This year has been a whirlwind. Four years ago we had a shake up in changes in the Artistic world of Ballet as dancers and directors shuffled among the companies. But, this year, dancers and directors are being removed from the picture. Between the hustle and bustles and crazy sh!t storm that is the Nutcracker… This morning American Ballet Theatre put out their press release regarding international superstar Marcelo Gomes. He is no longer with ABT. This is just on the tailcoat of Peter Martins at NYCB. If you haven’t been following ballet news, allegations have been put out there, left and right… Most of them surfacing from the past. But, no one in ballet is really that surprised, and they aren’t being quiet about it on social media. Everyone has something to say, or a story involving one of the accused… and dragging un-accused people into the light.
This isn’t that big of a surprise for those of in ballet. We have heard the rumors, we have seen how directors act, and we see how egos get inflated… very quickly. A Ballet Education has been demanding change for the past three years, and unfortunately it is taking the press, and victims of abuse to come forward to start a radical change in ballet. Directors at a ballet company, are literally, one step away from God himself. The power a director has, and if the board supports this director, gives them unlimited power within a ballet company. There are all of these unspoken things that dancers fear: contracts being renewed, insurance, injury, their personal life, etc. Ironically, most of these directors have been in the other position… So most of them, don’t even see anything wrong with their behaviors. For a lot of the European directors their justification is that they are treating the dancers nicer than they were treated… Thus, it isn’t that bad, and we all should be thankful we have a job….
(Marcelo Gomes is currently choreographing on his friend Julie Kent‘s Washington Ballet and has a movie set to preimiere.)
It is this mentality that proliferates and continues the cycle of abuse, ego, and demand in the ballet world. But this starts at the student level, when students are expected to put in 8-10 hour a days, without pay, and be happy about it. There is no child ballet union to protect children from the wrath of a director, nor are there child psychiatrists monitoring the children growing up at tier one ballet schools helping them cope with injury, reality, and mental capacity it takes to be a ballet dancer. They grow up in this mindset of abuse is normal, and you are lucky to be a part of this industry, so you should be silent. Again, not something new. And the obsession over women in ballet has always been there. They are goddesses and at the same time directors and choreographers view them as clay; to be shaped and to be formed into something of their own desires.
The allegations surrounding Peter Martins might be called karma by some… And for others, they are completely shocked. It is just like this HW, Meryl Streep scenario where some people truly didn’t know or witness anything but a demanding director. All of this is just days away before companies go on break, which could be a good thing… The demand for change is here… and for someone like myself, who is a qualified AD or ED, it makes me wonder if ballet is really worth it?
From left: Justin Peck, Rebecca Krohn, Jonathan Stafford and Craig Hall. Photo by Erin Baiano, via The New York Times. (City Ballet’s “temporary fix” to the Peter Martin’s Scandal…)
It is making me think, that kids shouldn’t leave home alone until they are 18. That the structure of ballet is breaking because no one will listen to a younger generation like myself. I have had numerous conversations with some of the most respected people in ballet, and I am laughed at. I am told that what I am asking is impossible, and that I should find my place in ballet… Which I have… Ballet doesn’t have to be this art form of beauty surrounded by suffering, abuse and ridiculously expensive.
It is sad to see my colleagues suffering… Even dancers at Boston Ballet, not being able to settle their contracts. They signed mid December. It isn’t a secret that Boston proper is expensive to live in, so as a company it is your job to adequately pay the dancers. Unfortunately, this either means the executive staff needs a pay cut, or dancers need to be let go so that others can be paid. There has to be a time where we draw a line in the sand and say, “This is it.”
Change has to happen in ballet. And it has to happen rather soon. Questions comments or concerns: email me.