Jump to content
California

Workplace Problems at ENB

Recommended Posts

The link is a shoddy rehash of the original article in The Times - they can't even spell principal properly!

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, JMcN said:

... they can't even spell principal properly!

I hate to think of how often that's used incorrectly, even in professional publications. Does nobody have copy editors any more?

Share this post


Link to post

Graham Watts shared the following on his Facebook page:

I read today's news story about discontent at ENB in The Times with considerable dismay and increasing annoyance. 

So, apparently there are some disgruntled ex-ENB dancers (perhaps even some current ones) who are unhappy with Tamara Rojo's leadership. Let's leave aside the fact that people can take pot-shots on the front pages of a national newspaper without the courage to say who they are but I'm guessing that you could ask ten former or current dancers of any ballet company in the world and you'll find a fair bit of disgruntlement in the mix. 

Let's also just consider the state of ENB now and how it was five years' ago prior to Rojo's appointment. If anyone tells me it was better then....well, let's say I would be surprised. 

Rojo's artistic choices have built a deserved reputation, each programme enhancing the repertoire - from the outstanding bill that marked the centenary of WW1 to 'She Said'; from Kylian, Petit, van Manen, Forsythe and MacMillan through to Lopez Ochoa; from Corsaire to Sylphide - I would say it is a rollercoaster ride but that isn't true since the only way has been UP! 

The recent programmes at the Coliseum got not one but two five 2b50.png⭐️2b50.png⭐️2b50.png⭐️2b50.png⭐️2b50.png⭐️ reviews from Clement Crisp, not the easiest of people to please. 

Some dancers have left. One exceptional male dancer at the beginning; another just recently. They have been and will be missed but such is life in the face of career choices. On the other hand, many dancers who were already experienced long before Rojo came are still in the company and still performing (Takahashi, Oliveira, Cao, McWhinney, Streeter, Reimar etc - and all had leading roles in the recent season). So, one assumes that there are plenty of dancers who are actually not that disgruntled! 

I mean no disrespect to the dancers who have left ENB in recent times but the quality of those who have replaced them has been high - Rojo deserves praise from attracting Aaron Robinson to his home country's national ballet and her other recruits - Dronina, Tamayo, Khaniukova, Corrales, Cirio, Adams, Kundi (and not forgetting Isaac Hernandez) and many, many more have been superb additions to the company. And let's not forget the coup that kept Alina Cojocaru dancing in the UK. For that alone, she deserves a medal. If it was a premiership football team I would argue that this manager is doing pretty well on the transfer market. 

One particular point that needs to be noted is that Rojo has made ENB a more diverse and inclusive company. There's a long way to go but she is moving steadily in the right direction both in terms of diversity in the dance ensemble and as the only UK director I know to have programmed a full main stage evening of work by women.

And as to encouraging dancers to dance while injured, all I can say is that I've known many dancers at ENB who have been injured and they have been off. Rojo drives herself harder than most - combining two tough, tough jobs - and she would not be who she is without being forceful but it is what has driven the company's successes. 

So, let's come to the central allegation, which suggests a conflict of interest due to the relationship between Rojo and Hernandez. Granted that it is an unusual situation, in business, for a director to be romantically linked with an employee; but as the article makes plain, it is not at all uncommon in the arts. 

To Rojo's credit - and to my certain knowledge - she has never hidden the relationship in any way. If Hernandez was a new, young untested dancer gaining surprise lead roles then perhaps I could understand these "sources' " concerns but, let's not forget that the guy was on his way to Paris Opera Ballet when Rojo brought him to ENB! 

He has been chosen by the British Dance Critics as one of the five most outstanding dancers in the UK in 2017 and so far as I can see he deserves every role he has been given. Does he dance with Rojo all the time - No! Does he get every opening night - No! 

So far as I can see he gets the roles and prominence that he deserves and nothing more. I doubt any other director would treat him differently. 

As ballets so often show us, you really cannot help with whom you fall in love! If either Rojo or Hernandez were to leave ENB for this perceived "conflict of interests" who would be better off? Certainly not the audiences at ENB. 

And, finally let's not forget Glastonbury, publicity that an ENB of former years could only dream of and a slew of awards that I can't count. 

My name is Graham Watts - many people will not agree with me. I ask the "sources", who are you? If you had an ounce of the courage that Ms Rojo has to stand up and be counted then I might respect your views.

 

Share this post


Link to post

A recent article on the problems reported at English National Ballet.
 

Quote

The stories we heard were remarkably consistent. They told of a style of management that relies on bullying, psychological pressure, rudeness, public humiliation and “an absolute lack of empathy.”

These allegations are laid firmly at the door of the Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo – described as someone with “no people management skills” – and the Assistant Artistic Director, Loipa Araújo.

Their behaviour is described as “entirely destabilising.”

 

Share this post


Link to post

I think Rojo is a product of her upbringing: namely RB and ENB before.  She learned her standards of professional behavior from difficult personalities at both locations during her long career.    

That doesn’t make it right, nor does artistic success make it right or acceptable. Quality of work does not negate bad behavior. 

Edited by Jayne
Fat finger typing

Share this post


Link to post

Goodness, this seems to be more the norm than the exception in many companies, at least in some form or other.

And it brings back many memories. 

Part of it is surely the near total dependance a dancer feels they have on the ADs and AADs (and often others) regarding his/her career. Often it appears largely mysterious how a decision regarding roles and advancements are made, if all else is /appears to be equal. So sometimes every word, every glance, every non-word or non-glance is analyzed meticulously, looking for clues to messages that appear to be few and far between. And, in my own experience, a toxic atmosphere can erupt almost instantly, given a few ingredients. This is not to say that there should be an excuse for any of this! A director, a ballet master - all of these people should be able to defuse such situations, should be humble enough to allow for humanity to show through. -sigh- 

I think that most of us former dancers have experienced at least some of this inexplicable and inexcuseable behaviour at some time in our professional lives. It sometimes feels as though the person delivering the abuse is deeply insecure and trying despearately to deflect from something in their own person; that they have risen to a position beyond their abilities to control. But this is indeed cold comfort. 

I doubt that anything will come from trying to go through the official channels to change things; these things normally do not change like that. It will take something almost explosive and potentially damaging to many - and to the company - to get things to budge. My opinion, obviously. :) 

-d-

Share this post


Link to post

Ballet Position were presented with documentary evidence to back the dancers concerns, The Times article skimmed the surface but I imagine more revelations will come to light in the wake of this.  When that happens I'll comment further.

There are a couple of points I would like to make about Graham Watt's Facebook post though which has by the way been cleaned up since it was forwarded to me.

On ‎28‎/‎01‎/‎2018 at 3:11 AM, its the mom said:

Let's also just consider the state of ENB now and how it was five years' ago prior to Rojo's appointment. If anyone tells me it was better then....well, let's say I would be surprised. 

I would say define better.  ENB, like all state supported arts organizations is obliged to publish details of its finances so it is possible to compare the financial health of the company over a very long period of time.  Rojo's predecessor, Wayne Eagling, had inherited a company deeply in the red, I imagine part of his remit was to turn that around and he managed to do that quite brilliantly, remaining in budget and maintaining a healthy surplus in the six years he was director (admittedly the surplus dipped sharply in his final year).  In her first year as director Rojo put the company firmly back in the red to the tune of £!m+, although that has not been repeated in subsequent years, the figures compare very poorly to when Eagling was in charge.

On ‎28‎/‎01‎/‎2018 at 3:11 AM, its the mom said:

Some dancers have left. One exceptional male dancer at the beginning; another just recently. They have been and will be missed but such is life in the face of career choices.

The exceptional male dancer who curiously wasn't named was Vadim Muntagirov no less who had built up one of the most remarkable ballet partnerships seen in years with company principal Daria Klimentova (also departed) with that chapter of his career prematurely closed he decided to move on.  The other male dancer unnamed is Cesar Coralles whose loss is a body blow to ENB, he joins the RB shortly and his departure was not amicable.  One of the earliest departures was for me the most tragic when the incomparable Elena Glurjidze left, to echo the words of another critic, the company is diminished by her loss.

 

On ‎28‎/‎01‎/‎2018 at 3:11 AM, its the mom said:

One particular point that needs to be noted is that Rojo has made ENB a more diverse and inclusive company. There's a long way to go but she is moving steadily in the right direction both in terms of diversity

Now this is really interesting as it appears that Rojo has ceased recruiting gay men, all the more noteworthy when you consider that the revolving door that is ENB's employment situation means there are always vacancies for male dancers.  I was made aware of this by a dancer who is himself gay and better informed about these things than me. but to avoid the minority group that historically has contributed more to the art of ballet than any other strikes me as perverse.

 

Share this post


Link to post

Graham Watts posted once again:

"And, still it goes on. There's no smoke without fire, the saying goes, and there are many that will believe this to be true of the current state of English National Ballet. 

A blog by the name of Ballet Position has now entered the fray (you can read the piece, below). 

I have no reason to disbelieve the fact that there are a dozen past and present dancers who - under guarantee of anonymity - have spoken out about the current management. 

The net has widened to include Tamara's Deputy, Loipa Araujo but no other artistic staff, of whom there are several, appear to be mentioned. 

I wonder how many of this dozen are "past" and how many are "present" dancers? It makes a difference. And, why would past dancers still be living under a "culture of fear". If they have left the company what do they have to lose by identifying themselves? Some are identified as having left the profession altogether. If that is so, what possible reason could still require anonymity? 

If the "culture of fear" follows dancers after leaving a company - or the profession - then it suggests something more endemic within ballet as a whole? 

Ballet is not like any other job. It is an employment where to excel is the baseline of employability. It is a job where height, weight, stamina and fitness are crucial. Many people won't like that being said but - within ballet - it's a fact of life. 

I know both Tamara and Loipa well enough to know that they are fair, firm and determined. Neither will accept indiscipline and failure to work to the high standards that they set for themselves and the company that they are trying to elevate to a higher level of achievement and reputation. It doesn't surprise me that they give up on dancers that are either unable or unwilling to work as hard as they need to make this journey with them. 

The problem with progress is inevitably that some cannot keep up and are left behind and feel aggrieved because of it - it happens in all competitive environments and you can read the same in football, cycling.....even fencing! 

Tamara is, of course, still a lead dancer herself and it must be horrendously tough to do that job and also run a company (a situation, as I understand it, that was encouraged by the Board when she took the role of artistic director, so don't blame her)! 

Incidentally, and as an aside,it does seem ironic that there is supposed to be a conflict of interests occasioned by Tamara's relationship with Isaac; but not in relation to Tamara casting herself? 

As Ballet Position has done, I have also made my own enquiries, although amongst current dancers exclusively; since it seems to me that ex-dancers will likely have "axes to grind" if they have been "let go" because they have been unable to keep up with the pace. 

Some current dancers have publicly identified their support for the ENB management on my FB page with positive comments or support to my earlier posting. They are there for all to see.

Others have written or spoken to me privately and although one has called into question Tamara's availability to speak to dancers as-and-when needed (perhaps an inevitable consequence of her dual role) all have echoed something akin to the "firm but fair" ethos. 

All of them believe that the company is progressing and that to progress means that all personnel have to be of the right quality and dedication. They all seem proud to be a part of ENB's achievements. 

From those I have spoken to, I have a good idea of a few of those who have complained in comments to The Times and Ballet Position. All are former dancers. 

Now, I'm turning to what I know, for sure. 

I have had experiences over recent years of: a dancer not performing, not because they were injured but because they didn't feel like it; dancers routinely not taking class; a dancer saying that they were injured but sneaking off to perform in a gala in another country (I was there and was asked not to write about this dancer). These are just some examples of the indiscipline I have personally noticed - there are more that I have been told about confidentially by others. 

I was the manager of an Olympic Sport for fourteen years. During that time I had many athletes who were injured. I could NEVER go against the advice of the medical staff in the way that Ballet Position suggests has happened at ENB. 

Any medical personnel will abide by an ethical code that takes precedence over their loyalty to an employer. If any medic at ENB has had their advice countermanded it is a very serious matter and the medical staff concerned would be able to whistle-blow direct to the Board. 

In my view, the Ballet Position allegation that medical advice has been ignored is the most serious allegation of all and I hope they have the evidence to back it up. 

Much has been made of the dancers leaving the company and yet consider the number of dancers who were there, before Tamara, and are still there - I'm not going to name them but there are MANY more than 12. These dancers do not appear to be unhappy. 

Much has also been made of the relationship between Tamara and Isaac. It is not an ideal situation but people fall in love. Ballet is a rarified world - look at the number of married or permanent couples in ENB; I can count four just from memory. 

How many artistic directors around the world are in relationships with current or former dancers. Again, I can count many. It is an inevitable issue within a world that is SO exclusive - I can think of no other job that places so much pressure on individuals that it seems only others within the same profession can truly comprehend. 

It is also worth - for perspective, if nothing else - to look at how things have been at ENB in the past. One former artistic director asked a dancer to consider having an abortion in order to dance a particular role - an allegation written by me in a book and not denied by that director when asked by journalists. It is certainly true that allegations of harassment are not new at ENB. 

Casting decisions are always bound to create friction in any company and I doubt that there is a single ballet company in the world that is not immune to this problem. In one company, it led to acid being thrown in the face of the artistic director, just five years' ago. Complaints to the press seem pretty tame by comparison; but the problem of dancers' having grievances against artistic directors over casting is endemic in ballet.

It seems clear to me that Tamara's style of management is tough and that she has brought in an artistic staff that share her vision. Some have not been able to meet her expectations and have fallen by the wayside. 

What I am sure about is that if these attacks on the pursuit of excellence are successful we can kiss goodbye to great ballet in the west. It will be the lowest common denominator that rules."

2 hours ago, Mashinka said:

Now this is really interesting as it appears that Rojo has ceased recruiting gay men, all the more noteworthy when you consider that the revolving door that is ENB's employment situation means there are always vacancies for male dancers.  I was made aware of this by a dancer who is himself gay and better informed about these things than me. but to avoid the minority group that historically has contributed more to the art of ballet than any other strikes me as perverse.

Just to comment on this - Nobody should be recruiting anyone based on their sexuality.  I would venture to say the men she has hired for the company are the best ones for the job.

Edited by its the mom

Share this post


Link to post

I think  Watts may be trying to close down debate, but he must be aware that Rojo has been controversial from the start, with the manner of her appointment being discussed in the ballet press (Dance Europe took a very keen interest) and concerns expressed to the Arts Council.  Whatever he says actual evidence does exist that dancers were forced to dance when injured.

Although on the face of it her relationship with Hernandez appears a private matter, I've heard there has been disquiet about her hosting a BBC radio programme in which she publicized a charity that Hernandez is involved with, and his father an employee, without I'm told, disclosing her relationship with him.  This in addition to the discomfort the dancers felt by his presence in female classes as outlined in the article.

Mr Watts admits he knows Tamara Rojo well, which would suggest he isn't unbiased over this, though there was a time once when critics kept a distance from dancers in order to maintain objectivity.

A point concerning anonymity, many contracts in the UK contain clauses regarding speaking to the press or bringing the company (any, not just ballet) into disrepute, if a settlement is made on leaving the ex employee must sign an agreement of non disclosure.  Therefore they cannot speak freely.  Ironically, those with the biggest axes to grind, to use Watt's repellent  expression, appear to have remained silent so far no doubt out of loyalty to the company they once loved.  It seems there is an attitude of put up or shut up, also that dancers should not expect to be protected by employment laws enjoyed by those outside the profession.

1 hour ago, its the mom said:

Just to comment on this - Nobody should be recruiting anyone based on their sexuality.  I would venture to say the men she has hired for the company are the best ones for the job.

Nobody should not be employing anyone based on their sexuality either, especially if they're making claims about promoting diversity.

Share this post


Link to post

I wonder if Hernandez has been getting a preferential treatment in terms of being allowed to appear as a guest artist with other companies. In the past couple of years he danced with Mariinsky and Paris Opera Ballet. His guest appearance in Don Quixote with the Rome Opera Ballet was broadcast on the Italian television.  Are there other dancers at ENB with similar exposure opportunities?

Share this post


Link to post
9 hours ago, its the mom said:

"You have heard..."  And I have heard differently. That is much of the problem with this situation - hearsay.

In reference to diversity, there is plenty of diversity at ENB:

https://www.ballet.org.uk/the-company/dancers/

 

 

I used "I have heard" to refer to a radio programme in the public domain, there is no way that can  be regarded as hearsay.

Share this post


Link to post
9 hours ago, Dreamer said:

I wonder if Hernandez has been getting a preferential treatment in terms of being allowed to appear as a guest artist with other companies. In the past couple of years he danced with Mariinsky and Paris Opera Ballet. His guest appearance in Don Quixote with the Rome Opera Ballet was broadcast on the Italian television.  Are there other dancers at ENB with similar exposure opportunities?

That would depend on the terms of an individual  contract and the goodwill of the director.  I would say that apart from Rojo herself only Alina Cojocaru has an international profile.

Share this post


Link to post

Mashinka - You said you heard there was "disquiet" about her hosting a BBC program and mentioning Hernandez's charity.  I would assume you mean his work in Mexico.  His goal is to build a school in Jalisco where classes would be free for students.  He brings international dancers to Mexico to perform for people who would otherwise never see ballet.  Many from English National have been afforded the opportunity to take part in those galas.  Here is the summary of that BBC program (from another ballet forum):

"For those unable to listen to this, the topics I heard which Tamara Rojo had chosen were:

  • the Children's Orchestra in Glasgow (along the lines of El Sistema in Venezuela)
  • the dancers' career development charity and its help for dancers in transitioning with their careers
  • the ENB's Nutcracker (with Jennie Harrington, James Streeter and Gavin Sutherland)
  • ethnic minority participation in ballet, focusing on dancer Sarah Kundi, with input from her parents and with Isaac hernandez talking about opportunities in Mexico."

I would also add that Dronina and, to a lesser degree, Robison, have an international profile.  Dronina splits her time between NBoC and ENB, does additional guestings, and has curated a gala in her own country of Lithuania.

 

Edited by its the mom

Share this post


Link to post

From a recent article:

'The Ballet Position website quoted anonymous dancers who said Hernández had become “cocky” about his status, turning up late for classes. Fellow dancers fear he acts as a “second pair of eyes ready to report back” to Rojo. “It makes people feel very uncomfortable and stops dancers talking freely among themselves,” it was claimed.
…ENB dancers have also complained of feeling bullied into working while injured. But Rojo said: “We couldn’t recognise our company in that description. People had left, yes, but we felt it was explicable because a lot of change had been going on. We didn’t feel it was unnatural, that there was anything to be concerned about.”'

Nothing about this strikes me as being unique to ENB though - unfortunate yes, but not atypical for a workplace full of different personalities and relationships.

Share this post


Link to post

First of all this article is quoting from a much longer article by Charlotte Edwardes, (who is neither a ballet critic nor an arts specialist) in The Standard, though acknowledged in the print version of the Telegraph piece.  It is the first response to the allegations made in The Times and the follow up in Ballet Position.  A reminder of the second article ttp://www.balletposition.com/blog/the-two-faces-of-english-national-ballet

Those of us that support ENB are incandescent with rage at this missed opportunity to cross examine Rojo concerning the charges laid against her and for dragging the interview down to a celebrity mag level.  She is not being held to account at all.  Having been supporting this company since before most of the posters to this forum were born I can emphatically say the situation is very much unique, the company has been in existence since the Festival of Britain hence its original name and over the years has had a great many directors, some of which enjoyed little popularity with the dancers, but never has a situation like this arisen before.  What is also unique is that so many outside the company are being made aware of what is happening.  It is a cry for help and it should be listened to.

Share this post


Link to post

I don’t think we will get the real story until more dancers retire.  Reputation is so important, and if dancers sudition elsewhere to leave the toxicity, they cannot have any negative gossip ruin their prospects.  

Some ADs produce beautiful reps  yet are terrible managers.  

Share this post


Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...