NYCB’s Investigation Does Not Corroborate Sexual Harassment Claims Against Peter Martins
The New York Times reports that a two-month long 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.
According to the Times, 77 current and former dancers, as well as other individuals, were interviewed over the course of the investigation, which was led by Barbara Hoey of the firm Kelley Drye and Warren LLP. (The report will not be made public.)
Despite the investigation’s findings, NYCB and SAB said in a statement that they would both be implementing new policies to ensure that its dancers feel safe and can openly express their opinions and concerns. And I think, more than anything, this is the biggest change we need in the broader dance community. The shake-up at NYCB has caused the dance world to take a hard look at its culture, especially in regards to the power dynamics between dancers and management. (In recent weeks, English National Ballet has been embroiled in its own scandal, and all of the dancers who have spoken out have reportedly been too afraid to identify themselves.) In the historically demanding business of ballet, which requires high standards and extraordinary discipline, critical feedback is normal and necessary. But at what point does it become a hostile work environment—and where can dancers turn if it does?
In a statement given through his lawyer, Martins expressed that he was “gratified for the conclusions.” Response from others close to the investigation have been mixed. The Times notes that in follow-up interviews, former NYCB dancer Kelly Cass-Boal and former SAB student Victor Jordan Ostrovsky—both of whom told stories of physical abuse by Martins—felt that Hoey was skeptical of their accusations during interviews and more concerned with protecting NYCB. Several current dancers, on the other hand, have been openly supportive of Martins’ innocence throughout the investigation. “This is what I thought would happen,” principal dancer Megan Fairchild told the Times regarding the outcome, “because that’s the experience I had, so I’m not surprised at all.”