January 2nd, 2018

Peter Martins quits

This story may not mean much to you, but it does to me: in the midst of allegations of abuse, Peter Martins has retired from the directorship of the New York City Ballet, although he denies any wrongdoing.

Here’s more information on some of the allegations, which mostly seem to involve physical rather than sexual abuse.

In 1993, Jeffrey Edwards was a soloist with New York City Ballet when he did something radical, at least for the company: He accused Peter Martins, the powerful ballet master in chief, of verbal and physical abuse, and reported him.

“I brought a complaint to the general manager, company manager and the dancers’ union, describing Peter’s conduct in detail,” Mr. Edwards said in a recent statement to The New York Times.

The union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, confirmed that it had received the complaint. But to all appearances, nothing much happened. Mr. Martins continued in his role as leader of City Ballet and the School of American Ballet, and Mr. Edwards left the company shortly thereafter.

The next year, Victor Ostrovsky, a 12-year-old student at the ballet school, had his own run-in with Mr. Martins. During a dress rehearsal, Mr. Ostrovsky said he was horsing around onstage with other children when Mr. Martins became enraged and grabbed him by the back of the neck in what Mr. Ostrovsky called “a death lock.”

“He’s yanking me around to the left and to the right, he’s digging his left thumb and his middle finger — I felt like he was piercing my muscle,” Mr. Ostrovsky said in a telephone interview. “I started crying and sobbing profusely.”

I doubt any of this would have come out if Martins wasn’t already quite disliked by a lot of people.

I’ve already written about Martins and his flaws and strengths, as well as sexual harassment and other forms of abuse in the dance world, here. I’ll just add that although Martins—about whom the scuttlebutt in the dance world has been bad for at least forty years, when I first heard some of it—is not a widely-beloved figure (to say the least), his alleged behavior isn’t really so very unusual. Milder types of abuse are rampant in the dance world. A significant amount of dance training involves (or used to involve, when I was coming up) verbal abuse, although there also were many teachers who didn’t engage in it. But commenting on the body and its flaws (and in particular on overweight) was and perhaps still is so common as to be standard, and engaging in name-calling and insults certainly used to be a daily occurrence with a great many teachers.

Dancing also involves physical abuse, although most of it is self-inflicted with encouragement by some teachers and company directors and choreographers—forcing a turnout or extension, dancing on pointe till you bleed. Also, touching dancers and jerking them around harshly, sometimes enough to cause pain, is not unusual. It’s even happened to me, although fortunately not to the point of being injured. Have I ever seen anyone hit? I can’t recall, but I certainly saw treatment I’d call abusive.

Sex between directors and dancers most definitely exists, too, usually consensual although often influenced and encouraged by ambition on the part of the underling. I wrote about that before, too:

Ballet differs from other arts (and certainly from politics or broadcasting or even acting) in that the body is completely the instrument, the mechanism by which that art is expressed. There is nothing else, not even talk (as in acting). Not only that, but the way the body looks is nearly as important as the way it moves, or at least inextricably connected with it. It’s no exaggeration to say that virtually every dancer in the professional dance world is a physically beautiful person with an extraordinarily beautiful body. And even the older directors (such as, for example, Martins) have an aging version of the same, and often a personal magnetism and power that cannot be denied. It was part of the reason they were stars, although not all directors were once performers or stars…

What’s more, there’s often a lot of interaction and touching in the choreography and in the studio, even during class. Teachers touch their students all the time—that’s how they convey what’s needed—adjusting a hand, helping the dancer bend in the right direction by giving a little push, turning the head just so. Partners touch their partners all the time, and the communion between partners can be extraordinarily intimate. It can also lead to an actual romance (and of course sex) in real life—what little the dancers have of real life, that is, after the rigors of taking class and rehearsals and performances and shoe preparation and all the rest.

Company directors (the heterosexual ones, that is; I know less about the habits of the gay directors, but I’m assuming the story is not too different) often sleep with their dancers. They even sometimes marry them; Balanchine, for example, was famous for this, having married (and divorced) a whole series of them.

So the idea in ballet is not to eliminate the sex or the touching—I think that would be impossible—but to eliminate the harassment. How would “harassment” be defined in a world like that? Unwanted touching? Touching that goes beyond what’s required for the class or the choreography or the correction? Whether there is a quid pro quo for the sex: “sleep with me and I’ll make you a star”?

Some directors and some dance teachers are kind and gentle. But it’s not the least bit unusual for them not to be kind and gentle at all. And then there’s the strangeness (and intensity) of many dancers. I remember, for example, taking class in my early twenties at a large and famous dance studio (affiliated with a dance company) in Manhattan. The class was so large that we were squished together and had to turn diagonally away from the barre in order to be able to kick our legs upward. This is not an unusual practice, but it meant that at certain times—because the barres were portable, and they were pulled away from the walls so that dancers could hold onto them from both sides—I was practically nose-to-nose with perfect strangers sweating up a storm.

I recall in one particular class that the young woman opposite me started crying after getting a correction from the teacher, and didn’t stop crying for the entire barre. It was disconcerting. She wasn’t sobbing, but her tears were flowing all through the exercises (which last close to a half hour). I tried to whisper to her—although I didn’t know her—“Don’t let it bother you; it’s not worth it” or some such platitude. But other dancers near me, who knew her better than I did, shrugged and told me not to bother. “She does this practically all the time” they said.

And by the way, in the ballet world abusive behavior by directors and teachers is not limited to men. Ballet is in certain ways an equal opportunity endeavor.

[NOTE: Here’s a former New York City ballet dancer saying Martins was perfectly fine with her. I have little doubt that it’s true.

This woman also has written about George Balanchine. Her article has a glaring omission, however, and IMHO it’s one that makes the article unfair to Balanchine. She neglects to mention that at the time she visited Balanchine in the hospital and the events she relates took place, he was suffering from the disease that killed him not too long afterward, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a brain disease that leads to (among other things) senility and personality changes. That said, before he got sick Balanchine certainly had a well-known history of sleeping with his dancers—he married quite a few of them, too.]

19 Responses to “Peter Martins quits”

  1. Rufus Firefly Says:

    My sports coaches were typically physically and verbally abusive, I guess, but I generally benefitted from the abuse. It drove me to push myself harder than I knew I could, and made me a stronger man. If any of us would have complained we would have been thrown off the team and most parents would have faulted the child, not the coach.

    Not surprised to hear dancing is similar. Some of my music directors were rough, and one, a male, tried to cross the line physically-sexually more than once, but he was an otherwise good man and I was bigger and stronger than him and able to jokingly push him away so there was no reason to be afraid in those situations. He helped me a great deal, musically.

    None of the abuse from coaches hurt (mentally) more than a day, or so. I think it’s because I was decent at sports and could always meet or surpass their demands. But there was a verbal attack from a conductor which stung for decades. I think that one stayed with me because I was less confident with my artistic abilities.

    I had worked hard to get into a group of musicians who all had many years more experience than I did. I was working very hard to keep up and not be discovered for the veritable rookie I was but this guy was so talented he singled my tone out from an ensemble of over a hundred musicians playing simultaneously. He was right. I was embarrassed and mad at the time (and he was unnecessarily unkind), yet I was still amazed at his talent to notice my imperfection in such a sea of noise. He was rude. But he was correct.

  2. Artfldgr Says:

    Dont worry, according to feminists this will fix things gooder…

  3. Frog Says:

    Wee, wee wee, that awful physical “abuse”. Such non-coddling helps to make boys into men. But now it’s “abuse”, which we cannot and will not tolerate, especially the pussies and weenies among us, those who will never amount to anything.

    Pretty soon Marine recruits at Parris Island will complain about “abuse”. But fortunately no one will listen.

    I was “abused” by relative sleep deprivation as an intern and resident on call every other night and every other weekend. I averaged less than 4 hrs sleep/night for several years, and you know what?! It made me a better young doc: the patient comes first, no matter what. You learn what to do in spite of fatigue. Kind of like boot camp, which turns a civilian into a soldier! Your unit and mission come first, not you.

    Not to worry. Femmes and feminism will fix everything with their nurturing and caring, interrupted only by their right to abortions.

    Pfagh.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    You may have noticed that the main complaints about Martins and abuse come from a man and a boy, in this case.

  5. Molly Brown Says:

    Dance, Figure Skating, Gymnastics. Seems they are all rife with abuse. But how can the proper form and technique be taught without the coach touching the student? Don’t know where the fix for this is going to come from.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Molly Brown:

    You can certainly touch students without hurting them, hitting them, choking them, touching them sexually—it’s really not that hard to tell the difference, although somewhere along the line there’s bound to be a gray area.

  7. n.n Says:

    It sounds like a case of a teacher with high expectations, and a student of low performance, and perhaps low self-esteem. A triple threat to developing self-confidence.

  8. n.n Says:

    triple threat to developing self-confidence

    Any recognition would then be welcome. Even as a pawn in a lawsuit. Perhaps motivated by retributive change.

  9. Molly Brown Says:

    Neo,

    It’s the ‘gray area’ I’m worried about!

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    n.n.:

    That is almost never the case with dancers, for the simple reason that—at least, in every case I’ve ever observed—the teachers only pick on the most gifted students.

  11. neo-neocon Says:

    Rufus Firefly:

    Did you ever see the movie “Whiplash“? You might like it.

  12. Frog Says:

    Neo, the sex of Martins and the two male “abusees” has nothing to do with the feminization of our society except that what once was acceptable as a motivator is today’s “abuse” in our feminizing cultcha.
    You seem to suggest that “abuse” is male on female, which it is not.
    I thought I made that clear in my reference to Marine training at Parris Island.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Frog:

    Maybe you should read more carefully.

    In the last paragraph of my post:

    And by the way, in the ballet world abusive behavior by directors and teachers is not limited to men. Ballet is in certain ways an equal opportunity endeavor.

    Also, at the link to my previous Peter Martins post, you can find mention of Martha Graham as someone who often pursued her male dancers sexually.

    Do you really think what Martins did to 12-year-old Ostrovsky is okay, and that objecting to it can only be explained as an excessive feminization of society?

    Martins also apparently beat his wife, and before that his girlfriend (both are ballet dancers). I didn’t get into that because it’s not part of the current charges again him, but it’s right there in the article I linked to in the second paragraph of the present post:

    Mr. Clifford is also one of two former dancers who said they witnessed Mr. Martins get violent with Heather Watts, a former principal dancer with the company who had a yearslong stormy romantic relationship with Mr. Martins.

    “I saw him pick her up and slam her into a cement wall,” Mr. Clifford recalled. “I was outside his dressing room.” (Ms. Watts declined to comment.)

    “I want to make sure these girls who are reporting this are taken seriously,” added Mr. Clifford, the founding artistic director of Los Angeles Dance Theater. “It’s not gossip, it’s fact. It’s something I saw with my own eyes.”

    In 1992, Mr. Martins was charged with third-degree assault against his wife, Darci Kistler, then a principal in the company. Ms. Kistler told the police that her arms and legs had been cut and bruised. The misdemeanor charge was later dropped. Several of the interviewed dancers expressed surprise that City Ballet had kept Mr. Martins on after that incident.

    More here.

  14. Artfldgr Says:

    In the last paragraph of my post:

    And by the way, in the ballet world abusive behavior by directors and teachers is not limited to men. Ballet is in certain ways an equal opportunity endeavor.

    he is catching on that it was said, which it didn’t have to if it agreed… he never said they were that way, so your aside was for who? the benefit of whom?

    and ballet is not an equal opportunity endeavor by a long shot
    any more than music is… sorry, but i worked many levels of this wacko beast and that is just out right wrong…

    how many chinese ballet dancers are there?
    how many black who didnt start with alvin?

    and we forget that feminism people are not just women either, its the gay and race fronts too… in which the feminists created the other two in their newer form (see lgbt feminism, and unpacking the knapsack)

    i know what frog is talking about…
    but i think you dont and dont want to “get it”
    its always been like trying to put two north pole magnets together… up until the last distance, things seem quite cooperative, but one cant close the last distance being foiled off on one point or some other point, which is fine… this is regardless of what information, history, etc is given..

    here is what he is talking about its effect cross society
    Fox 5 news NYC reported that people who wait on train platforms have mental issues because they don’t know when the train will come. in fact they have mental breakdowns and thats why we need the useless signs that give money to the electricians union and jobs.

    next time you stand and wait for a bus, or a train, remember your having a nervous breakdown of some sort as told by our feminist leaders who get vapors and such as in the old days of pre feminism… (not to mention that they are becoming more oppressive… because they oppressed themselves back then, not the men – duh… kind of like keeping king Louise power a secret from king Louise)

    what he is talking about is the inability to self organize and wanting your “husband” the state to provide

    the inability to take the slings and arrows of misfortune of a very decent life, let alone a bad one… come to my office, and your money in paying the medical industry to have people stand around putting puzzles together to relieve stress on company time…

    how none have passed the army obstical course, but are promoted and promoted over the guys who are passing, and are under severe penalties that are just not equal (unequal treatment for equal outcomes!!)

    but the kick though is how you put up this abuse thing from the past with witnesses and arent cogitating that they all let this sit for 20 years… WTF

    WHO or WHOM is letting this slide?

    WHO or WHOM are telling these women their lives would be ruined as if this was the height of the Elizabethan era or an Islamic state where the victim is blamed for being raped!!

    Us guys have been sitting around for some 30 years listening to a lot of lies, drivel, bad advice masquerading as good advice, damage and so on… and never is anything we ever say acceptable in terms of pointing it out (like global warming may cause an ice age says Hanson)

    we watch as pronouncements of the leaders turn into horrid lives when lived by. in COURT a victim is not responsible – in real life we teach things to prevent being a victim in all areas EXCEPT if your a woman, there we goad you into more bad endings!!!!

    think about it.. you want to tell a woman that she might attract bad people if she wears a revealing dress and gets blinkered?

    we do similar now for race, right? you should not avoid bad neighborhoods and direction software should not bypass them, right?

    same thing applied over and over in various abstractions becomes a way of looking at the world… this is even creepier than the big lie concept

    and the worst part of this all is that you get to watch people being used, being hurt so they give more power and such to others, and so on…

    what do you think is happening here in the big picture?
    a purge and power transfer…

    they have openly stated (the leaders) that they are at war. what or when will you realize they are serious and your not?

    we are discussing the import of immigrants cause the smartest women in the world decided NOT to have children and do business to pay taxes to the state, and that money went to the least productive and imported replacements… they now point this out openly as its so far gone, nothing will change the outcome! (go see, few if any do actually)

    sweden is falling apart culturally and swedes dont know what to do… they, like most women, trusted people through an ideological press rather than thouhtful debate!!!

    ie. your not a real woman if you dont help this happen (who is that arbiter? feminists)

    you hate women if you dont agree who is that arbiter? feminists)

    and the list goes on, there are websites that catalogue them the way we catalog hoaxes..

    IF you knew the demographics and things going on in the colleges and didn’t refuse to believe what demographers say are the rules… you would be fearful (other countries are, they are trying to pay for babies and bonuses and more – which never works)

    and whats worse is the guys discuss what is kept hidden or looked at separately not as a collection of things that if WE were the opposition, we would be celebrating with champagn and gnawing at the bit to fight and get it done with given the built in dysfunction and death of the most functional being half completed!!!

    Pressure grows on Marines to consider lowering combat standards for women (because none can pass – Gandalf wont let them)

    Two years ago, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the nation’s top military officer, laid down an edict on the Obama administration’s plan to open direct land combat jobs to women: If women cannot meet a standard, senior commanders better have a good reason why it should not be lowered.

    Today, the “Dempsey rule” appears to have its first test case.

    The Marine Corps just finished research to see if female officers could successfully complete its rigorous Infantry Officer Course.

    A IOC diploma is a must to earn the designation of infantry officer. Of 29 women who tried, none graduated; only four made it through the first day’s combat endurance test.

    the truth is that all this stuff was the reward of being part of the liberal machine! you got paid by being shielded, which gives others control of things you can look the process, up and its why so man on the arts and liberal left are getting swept up…

    part of their reason for joining that political side was its purported amoral stance!!! it was amoral for women to show their stuff off in public, now its not only moral its required almost.. homosexuality was abnormal… why wouldnt the women beaters and so on and husband beaters and cheaters and so on side with the side that would have made such action criminal and did and were told they were horrid people for making that stuff illegal…

    by the way, do you know how long we have looked aside at men being victims of other male predators? prisons still have that as a norm, and we joke about it. can you imagine joking on prime tv about some famous woman going to prison and getting a baton in her tw-t and the people laughing as they do with dont pick up the soap jokes..

    harvey milk molested, he is a hero

    a lot of gay men and gay women predator young men and women

    the coochie snorcher that could was in the vagina monologues about a gay woman who drugged an underage girl into sex and that was a good rape!!!

    and you wonder why things are happening now?

  15. Lurch Says:

    Martins sounds like a piece of work. An indulged artiste that finally went a few steps too far. None of us are irreplaceable, even the so-called genius. Someone even more talented is always ready and willing to step up to fill the void. Happy he’s finally unable to torment impressionable young people.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Lurch:

    Martins’ strength was as a dancer. I think his promotion to director of NYCB was a disaster in many ways, even before these revelations. And it was not much of a “revelation,” actually, as the wife-beating story came out 25 years ago.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Artfldgr:

    I explicitly said that women are abusers in ballet, too. Frog had written, “You seem to suggest that ‘abuse’ is male on female, which it is not.” So, no, I didn’t suggest that, although it often is. But when women get the opportunity to be in power in ballet (which they sometimes do) they are sometimes abusive of that power, as well.

    I was quite explicit about that, so when Frog wrote what he wrote, he was ignoring what I had said.

    In addition, you misunderstood (as often happens) what I wrote about “equal opportunity.” I wrote: “And by the way, in the ballet world abusive behavior by directors and teachers is not limited to men. Ballet is in certain ways an equal opportunity endeavor.”

    That was clear too. Of course I wasn’t talking about race—race never came up in this discussion, and it was clear that the “certain ways” I was talking about are confined to the fact that women often are ballet teachers and sometimes are company directors. Therefore they sometimes have power and use it, and sometimes abuse it.

  18. n.n Says:

    the teachers only pick on the most gifted students

    So, they are talented, but otherwise low performance, and emotionally brittle.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    n.n.:

    No, they are high performance. I have no idea why you’re carping on this “low performance” thing, but most of the students who are picked on are the stars of the class. Being ignored is the worst insult. At least that’s the way it was when I studied dance.

    As for “emotionally brittle,” not necessarily. Most survive and go on to be professionals. Some don’t. These are teenagers, for the most part, or perhaps in their early twenties. They’re not seasoned pros, but some become seasoned pros ultimately. And of course some start out tougher than others.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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