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Finlay Resigns, Catazaro and Ramasar Suspended -- Update: Catazaro and Ramasar Fired


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12 minutes ago, balletforme said:

If this is true,  reticent or not,  the opinions of those who do not want them around won out over those of their friends.  Did Catazaro  and  Ramasar  make other dancers feel uncomfortable,  threatened,  abused,  or didn't  they?  

The NYCB community doesn’t just consist of the dancers and employees at the company.  Its community also includes audience members and donors, and their opinions count too.  The PR fallout from this has been horrific - with articles everywhere, even in international papers.  

 

So, this was my point earlier about PR. . . there is such a PR machine at NYCB.  The focus is very short term, worrying about "How do we look? How do we look? How do we look? What will people think? What will people think? What will people think?"  That NO ONE is asking, "Who are we? How did we get here? What do we need to fix? How can we fix it?"  They do not seem to be CHANGING the culture. . .only attempting to change the perception of the culture. 

It's ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION. It was with Martins. The purpose of the investigation was to test the boundaries of legal liability and improve PR.

The focus now is about PERCEPTION.  Both, the notion that the company fires someone after originally suspending them and that they don't know how to judge when someone has broken their own policies. I abhor what these men participated in.  But NYCB is not acting wisely with this kind of decision making. Certainly appears to be an organization in complete chaos. 

Agree with this 100%!  Thank you for articulating these thoughts so well. 

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4 minutes ago, sappho said:

Definitely agree with this. I was referring mainly to his use of "unfortunate mistake" -- and in the passive voice, as you rightly note -- to characterize what happened. I also don't think NYCB's cultural contributions are relevant to the case at hand.

One could argue that the mistake made was the rush to judgment,  and the destruction of two dancers' careers,  before there was a full investigation.  Whenever a negative story emerges involving NYCB - and they've had their share - the discussion quickly degenerates into a blanket condemnation of every aspect of the company,  the leadership,  the current dancers compared to the dancers of the storied past,   how Balanchine's ballets are currently being danced,  etc.  Predictably,  as the comments to Bentley's article demonstrate,  there are calls for abandoning ballet altogether.

In other arts organizations,  when wrongdoing is discovered,  it is considered a matter of individuals behaving badly,  not intrinsic to the art form itself.  There have been no opinion pieces from second string violinists who played with the New York Philharmonic under Bernstein,  blaming the alleged violent sexual and psychological abuse of female players by a few star players on the music director and or orchestral playing.  There has been no call to boycott CBS because of the horrific treatment of female producers by Les Moonves and others.  (Linda Bloodworth Thomason's account in the Hollywood Reporter is stomach-churning.)  Kevin Spacey,  Harvey Weinstein,  and so many others are indeed considered "bad apples",  and while there is plenty of criticism of the film industry,  nobody is calling for its elimination,  or claiming that things were so much better in "the golden age" of Hollywood.  (They were probably worse.)  What is it about ballet that elicits this type of response?

 

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10 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

 

In other arts organizations,  when wrongdoing is discovered,  it is considered a matter of individuals behaving badly,  not intrinsic to the art form itself.  

 

This is not always the case.  Many of the music abuse cases of the past few years, whether by 'top' teachers at conservatories or by powerful/permanently employed figures in orchestras exploiting deps/casual players, were found to be linked to the aura of mysticism attributed to teachers/performers in the arts space, the dangerous idea of "genius" that exempts people from the usual rules of decent behaviour and the very subjective measurement of artistic merit.  Couple that with a massive oversupply of candidates for every job and you have a dangerous imbalance of power.  Arguably this is even worse in the US and Russia than it is in Western Europe, because the lack of state funding adds reliance upon wealthy donors into the mix, which carries very dangerous historical resonances, particularly in ballet.

Edited by variated
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20 minutes ago, Balletwannabe said:

Is there someone specifically that you (collectively on this thread) want to call out?  It takes PEOPLE to create a culture.  Are you worried about a ballet master?  Donor? (The one in the lawsuit?) Board member(s)? Dancer(s)?  Are audience members objectifying/flirting with dancers at donor events?  What specifically, is still worrying?

I'm 100% on Waterbury's side, yet I don't quite understand, practically, what else NYCB is expected to do here. 

There are arguments that culture is heavily influenced by the example of a leader, in which case, then pointing to a single individual as the source might make some sense: then you change that figure -- cut out the cancer, so to speak --  and the culture rights itself through new leadership, not by announcing a new policy and holding workshops.  That seems to me to be Bouder's argument in her recent statement on Instagram.  In that case, what NYCB is expected to do here is to 1. Choose a new leader who sets a different example and has different, explicitly stated expectations and 2. Back the new leader up consistently and with clout, top-to-bottom in the organization 3. Remove people who won't comply.  For people not covered by an AGMA contract, this means following whatever HR procedures are in place, and then proceeding to fire.  For dancers on contract, this can mean firing, not renewing, not casting if the person's status means having to give them a certain amount of notice.  (There are some contracts, for example, where senior corps has to be given at least a year's notice, not just not renewed in March/April, after audition season is effectively at an end.)

In addition, there have been suggestions that NYCB needs to clean house made by some heavy hitters in the arts, starting with the staff and Board (Brett Egan of the DeVos Institute) and deep self-reflection and change (Michael Kaiser). 

There are experts in organizational behavior who could help to organize change, but as the saying goes, the light bulb has to want to change.  And that will be hard work.

15 minutes ago, balletforme said:

Yes, and also by the BBC and other British press, just as the Martins case was last Fall, which, as far as I followed, was covered more extensively both in the international and domestic press, and, generally with far less lurid and click-baity headlines.

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An exacerbating factor at NYCB when it comes to cultural change, is that the vast majority of dancers (and many staff), coming from SAB, have never worked anywhere else and have no basis for comparison to determine whether the working culture within the company is "healthy".  People can accept the strangest practices as "normal" when they have never known anything different.

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34 minutes ago, balletforme said:

?"  They do not seem to be CHANGING the culture. . .only attempting to change the perception of the culture. 

It's ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION. It was with Martins. The purpose of the investigation was to test the boundaries of legal liability and improve PR.

The focus now is about PERCEPTION.  Both, the notion that the company fires someone after originally suspending them and that they don't know how to judge when someone has broken their own policies. I abhor what these men participated in.  But NYCB is not acting wisely with this kind of decision making. Certainly appears to be an organization in complete chaos. 

I actually agree that NYCB is being primarily driven by PR and perception.  I just wanted to clarify that the dancers’ feelings was only one part in NYCB’s ultimate decision and may not even have been an important part.

I don’t expect NYCB not to care about PR.  Nonprofits have to since they rely on donations to survive.  But yes, I would like a little more confidence that when push comes to shove, NYCB is actually thinking about what is right, regardless of its impact.  And that they have a sense of moral fiber that is independent of PR.  After all, they are the ones who know all the facts.  If they truly feel that Ramasar and Catazaro did something that wasn’t that bad, then they should have offered a full-throated defense of them and been willing to take the PR hit.  Conversly, if they felt it was bad, then why didn’t they fire them in the first place?  Doing first one thing and then the other makes it clear they have no guiding principles behind their actions.

As a corollary to that, one of the ways to change organizations that do care primarily about PR and perception is when the general public loudly and publicly advocates for that change.  Sometimes organizations that change because they are forced to do end up with genuine change.  And as Helene said above, hiring a new AD will be critical in that process.  Maybe a small silver lining is the fact that this whole mess happened before the new AD has come in so that finding someone who can change the culture will be more of a priority.

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My main issues with Bentley's piece are:

  • I think it could have used an aside acknowledging the high level of dancing within the the company in recent seasons. Saying "Mr. Balanchine’s stage is now filled with rot" -- while I don't think this was directed at the company's performance, per se -- could certainly be interpreted that way. Saying the company is at a low point as an institution glosses over the incredibly high level of dancing, especially on the female side, that we've seen recently.
  • She comes off as a bit out of touch/crotchety when it comes to modern dancer culture. Complaining about social media and making a jokey comment about vegan muffins didn't sit well with me. In this day in age, NYCB is lucky to have so many dancers on social media, building up fan bases and new audiences for an art form that is experienced by only about 3% of Americans, according to the NEA's recently released Survey of Public Participation in the Arts for 2017. Think of how Misty Copeland helped create new fans for ballet, using social media as a major tool. In general, dancers do social media very well, and that's an asset to the companies to which they belong. Think of how many times ABT has reposted content created by its dancers.
  • She complains about the sexualizing of dancers in ad campaigns, and yet, she herself wrote an explicit, erotic memoir (though not while she was a dancer). I don't have issue with sexy ad campaigns (and I don't think NYCB's have been very sexualized) nor writing an erotic memoir. I just think it's somewhat hypocritical for her to take such a prudish stance in this piece.

Otherwise, I agree with much of what she says, especially about the board protecting Martins and his utter lack of interest in bringing in former dancers to coach ballets. 

Edited by fondoffouettes
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3 minutes ago, minervaave said:

Maybe a small silver lining is the fact that this whole mess happened before the new AD has come in so that finding someone who can change the culture will be more of a priority.

Which raises the question of whether the new AD should come from outside the Martins-era NYCB culture entirely. In other words, not Woetzel, not Whelan, not Lopez. 

Edited by KayDenmark
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16 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

One could argue that the mistake made was the rush to judgment,  and the destruction of two dancers' careers,  before there was a full investigation.

Or one can argue that the Company did a two-month investigation of the communications and made their decision based on the results of the investigation.  They, indeed, changed their decision

 

20 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

In other arts organizations,  when wrongdoing is discovered,  it is considered a matter of individuals behaving badly,  not intrinsic to the art form itself. 

I'm not seeing an argument that wrongdoing is intrinsic in the art form of ballet. 

There are some differences between ballet and musicians, for example, that create conditions that can be exploited in ballet in a way they aren't in other arts.  The first is that, for the most part, ballet companies hire from their affiliated feeder schools, which exerts specific cultural pressures that are different from coming from a conservatory.  Most orchestras and choruses, at least in the US, don't have that relationship.   Not that conservatories and university music departments don't have their own cultures, but their graduates go farther and wider.

The second is that even if a musician aspires to be the next Perlman or Galway, there are a myriad of ways that the musician can create a living with or without being a member of a unionized, full-time orchestra, or perform easily outside around institutional and training schedules in a way that ballet dancers cannot, and this makes them less dependent on the few institutions with great jobs:  they can teach, they can perform in a wide variety of spaces and collaborate with colleagues without needing a big stage or particular kind of floor or stagehands, they can cut their own albums/downloads, they can freelance more readily.  Similarly for theater, where actors can do commercials, voice-overs, books on tape, perform in small venues, put on their own one-person shows easily, etc.  Freelance careers for dancers are a lot rarer, and they often depend on first having a medium-major career to make it work.   If I were a musician, I could go into the basement at 2am to practice; that wouldn't fly if I were a ballet dancers and needed to take a full class.

The third is that many orchestras have blind auditions, and a person's appearance or gender is not a job requirement.  Even in theater, where appearance is extremely important, there is a much wider variety of types needed, whereas in ballet, it is rare to see much diversity, even among non-dancing supernumeraries.  In most professional opera choruses I've seen, there is less pressure for slim and pretty than their seems to be for leading singers in this video age.  Thank goodness for the wide range of costume sizes in stock, or this might change, too.

 The fourth is that the demographics of most orchestras and choruses skews a lot older.  That doesn't mean that people don't have affairs and behave badly, but, generally speaking, they are in very different places in their social lives, and their co-workers aren't their primary dating pool.

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4 minutes ago, KayDenmark said:

Which raises the question of whether the new AD should come from outside the Martins-era NYCB culture entirely. In other words, not Woetzel, not Whelan, not Lopez. 

First, Lourdes Lopez was a Balanchine-trained dancer who joined NYCB in 1974, a contemporary of Kyra Nichols, and she was promoted by Balanchine to Soloist.  I don't think this description is apt. 

As far as Woetzel and Whelan are concerned, I think this would depend on how much they were in step with Martins-era culture and what they would have in mind going forward.  

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10 minutes ago, fondoffouettes said:

 

  • She complains about the sexualizing of dancers, and yet, she herself wrote an explicit, erotic memoir (though not while she was a dancer). I don't have issue with sexy ad campaigns (and I don't think NYCB's have been very sexualized) nor writing an erotic memoir. I just think it's somewhat hypocritical for her to take such a prudish stance in this piece.

Otherwise, I agree with much of what she says, especially about the board protecting Martins and his utter lack of interest in bringing in former dancers to coach ballets. 

Yep. . . and honestly, I found that memoir, to quote her "vulgar" and "amoral." 

Pot talking to kettle IMO. 

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12 minutes ago, KayDenmark said:

Which raises the question of whether the new AD should come from outside NYCB entirely. In other words, not Woetzel, not Whelan, not Lopez. 

A new AD will not prevent the Chase Finlays  of the world from screwing over their girlfriends.  It was his action that started all this,  and now it's turned into a ballet blame game,  with everyone else somehow responsible.  None of this would be known or talked about,  even in the international press,  if NYCB had just given Waterbury  the money when she asked for it.  (Besides the Guardian,  the AP piece has been picked up by the Daily Mail,  a definitely down-market periodical,  where the prevailing sentiment is absolute astonishment that there are so many straight ballet dancers.)

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2 minutes ago, balletforme said:

Yep. . . and honestly, I found that memoir, to quote her "vulgar" and "amoral." 

Pot talking to kettle IMO. 

Whereas I see a difference, a very big difference, between criticizing the Company for what she sees as advertising its dancers as sexual commodities and writing about sex, among other things.

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2 minutes ago, On Pointe said:

A new AD will not prevent the Chase Finlays  of the world from screwing over their girlfriends.  

Nope, but it appears that the new AD will have to be a bit of a hard-ass to get control of an organization that has been allowed to float, at least since the beginning of 2018 and probably before that. The fact that Stafford has always been a "temp" must have made it hard for him to put his foot down. 

 

4 minutes ago, Helene said:

First, Lourdes Lopez was a Balanchine-trained dancer who joined NYCB in 1974, a contemporary of Kyra Nichols, and she was promoted by Balanchine to Soloist.  I don't think this description is apt. 

You're right in that Lopez has experience under Balanchine that the other two do not. But she did dance in the Martins company for nearly 15 years, so it's hard to say she wasn't influenced by his management approach. 

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2 minutes ago, KayDenmark said:

But she did dance in the Martins company for nearly 15 years, so it's hard to say she wasn't influenced by his management approach. 

And his management approach could just as easily have made her conclude that it was the wrong approach, just as it could have for Woetzel and Whelan.  With the upcoming Robbins Festival, our local press has been inundating us with the stories about Peter Boal working with Jerome Robbins, and I haven't seen any evidence that Robbins rubbed off on him in any negative way in his management of PNB.  In fact, Boal has been vocal about choosing choreographers and dancers who can create a respectful workplace.  

If I were in a decision-making capacity, I would be more cautious about someone for whom Martins was a mentor, or who had voiced agreement with Martins that I found troubling.  However, even a close working relationship with an abusive personality isn't a guarantee that the person will manage in the same way, and, in fact, it can make them determined to avoid it.

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Quote

In other arts organizations,  when wrongdoing is discovered,  it is considered a matter of individuals behaving badly,  not intrinsic to the art form itself. 

The Finlay affair became a big story in the press because it has elements in common with the Peter Martins domestic violence incident of which Toni Bentley says,

Quote

Given that Ms. Kistler was the last ballerina appointed by Mr. Balanchine — who said women “are not equal to men, they are better” — this violence had a particularly pointed symbolism.

This most recent incident too had a particularly pointed symbolism in that one of the dancers – a danceur noble like Martins – has referred to a female dancer associated with the company worse than an animal: a slut. That's turning the ethos of NYCB – whatever you might think of it – upside down. It's not PR, it's the company narrative. And the reversal makes it a natural story for journalists and maybe even for novelists.

Other than Sergui Celibidache refusing to seat a woman trombonist at the Munich Philharmonic in the 90s, there hasn't been an equivalent in the classical music world to Martins firing Farrell and refusing the talents of Villella, Verdy, Clifford and many other "prime movers" of Balanchine technique. As a result it was said in the press for a while that you had to go to Miami to see Balanchine done with proper character and verve. (That might be different now and Miami's example perhaps helped.)

 

Edited by Quiggin
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I'm not sure what's so horrible about having worked under Martins.  I am reminded of the exchange between Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips,  in the film of that name,  and Farah Abdi  as the Somali pirate:  "I got bosses."  "We all got bosses."  We all got bosses indeed,  and not one of them is perfect.

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6 hours ago, Olga said:

Yes indeed. The wave of Martins, Board and NYCB bashing. Bentley also co-authored Suzanne’s autobiography.  Speaks for itself. 

 

Those hobbyhorses won't ride themselves. :)

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Now the very worst imaginable behavior takes center stage.

 “Very worst imaginable?” Without minimizing the offenses of which Finlay, Catazaro, and Ramasar are accused, has Bentley been paying any attention to the stories running in the paper for which she writes?

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Keep the insider reports out of it.  If you have citations to official sources to back it up, it can be posted.

------

Stephen Manes' book "When Snowflakes Dance and Swear" discusses the difficult of transitioning roles.  Peter Boal spoke about the difficulties of making the transition from teacher -- one third of PNB had studied under him either full-time or during the summer at SAB when he first took over the Company -- to boss, and that wasn't even from co-worker or co-worker/choreographer to boss.   Jordan Pacitti, for example, said that he did not treat Boal properly at first, and it was a difficult transition to accept Boal in a different role. 

 

 

8 minutes ago, dirac said:

“Very worst imaginable?” Without minimizing the offenses of which Finlay, Catazaro, and Ramasar are accused, has Bentley been paying any attention to the stories running in the paper for which she writes?

Since she's assuming the allegations in the complaint are true, and these include rape, assault, domestic violence under the influence, and planning to double-team and rape a colleague, I'd say that puts her statement right in check with recent headlines, at least headlines in first world stories.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Rick said:

Surprisingly, there are a lot of seats still available for tonight's opening performance. I wonder if the vacant seats are the result of the recent publicity.

NO. Yom Kippur begins tonight and runs through tomorrow. It is the Day of Atonement, probably the most observed holiday in the Jewish calendar, even among Jews who never go to synagogue. It’s more surprising the theater is as well sold as it is tonight and tomorrow. 

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Not in any way defending Finlay or any of the other guys.  However:

Revenge porn is more common than we think:

https://fightthenewdrug.org/need-to-know-facts-about-revenge-porn/

And sexting:

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-sexting-sexual-satisfaction-20150807-story.html

Why would we think this has not been happening in the ballet world prior to this time, that it is somehow new to this world?  They just got caught.

 

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I don't remember seeing the argument that nothing like this has been happening in the ballet world prior to this time.  Nor do I see an argument that revenge porn, which very well might not apply to this case, because it requires "intent to harm," applies in this case.  

As far as sexting is concern, the complaint isn't about generic sexting: it's about consent and distribution beyond consenting parties.

In this case, they had a victim who was willing to go forward and go public.

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