Tipping pointe: MeToo tornado hits New York ballet
Lawsuit claims male dancers sent nude photos and mistreated ballerinas - but 'the surface has barely been scratched'
America’s most celebrated ballet company is facing a sexual harassment row over a “fraternity-like atmosphere“ that left ballerinas vulnerable to abuse.
Barely a week before the curtain goes up on its autumn and winter programme, the New York City Ballet (NYCB) is at the centre of a scandal amid claims that it harboured a culture where male dancers shared pictures of naked ballerinas, abused drugs and degraded women.
One dancer has resigned and two more have been suspended amid fallout from a lawsuit brought by Alexandra Waterbury, a 19-year-old ballerina.
The allegations are merely the latest twist in ballet’s #MeToo moment amid dozens of accounts around the world of abuse at the hands of directors who pressure young women to lose weight or sleep their way into leading roles.
Jordan Merson, Waterbury’s lawyer, said he expected more women to come forward. “I believe we have only scratched the surface of these allegations and we are hopeful that other women have the courage to come forward and speak out.”
Waterbury’s complaint, filed in New York State Court on Wednesday, could not come at a more awkward time for the NYCB, which opens its season at Manhattan’s Lincoln Centre in eight days. It is currently led by an interim artistic team following the abrupt retirement in January of Peter Martins as ballet master in chief. He was being investigated over allegations of physical and sexual abuse, and was convicted of a drunk-driving offence last month.
Waterbury says the company allowed an “out-of-control fraternity-like atmosphere” to permeate the organisation, and “permitted its male dancers to abuse, assault, degrade, demean, dehumanise and mistreat its female dancers and other women”.
She told the US TV programme Good Morning that she discovered her then boyfriend, a principal dancer with the company, had been sharing nude photos of her with other dancers without her permission. Chase Finlay had left early for a job and she later used his laptop to check her e-mail, when she claims she saw dancers had been exchanging images and videos of nude women.
Her lawsuit accuses Finlay of sending nude photographs of herself to another dancer, who sent back an image of another bare-chested ballerina. He also allegedly took part in a group chat with two other ballet members who discussed using cocaine and “violating” ballerinas, comparing them with farm animals.
NYCB chairperson Charles Scharf said there was no basis to the lawsuit and that the company had taken appropriate disciplinary action once the allegations came to light.
– © The Daily Telegraph