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Liam Scarlett Suspended

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Since his time as a student at the Royal Ballet School Scarlett has been seen as a choreographer of considerable promise and on the basis of his choreographic talent he was able to retire from dancing in his mid twenties and take up an official choreographic post at the Royal Ballet which was created for him. It has now been announced officially that he  was suspended from his company post in August last year and that his activities there and at the school are under investigation by an outside organisation. The investigation which concerns allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying are ongoing. He has been banned from the Opera House and the Royal Ballet School. Strangely although he had been banned from the Opera House last August it was only announced that "The Cellist" mixed bill was no longer going to include a new work by Liam Scarlett comparatively recently. Presumably at that point,the announcement was made for the practical reason that it isn't really possible to create a new work, if the choreographer is banned from entering the building where rehearsals are to take place.

The investigations have not been completed  but I think that It will be interesting to see how much further the company feels it needs to distance itself from Scarlett, now that the broad nature of the allegations are known. There are revivals of his production of Swan Lake and his ballet Symphonic Dances scheduled in the coming months. While I am sure that the company is capable of reviving them in his absence there is the question of whether it will wish to be seen to do so. If they are keeping him at arm's length and denying him access to the building and the dancers will they want to be seen to be paying him royalties for these revivals ? Of course there is no problem if the allegations are found to be without substance.  But will the company or the Royal Opera House organisation want to run the risk of the enquiry finding that the allegations have substance to them at  very the time that his Swan Lake is being performed in Bow Street ? There is always the possibility that other former students and dancers will come forward and make their own allegations now they know that an official enquiry into Scarlett's activities and behaviour is under way.  The investigation is already said to concern his activities going back over a period of ten years. The company was able to drop Scarlett's  new ballet without explanation or comment when the investigation was not public knowledge  but from now on its decisions with respect to his existing ballets scheduled for performance this season are likely to come under scrutiny and may well be the subject of adverse comment. It is going to be interesting to see how the company decides to handle the situation . It is possible that it is just too late to do anything about the version of Swan Lake the company will dance this season. Symphonic Dances is likely to prove much easier to lose.

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I have also been aware of his suspension for some time and thought the RB would keep it under wraps but this morning the story is on the front page of The Times.  As that paper is behind a pay wall here is a link to the fullest account else where.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7945375/Royal-Ballet-choreographer-Liam-Scarlett-suspended.html

Like Ashton fan I would like to think these are allegations that will be refuted, but unlike other such cases in the arts world these are not just historical and as social media was involved, hard core evidence will exist.  A tragedy for the  Royal Ballet and could not come at a worse time for the ballet world with a ten year jail sentence handed to a former RB principal for indecency with young girls and a former ENB dancer awaiting trial on similar charges.

 

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Dammit.  I'm not surprised -- not because I know anything much at all about Scarlett, because I don't.  But I'm so frustrated that people seem to keep making the same stupid mistakes even after seeing how wrong they are, and how they destroy other people. 

Dammit.

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San Francisco Ballet just sent out a tweet that Scarlett's Hummingbird on Program 2 is being replaced. The web site doesn't say yet what the replacement is:

https://www.sfballet.org/productions/classical-revision/

Here's the Tweet:

Programming change: Liam Scarlett’s Hummingbird will be replaced on Program 02 (2/11–22) in light of the announcement that The Royal Ballet has suspended Scarlett while an investigation is underway of allegations of sexual misconduct.
1:15 PM · Jan 30, 2020·Twitter Web App
 
 
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Replying to
The decision is made out of respect for the ongoing inquiry in London, the dance community at large, patrons of SF Ballet, families of the SF Ballet School, and artists of the Company. When available, replacement programming will be updated on our website:

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7 hours ago, sandik said:

Dammit.  I'm not surprised -- not because I know anything much at all about Scarlett, because I don't.  But I'm so frustrated that people seem to keep making the same stupid mistakes even after seeing how wrong they are, and how they destroy other people. 

Dammit.

My thoughts exactly. Never surprising, always disappointing. 

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Posted (edited)

Royal Opera House ends association with Liam Scarlett

"According to a statement from the Royal Opera House, the independent investigation found “there were no matters to pursue in relation to alleged contact with the students of the Royal Ballet School”, but that Scarlett’s association with the ROH had come to an end."
https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2020/royal-opera-house-ends-association-with-liam-scarlett/

What does that even mean? Was it Scarlett's decision then to part ways? Is it unfair termination of employment?

Edited by pherank

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I read it to mean that they found no misconduct with students at the School, and that they are not commenting about the allegations of drug-taking and bullying cited by Company members. (These allegations were cited in the article linked above.)  If either party speaks on the record, or if there is a labour issue raised, we will find out from official sources.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, pherank said:

Is it unfair termination of employment?

There doesn't seem to be evidence that his employment was indeed "terminated." The language of the headline and sub-headline for the related NYT article seems to put a bit more emphasis on that:

Quote

Royal Ballet and Liam Scarlett Part Ways After an Investigation

The choreographer is leaving the company, although a sexual misconduct inquiry found “no matters to pursue” against him.

 

Edited by nanushka

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Does anybody get this? If there are "no matters to pursue" against him why is he suspended?

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I'm not seeing any references to ancillary investigations or charges, so it looks to me like "allegations of drug-taking and bullying cited by Company members" are not being pursued either.

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4 minutes ago, Rock said:

Does anybody get this? If there are "no matters to pursue" against him why is he suspended?

Where does it say he’s suspended?

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Rock said:

Does anybody get this? If there are "no matters to pursue" against him why is he suspended?

I'm sure the company is within its rights to terminate association with whoever. And not have to go into the details. We can guess that they didn't think his behavior was becoming of a resident choreographer, but there wasn't anything that could easily be proved in a court of law, so, a parting of the ways.

Edited by pherank

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Sorry - suspended, terminated, declared redundant, whatever word you choose. It's disheartening and sad. 

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4 minutes ago, Rock said:

Sorry - suspended, terminated, declared redundant, whatever word you choose. It's disheartening and sad. 

Suspended suggests not necessarily for good, which is why I was confused. In any case, it doesn't say any of those happened; it says Scarlett "is leaving the company."

9 minutes ago, pherank said:

I'm sure the company is within its rights to terminate association with whoever. And not have to go into the details.

Exactly. Nothing unfair about it that I can detect.

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38 minutes ago, Rock said:

It's disheartening and sad. 

Yes, it is sad when a promising young artist screws things up for himself and others. Scarlett has only himself to blame, or so it appears. However, this could have ended much worse for him and maybe he can ride this out if this is all we hear of it.

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7 minutes ago, dirac said:

Yes, it is sad when a promising young artist screws things up for himself and others. Scarlett has only himself to blame, or so it appears. However, this could have ended much worse for him and maybe he can ride this out if this is all we hear of it.

There's nothing technically standing in his way - he can pursue choreography assignments wherever. But the allegations involving bad behavior with students is what will dog him. There tends to be zero tolerance for any questionable behavior around minors. And if even one parent comes forward later with specific charges - he's toast. I think that's why RB is just cutting ties. They just don't need the headache (and legal fees).

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If any parents came forward, they wouldn't just be coming for Scarlett, regardless of his current employment status.

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All sorts of things get brushed under the carpet at the RB and inquiries tend to be damage limitation jobs.  This outcome is pretty much as I expected.

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There are two types of private investigations: the first is the  third-party investigation where the company/law firm hired does a risk analysis of the hiring company's liability, which includes whether they think the alleged victims' and witnesses' would testify willingly, which isn't always the case, especially when parents are involved and are reluctant, and/or if the testimony will stand up in court, the strength of the paper and/or electronic trail, etc..  This is what NYCB did in the Martins case: their lawyer's bio and firms website advertises themselves as such.  The other is an independent investigation, where the company/law firm investigates whether the allegations happened.  The wording of a negative conclusion sounds the same in the press release. 

In both cases, they are hired by the company or an organization/board member, etc., close to the company, like Mark Cuban did in the Dallas Mavericks' front-office investigation, and example of the latter, and where he hired former NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram. (The report was made public, and it is an interesting read.)

In the course of the investigation, firms can discover all kinds of behavior that don't necessarily fit the specific allegations, previously raised to them or not, and, they can find patterns of response by the Company to those behaviors.  Or they can decide that the alleged behaviors did exist, in some form or another, even if they wouldn't be held liable, and/or they might have future liability, and they can fall back on the Code of Conduct arguments without giving a further explanation.  

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Posted (edited)

It all makes you see Hansel and Gretel, or at least the reviews of it, in a different light. Luke Jennings in the Guardian –

Quote

The Witch plays obsessive, fetishistic games with the children, forcing them to participate in a grotesque doll's tea-party before tying them up and submitting them to depravities which Scarlett leaves to our imagination. Among the Witch's many deranged tics are a fondness for a ventriloquist's dummy. The Sandman, his ever-present familiar, closely resembles this horrid object and is always ready to join his master's perverted games. Abject and despoiled, made up like dolls, the children despair of escaping until one day, in circumstances which are not fully made clear, they overcome their tormentors and make their way back to their father's house. It's deserted, and as they look around it, Scarlett suggests that their experiences have traumatised them to the point where they have adopted the doomed personae of their father and stepmother.

Jennings says this of the Royal Ballet's hands-off approach –

Quote

The problem is that in the wake of the stellar careers of Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, Royal Ballet choreographers are regarded as geniuses to be left to their own devices, rather than – as would be the case in publishing, theatre, film or television – required to justify their artistic decisions in rigorous, minute-by-minute detail.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/may/12/hansel-gretel-scarlett-royal-ballet-review

Edited by Quiggin

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19 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

The problem is that in the wake of the stellar careers of Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, Royal Ballet choreographers are regarded as geniuses to be left to their own devices, rather than – as would be the case in publishing, theatre, film or television – required to justify their artistic decisions in rigorous, minute-by-minute detail.

Another place, another patriarchal time. Editors in the publishing world can be of real use, depending on the editor. But creation by committee rarely yields spectacular artistic results - thus network TV and Hollywood blockbusters. The more people involved, the less personal and intimate a view we tend to get in the product (a better word for it than 'artwork'). Still, every ballet company should have staff who can have a say in errant productions by visiting or resident choreographers.

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Posted (edited)

Yes, it has to be one or two people. In publishing there have been individual brilliant editors, Max Perkins, Howard Moss, Gordon Lish who have really helped writers narrow their focus. In the art world it seems its one's immediate peers who share the same esthetic and mission are the ones who are often the most helpful. The film business, despite the auteur theory (which does have its virtues), is often a collaboration between a writer and a director. For instance Fellini worked with the Italian writer Ennio Flaiano for his first ten films through Giulietta of the Spirits and they all have similar themes and obssessions (Flaiano also wrote La Dolce Vita's twin, La Notte.)

I don't know how it works in the dance world. With Cunningham I sometimes would think it should end right HERE but it would go on too long and dilute the effect. Diaghilev seemed to know his choreographers and composers well enought to sense what was strong and what needed to go. Robbins? Ashton? Taylor? Who were their editors?

In response to:

37 minutes ago, pherank said:

But creation by committee rarely yields spectacular artistic results - thus network TV and Hollywood blockbusters.

 

Edited by Quiggin

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I don't think anyone edited Jerome Robbins.  Otherwise, he wouldn't have worked for years on individual ballets, asking the dancers to go back and forth between version 1d, 3a, 6g, etc.

There is a discipline to making choreography that is beyond being musical, involving understanding musical structure, understanding dance structure, moving groups around, etc. that can be taught and mentored, and it is often in these areas, as well as viewing for coherence and unintended repetition that a good dance editor can make.

I've been thinking a lot about the dearth of female choreographers, and the argument around whether there are a lack of women choreographers or whether they just haven't been given their chance.  I would argue that the great majority of choreographers are women:  they do it all the time in high schools, for high school musicals, and in dance schools, where directors and teachers are constantly creating age-appropriate choreography for their students.  And while many of these choreographies are considered mundane, most of what I've seen follow the basic disciplines of pattern making, formation making, spatial relationships, and having a relationship to the music.  Sometimes more than the choreography I see in major companies.

But back to the subject, not everyone had a driving force keeping track of what is going on in the studio, or a house choreographer who made specific pieces for specific needs, like program balance or money-makers, and for specific audiences.  Not every AD is like Brigitte Lefevre, who famously called out a young choreographer in the Wiseman documentary and told him that if he was going to use the etoiles, he'd better bring material worth of them.  Ninette de Valois isn't hovering over them.

From what I've heard on podcasts, panel discussions, and Q&A's and read in interviews, for premieres, often AD's are shopping based on prior works, since most of the choreographers they hire are outside choreographers, and, of course, you could get PAMTTG, but, for the most part, aside from getting sign-off on the music, especially where rights are concerned, and a general sense of where the work might fit on a mixed bill and how long it is, plus the set and costume budge, the outside choreographers are given a wide berth.  Especially if the AD thinks it's a privilege for them to be making a work for the company.  Inhouse, especially emerging, choreographers might be subject to more advice/constraints.

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