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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The Role of Companies in Preventing Harassment/Assault


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HARID Conservatory conducts annual training for students, faculty and staff on sexual, gender and overall harassment and how to protect oneself if physically assaulted. We also have seminars on CPR and emergency procedures. The programs are conducted separately from the student body and are required by all. When a former student receives a contract in the professional world, it is a bit late to begin the introduction of how to conduct oneself in the world at large. Although businesses do have a responsibility to inform the employees of company policy, this is mainly to protect the company from litigation if a legal issue does arise.

It is possible for residential schools to educate students on such matters however it is important that these matters are addressed also at home. Students bring their home environment to school residential or not. We all must look inside of our upbringings.

As for mentoring male students, I am not sure why it is so popular to make this a gender specific issue. That in itself is promoting sexism. It saddens me to read the implication that young men are being given the impression they are more important. That in itself creates an atmosphere of superiority that is unhealthy for the ballet community. I will be on the lookout for such uneducated behavior in my workplace.

slhogan thank you for opening this very important topic.

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On 9/8/2018 at 10:36 AM, slhogan said:

Anyway, I wanted to create this topic to discuss 3 questions:

1. What advice do you have for mothers of teen/young adult male dancers when we have very limited interactions with our sons?
2. What role do companies have in educating dancers about sexual harassment and assault?
3. How would a company go about conducting effective training? 

So . . .I first want to say SLHogan that the fact that you understand and ask about your son, reflects a value that you have that you have been imparting to your son for years. I have a son in college and you better believe that I talk, e-mail, send links, and often make him feel uncomfortable about what is consent? what is not? protection? The list goes on. I am frank. That's what I would do BE.FRANK. Share your perspective. 

In terms of Finlay's mother? I have no way of knowing her but Finlay is 29. He has a record of behavior. Often men will reflect their father's approach to women. This does not just come out of nowhere. I think that she has likely had some hints of many things, including what appears to be at the very last binge drinking and drugs and perhaps an alcohol problem.  Finlay seems out of control.  Like a teen who has never had to grow up and assume the responsiblities of a typical work place, where there is a risk of losing one's job if one behaved in this way, where there is a risk of not being able to make rent if you're fired--He's been kind of isolated from this type of thing.  

BUT, you are right. .. .men can be susceptible to peer pressure, even good people.  Everyone makes mistakes and gets caught up in chest pounding and displaying sexual prowess.  It is not ok but it happens. 

I do think that the type of behavior described in the complaint is probably VERY typical on a college campus. In other words, I think that it more or less characterizes an unchecked, hypersexualized culture filled with peer pressure and immorality. 

That said, these men are near 30. Ramasar is 37, Catazaro is 28, and Finlay is 29.  They are really immature. 

Good companies can and do train their workers, because to not do so presents a liability to them.  I think that almost all colleges do alcohol, sexual harrassment, and many other trainings. It's a liablity thing.  They have to be able to say that "Everyone knows the rules." 

As many others have stated, AGMA needs to lead (and sadly it is not at all).  So in that vacuum, I favor an online series of videos and then quizzes along with meetings and small focus groups. It needs to be multifaceted and authentic. And leadership need to participate and make it clear that we are not just "checking the box."

I think that the thing that I don't really understand is this--in performing arts you are public figure. In a sense, your person is a bit of what people are purchasing. So, how much obligation do performers have to keep their despicable private behaviors private? How much responsiblity does a company have to regulate "off-duty" behavior?  If the texting occured on NYCB property and during work hours (which it did) then the company has a role here. So, I would advise my son that any text you do when you are on "company time" could be reviewed.  Then again, dancers are like ALWAYs on company time.  An NYCB dancer would do co class at 10:30, rehearse all day, and then perform until 11:00. 

Also, as I understand, this is not a criminal suit.  It could be perhaps but it is not. 

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While I agree that this issue was likely not a first time, just first time caught (in regards to videos), I do not believe that a parent can always be blamed for the activities of a 29 year old.  Taking responsibility for is different than taking blame.  Adults know full well what choice is.  This was a bad choice by an adult. 

Yes, sometimes there is a family pattern and of course there is always that possibility.  But having a dancer who left home at 17 and is now 30, I am not privy to the day to day activities that she may engage in.  We have a very open relationship, and frankly, we talk about more than I wish we did. (not really, just that sometimes I want to cover my ears)  DD2 and 3 are much less open in that manner but do know that if they need to discuss anything they can.   But I have no belief that I know everything or control everything just like my own parents knew some things about me and not others. 

Again, I caution any of us to assume that the parents of 29+ year olds have any inkling what their children do anymore other than go to work, vacation, eat and sleep, etc. .  Nor should they be policing it unless they have reason to.  In this case, I am sure it is NOW a topic of discussion within the family.  But let's not put his parents on blast until such time as we find out that the pattern actually exists with proof.  

As parents, we can talk until we are blue in the face and raise with our beliefs until we are blue in the face.  But once they are adults, it is their responsibility to take the good that we've taught them and continue to do better.  That is human choice.  Yes, sometimes there may be situations, such as addiction, where there is more to the equation than that and a family may be involved.  But until such time as we have viable proof that the family was dysfunctional, let's simply not go there.  At 29, this young man had 11+ years as an adult to make his own choices.   And, if like me, you believe 21 is really when adulthood starts (that and no longer needing Bank of Mom) then he had 8+ years.  

Yes, colleges do address alcohol, drugs, sexual harassment, etc with their students to be able to legally inform that they have given the rules and consequences.  But given what I've read on the parent page of DD3's college already this year, that does not equate to the lack of these activities even within the dorms that are supposed to be alcohol and harassment free after being informed.  

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With respect to the ballet companies, I think it requires more than just instituting a sexual harassment program.  It requires the will to actually take action when incidents (Iike the hotel room trashing referred to in the NYCB complaint) are brought to the company's attention.

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I'm late to the thread, but wanted to throw in another perspective. There are many great comments here about sex ed, parenting, and how schools and companies should handle these things.

I do have a thought relation to your 2nd and 3rd questions, though, and it's more about the mentality in the ballet world as a whole. A large part of a dancer's job is to essentially be an object. They must have the skill to essentially be a "puppet" for a choreographer or director. In class, a dancer expects his or her body to be corrected and moved into the right positions. In short, a dancer's body is their instrument or primary tool, and that makes it easy for mental/emotional/psychological to lack priority.

After working with several ballet companies, I can just say that it's easy for many to forget that the dancers are also normal people with individuality and wants/needs. 

All that rambling is basically to say that yes, companies do need to make sure that each dancer is treated with respect. Each dancer must understand that nobody's body is just an object. I don't know how exactly that mentality shift would work, but I do believe it would have a huge positive impact on ballet culture as a whole.

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Balletomane dances- I am one who believes what we say about ourselves speaks volumes.    Just your idea that "dancers must have the skill to essentially be puppets" and "job is to be an object" as a belief is in and of itself reason for concern.  An artist yes, can be an instrument for someone else to present their art.  The same can be said for a musician and a composer.  Or a painter and the model. 

DD in all her years dancing, has never considered herself a "puppet" or "object" when it comes to choreographers and Artistic Directors.  I am not disagreeing with your premise, but just pointing out that if we, the former dancers or administrators, use this type of language about dance then how can we educate young dancers that they are not giving up their bodies and mental health to the art form.  They certainly do not have to in order to be successful.  The dancers I know may not always feel in control of the art they give.  But "puppets" and "objects" is not their problem, it is ours.   We need to learn to talk about ourselves and the artform in healthier terms.  

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Amen, Momof3!  

DD learned and absorbed that lesson during her training.  She had very empowering teachers and mentors.  One well-known AD was particularly empowering and inspiring, as were his dancers and former dancers whom DD knew and trained with.  He exhorted ALL the dancers, including students of all ages, to find themselves and the art within themselves.  The choreography was a vehicle for releasing that art.  They most certainly were not puppets; they were artists digging deep for their art and bringing it out of their souls to share and release to the world. 

Having awakened to that truth, DD found she did have the strength, resolve, and respect for herself to say ‘no’ and walk away when she found herself in a dangerous, unhealthy situation as a young dancer, even if it meant walking away from dance (which it could have, but thankfully, we were able to salvage).

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  • 1 year later...

Why blame parents when it is the predatory personality of an instructor to hit in a student? Why aren’t other students calling out this behavior? When will the ballet world take some responsibility and not blacklash against whistle blowers? 

I bring this up because a male instructor was recently dismissed for dating a female student in a comoany school.  

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Good point Atari87. Companies and schools cannot know ahead of time what is in a person’s heart and mind any more than parents. However, they ought to be  willing to take action to defend a victim, and learn from the past by instituting policies and procedures.

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I don’t believe it is a matter of “blaming the parents”.  I believe, at least from my perspective, that we are saying it IS the parents’ charge and responsibility to do everything they can to impress upon the child and empower the child developmentally to recognize, resist, and report toxic and abusive behavior.  Certainly the level of the child’s self-actualizing will depend upon their age and development, but it should be every parents’ duty and responsibility to help instill this type of awareness, learning, and strength—-just as they do learning the ABC’s and numbers.

We can’t simply abdicate such responsibility to third-parties, such as teachers, be they academic or extracurricular activity teachers.  Yes, those teachers can help and reinforce, but we can’t just have an expectation that it is solely someone else’s responsibility. 

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What if the teacher is the one who is committing the inappropriate behavior? 

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On 11/23/2019 at 1:30 PM, meatball77 said:

Are the students minors?  Call child protective services.

No actually but 18. An 18 year pre pro student preyed on by a retired male ballet, who has been fired for his inappropriate behavior.   Child  protective services are called when a child is abused by a parent or another relative.   If the student was a minor and abused sexually or physically by a teacher, then it would be the police would have take action. 

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