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December 07, 2017

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Lord. Heather? As in ex-girlfriend that Gelsey so famously exposed in her book?

I'm quite conflicted on this one. I love the level of talent that Martins has been able to develop at NYCB. While I could do without his ballets or his quantity-over-quality style of commissioning new works, I always have something to look forward to in each season.

I would have a lot less anxiety about Peter Martins possibly leaving if we knew who would be replacing him, and not this kind of coup. I just pray that the whoever replaces Martins please not be Millepied or Woetzel. God forbid we end up with two awful ballet ADs at Lincoln Center.

If the allegations are true, and especially if SAB students are among the victims, I would want him to go. It would tarnish my experience knowing that my enjoyment comes at a great personal costs to some of the dancers. He already has the stain of being a wife beater (despite charges having been dropped), and I already feel guilty about being willing to overlook that.

After 47 years at NYCB -- the first 17 as the hottest toddy on stage with women and girls throwing themselves at him and the last 30+ as the head of a $100 million dollar corporation where he annually hired and fired dancers, disappointed the majority of students who finished at SAB by refusing to hire them and delivering criticism, annoyed competitors with the company's success, annoyed the media by not cow-towing and so on and so on. There are a lot of people who would like to deliver pay-back to Martins for one reason or another. The media will play this for all it's worth because it knows that accusations related to sex and violence bring an audience.

Who next? Will Baryshnikov be newly vilified for his behavior, his bad temper, his proclivity for sleeping with young dancers including some who hopped in bed with Martins? Hell, he even made movies about it that everyone flocked to see.

Shall we now go back and vilify Madame Peryaslavic for physically pushing students around and fiercely bellowing "Seet! Seet! Seet!" Who wasn't afraid of her? Who wasn't afraid of George Zoritch in the classroom? Who wasn't afraid of Dokodovsky in the classroom? Just the cigarette smoke blown in your face was intimidating enough. Ballet education and the professional environment is known for being a no-nonsense, brutally hard and competitive environment. It might even be as brutal as professional tennis camp which folks seem to like to glorify. If people don't like how the sausage is made, they shouldn't buy or eat it.

This corps girl who the NYT claims asked for a meeting with Martins to find out how she could improve to become a soloist and who believes that she was propositioned for sex is like out of a bad ballet movie. Every day that a dancer spends in class or rehearsal reinforces his/her knowledge of his/her own technical and artistic faults. Every dancer knows what he/she needs to do to rise to the next level. The line is never good enough, the jump is never high enough, the legs never turned out enough, the pirouettes never multiple enough. You don't run up to the teacher or director to ask for special attention on how you can "improve". Do that and it's clear that you're looking for special accommodation/affirmation in lieu of earning it among competing dancers.

It now seems ironic or foreshadowing that Martins put Spectral Evidence on the Winter Season schedule.

Welcome to the Me Generation. The inability to hear the phrase "No, you are not good enough" has now infiltrated the arts. Nothing holds integrity anymore. Speaking of Spectral Evidence wasn't this exact situation in The Crucible? Girl is rejected and decides to burn everything and everyone in her path in revenge. Witch Hunt indeed.

I think I know who that girl is. She was let go in the wave of layoffs NYCB had in the last decade and raised a huge stink about it even though everyone (including the audience) could see she didn't have the It Factor.

I don't really know what to think about all of this. Even the most respectful employer could be targeted by employees who are angry their careers haven't been better or they aren't getting the roles they want. What's next? Big Brother type video of every rehearsal, every meeting, every backstage interaction?

The corps girl’s story is quite weak. Mrs. Boal’s story on the other hand is apparently corroborated. Perhaps these two dancers are conspiring against Martins, but I don’t find it unbelievable that Martins choked her as he has a history of violence. I hope that the truth prevails. It should not matter that Martins was a playboy in the past, but unfortunately that will factor into people’s perceptions.

I don’t think it’s asking for the moon that dancers have a rigorous, but non-hostile work environment. Harsh criticism is one thing, choking is another. Competition and harassment are not the same thing, and should not be conflated. I certainly hope current company members are protected against harassment, retaliation and sexual favoritism.

I understand that the current environment is vulnerable to false accusations, but what other recourse does a hypothetical victim have, especially if they’re still in the middle of their career? If the solution is to have dancers just accept harassment as part of the job description, I think it’s unconscionable. There’s no easy fix given how most ballet companies are organized.

The corps girl speaking on condition of anonymity (eyeroll). Yes, because we've heard her story before. And it wasn't compelling the first time.

Haglund what is your opinion on John Clifford commenting under the WaPost article? It seems from his blog, that he's never liked Martins anyway and was bitter that Martins stole Balanchine's attention away. But maybe I'm just reading too much into that.

I would not agree that Mrs. Boal's story has been corroborated. Allison Brown said she saw Martins hunched over the dancer. Whether this was 1989, 1959 or 2009, if you witnessed someone being attacked violently as Mrs. Boal claimed she was, wouldn't you at least look a little more closely if not try to intervene, if not check with the alleged victim the next day to see if she was alright? What did Allison Brown do but take a ride in a limo with Martins and others -- all of whom were trashing the alleged victim. Come on, give me a break.

These days you don't lay a hand on any employee without expecting to be sued. That wasn't the case in 1989. Ballet directors carried canes and pounded them for a reason. Some of you may recall how Basil Thompson used his cane to persuade a dancer to stand in a cleaner fifth position. I'm not justifying this type of teaching by today's standards; I'm just saying that it was acceptable in the last century and more common than uncommon. Ballet directors were often viewed as father or mother figures, and fathers and mothers back in the day sure didn't hesitate to shake their kids' shoulders when they got out of line -- nor did public school teachers. Haglund's 6-year-old butt got whacked in 1st grade for letting his mind wander during the morning recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. (That was quite before 1989 but still in the same century.)

If a crime by 1989 standards was committed, it needs to be properly prosecuted. But there is a tendency to sermonize our 2018 expectations for PC to the point of hysteria. There are people loudly weighing in on this matter who were not even born in 1989 but are now sounding like they, themselves, were victims.

There was a board in place in 1989 that presumably knew the difficulties that Martins was having in transitioning the company from Balanchine. Some of the same board members may still be with NYCB today -- I don't know. But I do know that the antagonistic attitudes of some dancers were well known.

And if we're talking about harshness or violence from directors, should we not also talk about Jerry Robbins' behavior? I don't really care to because I think his masterful and unique contributions should be joyously celebrated in the coming year--which I intend to do.

Deanna, I enjoy Clifford's videos and he's entitled to express his opinion. One could draw various conclusions as to why he wanted to weigh in or why he thought that it would be helpful.

Looks like Clifford is jumping into the fray as well.

https://instagram.com/p/Bcdi6VsHSAo/

Yes, it does look that way. The image of the left fist to the "camera's face" makes it pretty clear why Clifford is talking to the New York Times. Meanwhile, it's chief dance critic is salivating over a 17-year-old boy at NYCB. The paper should make a rule that he's not allow to write about anyone under the age of 21. Leave it to the other writers who don't have arrest records related to children to do that.

I’m no stranger to changing standards or harsh teachers. Growing up in the Philippines, 7 year old me had my mouth taped in 1st grade for talkting too loud in class, and had my hands hit with a ruler for poor penmanship by my teacher. She had high expectation of me, and I was clearly not putting in the effort that week. That was 1998. I didn’t and still don’t see that experience as abuse, and my handwriting is now excellent. I am even grateful that I can write cursive neatly and quickly, whereas I had peers complain about having to write a few sentences of cursive during the SATs. But I would not support a teacher doing that to a child today. I don’t doubt you on the standards of teaching ballet in the 80s. I have heard stories of teachers with canes from former ballet students at that time. I want a safe work environment for dancers. But I do not want a “safe space” work environment that’s criticism-free and do-what-you-want-as-long-as-you-feel-good. I do not want today’s dancers coddled and end up with a generation of sloppy dancers. The intense focus and discipline of dancers is a large part of why I admire them.

I would not support Martins being dismissed over gossip, but I would also not support sweeping accusations that could turn out to be a serious crime under the rug without properly looking into it. That is not the kind of culture I would want NYCB to have today. My ideal outcome for this whole situation is for the accusations to turn out baseless, and have Martins hand over the reins to NYCB when he is good and ready to retire. But should the accusations prove true, then I would have no issues with his removal. I do not think asking for that is hysteria. To be clear, I am not among those who want Martins to resign without a proper investigation, but I will be willing to accept the results of that investigation. I would join you in defending Martins against those who want him out without proper evidence.

I also fully intend to enjoy Jerry Robbins’ centennial with the dancers that Martins has brilliantly developed. I am no authority on morality, and I do expect or require artists to have spotless characters. I never miss a Wagner opera at the Met, despite him having been a vocal anti-Semite. I find the man to be quite reprehensible, and I wouldn’t support that kind of racism coming from any artist living today. Would I support someone who performs minstrel songs today? No. Do I still listen to Judy Garland sing “Swanee” regularly? Absolutely. Do I see her as being reprehensible like I do Wagner? Nope. The arts are deeply emotional and I don’t have a clean and consistent logic when it clashes with my other values that I admit are also partly rooted in emotion.

Also, Robbins fell into an orchestra pit during rehearsals for Billion Dollar Baby while berating dancers. That’s karmic justice enough for me.

Excellent points, yukionna. My expectation is that whatever is released by NYCB as a final determination will not satisfy one side or the other. The fact that the NYT is baiting people who it knows don't like Martins to come forward with their gripes suggest that the paper has an agenda that will keep the clicks coming for a long time.

Just want to point out that for many years Peter Boal has sat prominently on the SAB Board of Directors Artistic Advisory Committee along with Arthur Mitchell, Edward Villella, and Helgi Tomasson. He's hired a fair share of former SAB students - some who Peter Martins wouldn't hire and some who he did. If Boal had any inkling of any type of harassing behavior from any adult associated with the school that would rise to the level of illegality or violation of the institution's standards (whether it occurred at the school, in the company or elsewhere), he certainly had an ethical responsibility to report it -- that includes anything that Martins allegedly did to Boal's future wife. What has prevented him from speaking up over the past many years?

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