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As the Peter Martins Investigation Unfolds, More Dancers Speak Publicly

Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

As the investigation into claims of sexual harassment by New York City Ballet ballet master in chief Peter Martins remains under wraps, more dancers are speaking publicly on the matter. And while many allegations are decades old, dancers with recent and current ties to the company are becoming more vocal.

Yesterday, Kathryn Morgan—a former NYCB soloist with a hugely popular YouTube channel and an advice column in Dance Spirit—posted a candid video addressing questions she's received about the scandal. Although Morgan left the company in 2012, her post sheds light on the mixed emotions that current NYCB dancers may be feeling right now. "This is an issue that NEEDS to be discussed," she writes in the comments section. "And I appreciate that you all understand I am in no way defending him. I just wanted to give you my honest and true experience with dealing and working with Peter."




In the video, she says that her relationship with Martins at NYCB was completely supportive and professional. "I never had any problems with him," she says, and even goes on to say that he once told her that he felt like a father to her. "However, rumors were always circulating," she continues. "I did hear of his having relationships with female dancers." Without disclosing names, Morgan acknowledges hearing about three affairs in particular during her NYCB career, but adds that "everything was consensual [...] so as far as I know, it was not sexual harassment." (Although one could argue that the imbalance of power between Martins and the dancers calls the consensual nature of these alleged relationships into question.) She also acknowledges that Martins has "a bit of a temper," but that she never personally experienced it or witnessed it herself.

Yet for those who claim they've been on the receiving end of that temper, a troubling picture is emerging. In a recent article in The New York Times, five dancers—including recently retired corps member Alina Dronova and another current NYCB dancer—accuse Martins of physical abuse. Jeff Edwards, a former soloist, notes that he complained to NYCB management and the dancers' union in 1993, to little effect. Victor Jordan Ostrovsky recalls an incident during a dress rehearsal when he was a 12-year-old SAB student, in which Martins grew angry and grabbed him by the neck in a "death lock." And the current NYCB dancer, who asked to remain anonymous, tells the Times: "I have the visual of him standing over me with a fist clenched two weeks before he promoted me."

It remains to be seen how the investigation will conclude, or if NYCB's board of directors will take any action against Martins. Will more dancers come forward publicly to tell their stories—or to come to Martins' defense? And if these allegations are true, why did so many in positions of power at NYCB and School of American Ballet turn a blind eye? We will keep you updated as more information unfolds.

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Peter Martins. Photo by Adam Shankbone, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times reports that a two-month long internal investigation into sexual harassment and physical abuse allegations against Peter Martins, New York City Ballet's former ballet master in chief, has found that the accusations could not be corroborated. In December, an anonymous letter sent to NYCB and its affiliated School of American Ballet accused Martins of sexual harassment, although the claims were non-specific. Afterwards, several former dancers and one current company member came forward to the press accusing him of physical assault and verbal abuse. Martins, who directed the company for 35 years and has denied the accusations, retired on New Year's Day after taking a leave of absence. An interim team led by ballet master Jonathan Stafford has been overseeing the company in the meantime.

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Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Viral Videos
Anna Isaeva as Karina in "Bolshoi." Photo Courtesy TriCoast.

If you are in need of a feel-good ballet movie night, check this out: Bolshoi, a 2017 Russian coming-of-age drama starring real dancers and filmed on location at the Bolshoi Theater, is now available on multiple VOD platforms. The film follows Yulia Olshanskaya, a scrappy working class kid, as she navigates life at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and eventually, the company. Like most dance movies á la Center Stage, it's full of the usual ballet clichés. But, like Center Stage, it's also fun, beautifully shot and full of gorgeous dancing (including a mean fouétte turn contest). Polish National Ballet coryphée Margarita Simonova stars as as Yulia, while Anna Isaeva, a former Kremlin Ballet dancer, plays Karina, Yulia's wealthy best friend and biggest competition. Ekaterinberg Ballet principal Andrei Sorokin and former Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Nicholas Le Riche also star.

The film centers on the friendship and rivalry of Yulia and Karina. Discovered by a washed-up Bolshoi star in her industrial town, the rebellious Yulia struggles to fit in once she enters the prestigious Moscow school. But a strict and influential teacher (played by Alisa Freyndlikh) takes her under her wing, and defends her when other school officials want her out. Soon Yulia and Karina are up for the role of Aurora for the school's graduation performance—and the result affects their futures once they enter the company. Flashbacks to Yulia's childhood flesh out her defiant nature, and help make her ultimate sacrifice towards the end especially touching.


Photo Courtesy TriCoast.

One scene that may raise American eyebrows is during the audition, in which young Yulia must wear her underwear. This is typical of Russian ballet academy auditions in order for teachers to evaluate the dancers' lines and proportions (although Yulia's actual audition is pretty far-fetched).The two-hour Bolshoi, in Russian with English subtitles, is now available on iTunes, Fandango, Vudu, FlixFling, Hoopla, In Demand, GooglePlay, Dish, Sony Playstation, Direct TV and Microsoft Xbox.

Ballet Training
Berdo with Charlotte Ballet apprentice Elisabeth Baehman. Photo Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.

Many dancers struggle with brisé, says Laszlo Berdo, associate director of the Charlotte Ballet Academy. "But once you've mastered it, it's not that difficult." Here's how he helps his students beat the brisé blues.

Hold your turnout: Laszlo Berdo says a common mistake is stepping forward on a turned-in leg in anticipation of the brisé. "You lose the support of that standing leg. Then you have no power to jump," he says. "That plié is your saving grace and control."

Create a line: Berdo notices that some dancers dégagé à la seconde instead of effacé. "It's really difficult to chase that leg into second when you're trying to move forward." He teaches brisé with an open shoulder blade. "The back arm's extension is a reference to the front leg's dégagé. Keep that energy stretching out."

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Viral Videos
via Instagram

Every ballerina grows up aspiring to nail the fouetté turns in the coda of Swan Lake's Black Swan Pas de Deux. From classic primas like Natalia Makarova to current pros like Gillian Murphy, the 32-fouetté sequence has become so iconic that even our non-dancer friends know about the tricky turns. But yesterday, American Ballet Theatre principal Christine Shevchenko introduced us to a totally new take on the fouettés that we've been watching on a loop, in awe.


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Ballet Stars
Photo by Kyle Froman for Pointe.

Much of what Ballet West soloist Katlyn Addison carries around in her (two) dance bags has been repurposed. She wraps her toes in black hockey tape which her brother, a National Hockey League player in their home country of Canada, ships to her, and she keeps her bobby pins in an old glass salsa jar. "I like to reuse things," says Addison. She totes everything around in shopping bags (one for pointe shoes and sewing tools, one for everything else) from the clothing store Free People.



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Ballet Stars
Alicia Graf Mack in Robert Garlan'ds "Return." Photo by Robert Garland, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Alicia Graf Mack has consistently defied just about every limitation and expectation throughout her dance career. She was a leading performer with three incredible companies: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, from which she retired in 2016, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. She also earned two college degrees in the midst of her performing career (from Columbia University and Washington University in St. Louis, no less) and has even written for Pointe, including our June/July 2014 cover story on Misty Copeland, Ebony Williams and Ashley Murphy. This week we're throwing it back to this wonder woman's 2004 performance of Robert Garland's Return with Dance Theatre of Harlem.

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