual harassment,  age discrimination, racial discrimination  or some other purported discriminatory or inappropriate conduct.  

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My understanding is that there is a designated union rep in the ranks of each company. (Old, but still helpful article here: http://www.dancemagazine.com/sweating-the-small-stuff-2306888345.html) Gwyneth Muller may had been NYCB's AGMA's rep until her retirement.  Anyone know who has filled that role since?

If NYCB is looking to avoid fall-out, Team Fayette-Ringer might not be such a bad choice. Extensive Colburn and LA Dance Project leadership experience, and Fayette served as the union rep during his time as a performer, and then served for over eight years as AGMA's NY Dance Executive.  

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I don't think that, as a choreographer-while-AD, Martins has ever been considered on the same level as Levine, Ben Miller, the son of two  a Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians who writes about Levine, brings up important points about the way organizations ignore rumors, even when there are smoking guns:

https://van-us.atavist.com/silence-breaking

Edited by Helene
Dad, not both parents

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