New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)
We admit it. We're picky about dance movies. They don't always represent our beloved art form accurately, or use real dancers to play the main roles.
But we just watched the first trailer for the new Carlos Acosta biopic, Yuli, and we're kinda speechless:
For Cincinnati Ballet artistic director Victoria Morgan, the company's annual Kaplan New Works Series is all about invention. "If you're comfortable, then you're not in the right place," she says. This year's program, held September 13–23 at the Aronoff Center, features a new kind of invention: Two company dancers will step into the role of choreographer for the first time. Soloist David Morse and corps dancer Taylor Carrasco will join contemporary queen Mia Michaels, Cincinnati Ballet resident choreographer Jennifer Archibald and San Francisco Ballet dancer Myles Thatcher in creating new works.
"Every time I see a little girl in a tutu or with her hair in a bun on her way to ballet class, all I can think is that she should run in the other direction," she said, "because no one will protect her, like no one protected me."
It was quite a statement, and it got us thinking. Of course, it's heartbreaking to imagine the experiences that Waterbury lists in the lawsuit, and it's easy to see why this would be her reaction.
But should aspiring ballet dancers really "run in the other direction"? Were her alleged experiences isolated incidences perpetuated by a tiny percentage of just one company—or are they indicative of major problems in today's ballet culture within and beyond NYCB's walls?We reached out to a variety of authorities in the field to hear their reactions to her statement.
Former School of American Ballet student Alexandra Waterbury, 19, is suing New York City Ballet and her ex-boyfriend, former principal dancer Chase Finlay.
Finlay resigned suddenly last week, and principals Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro were put on unpaid leave for the remainder of 2018 because of "inappropriate communications" of a "personal nature."
Francisco Estevez is only 29 years old, but he's battling cancer for the second time. In 2013, the Colorado Ballet soloist was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which was swiftly treated with surgery. But during a routine physical in April, doctors noticed that Estevez's white blood cell count was severely elevated. They concluded that he had chronic myeloid leukemia, a very rare form of blood cancer. "At first I thought, how can this be happening again?" says Estevez. "I've had a few moments of sadness, but I've tried to find the humor in it, which has helped. Thankfully my wife [Colorado Ballet soloist Tracy Jones] and I are fortunate to have a good support system here in Denver and around the world."
That support system is coming together in a big way this week. Roughly a dozen Colorado dance organizations are joining forces to participate in Dancers for a Cure, a benefit performance for Estevez on September 6 and 7 at the Lone Tree Arts Center. The concert was spearheaded by Alison Jaramillo, artistic director of Littleton Youth Ballet, where both Estevez and Jones have taught classes during their off-season. "She asked if we wanted to do a benefit performance to raise money for some of the medical costs, as well as future costs," says Estevez. "We didn't know how to feel about it initially—it's always awkward to accept help from those who aren't your family." They eventually agreed, with the condition that the concert also give back to the community somehow. Now, half of the proceeds will go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
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The dance community mourns another loss this week, as we learned former New York City Ballet principal Peter Frame passed away on August 30. Frame, who was 61, trained at the School of American Ballet and was a member of NYCB (his twin brother Paul danced with the company as well) from 1976 to 1990, earning the rank of principal in 1988.
Frame joined SAB faculty in 1993, where he is credited with developing a body strengthening program for the dancers as well as creating a weight training class for men. Additionally, Frame taught at Ballet Academy East, where in a 2017 blog post on their site, he shared one of his fondest memories—dancing in George Balanchine's Episodes, where he was cast in the solo originated by Paul Taylor, who also passed away earlier this week. "Omitted since Taylor performed it, I would reintroduce the solo to the stage," Frame said in the post. "This was one of the most exciting moments in my career." Frame performed the solo from 1986 to 1989, becoming the only person after Taylor himself to dance it until he restaged the piece for Miami City Ballet in 2017.
Described as a "kind and generous spirit" by NYCB principal Megan Fairchild in an Instagram tribute, Frame is being remembered on social media by members of NYCB and beyond. We're sharing some of these touching tributes below; feel free to add your own in the comments.
Legendary choreographer Paul Taylor, whose illustrious career spanned seven decades, passed away yesterday in New York City at age 88.
Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Taylor discovered dance relatively late in life, while in college at Syracuse University on a swimming scholarship. He then transferred to the Juilliard School, and in 1954 began to choreograph. In 1955 he joined the Martha Graham Dance Company. Taylor first stirred the dance world in 1957 with Seven New Dances. The piece was composed entirely of long sections of standing, sitting and pedestrian style walking across the stage. Audience members were outraged; critic Louis Horst famously published a blank review in The Dance Observer in response. Since 1954, Taylor has choreographed 146 dances.
Despite his postmodern roots, Taylor quickly found favor with ballet companies. In 1959, George Balanchine invited him to be a guest artist with New York City Ballet for the creation of Episodes, a two-part work that he and Graham were co-creating. Balanchine's section included a solo made on Taylor, which the New York Times described as "disturbingly complex" when NYCB revived it in 1986. (Today, only Balanchine's section of Episodes, sans solo, is performed.) And some of Taylor's most loved works, including Airs, Company B, Black Tuesday, Aureole and Sunset are frequently performed by major ballet companies including American Ballet Theatre, Miami City Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet.
New York City Ballet will be three male principals short this season. Due to "inappropriate communications," Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro have been suspended without pay until 2019, and Chase Finlay has resigned, effective immediately, according to The New York Times. (Finlay's name has already disappeared from the company roster on nycballet.com.)
A statement from the NYCB board chairman said they received a letter from someone outside of the company "alleging inappropriate communications made via personal text and email by three members of the company" that were "personal in nature." It added that the board's efforts to reach Finlay to even discuss the allegations were unsuccessful, which leads us to believe that it must have been quite a serious offense.