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Principal dancer is suspended after making #Metoo claims

March 18, 2018 by norman lebrecht

16 comments.


The Semper Oper in Dresden has removed István Simon from its schedules while an investigation is conducted into allegations of misconduct against a balletmaster.

Apparently, it is considered unsafe to have both accuser and accused working in the house at the same time.

Simon has been a company soloist since 2007.

More here.


Comments (16)

  1. V.Lind says:

    I don’t read German. Does the article tell why the accuser is removed from his employment while the accused is allowed to retain his? Sends some odd messages, that.

    1. Scotty says:

      As I read it, the accuser and the accused are not to have contact until the matter is settled. But the show must go on, which isn’t possible without the ballet master. Thus the star dancer sits.

    2. Anon says:

      According to the article, the accuser is not removed from employment, but the only solution to prevent direct contact between both is in opinion of the court to suspend the solo dancer from rehearsals and performances, since the ballet master apparently can’t be replaced short notice.
      The accuser keeps his full salary.
      Apparently the molestation was ‘only’ verbal, after the accuser publicly stated his sexual identity to be ‘gender fluid’, allowing him to flip flopping his gender at will between male and female. The accused apparently made derogatory remarks about it.

    3. Max Grimm says:

      Correction/elaboration…
      …since the ballet master apparently can’t be replaced short notice.
      To be clear, the Semperoper has thus far not sought to replace the accused at all.

      The current situation is caused by two things primarily:
      1. The accused is the “principal ballet master” and as such is involved in virtually all training and productions.
      2. Due to conflicting schedules and their other duties and responsibilities, it was impossible for the dancer to avoid contact with the principal ballet master while remaining active and only training and rehearsing with the “plain” and assistant ballet masters during the course of the investigation.
      The Semperoper, for the course of the investigation, has placed the dancer on leave at full pay and has offered an additional €80.000 as compensation for placing him on leave for the time being.
      The dancer has sued, not for monetary gain, but because he wants a different interim solution, that allows him to continue to train and perform with the others, while avoiding working with the accused until the investigation is concluded. His argument is that a dancer cannot maintain the required high level while working alone, without the group, and that these types of investigations (and potentially resulting challenges of the findings) can take years to conclude, during which time he is effectively barred from performing with his troupe. His age, 30, is also a factor, given a dancer’s comparatively shorter career span.
      So far, a judge has found that the current arrangement is satisfactory, while the justice panel did note that the Semperoper’s way of handling the matter lacked to explore other alternatives to their full extent.
      The dancer and his attorney have announced their intention to appeal said finding.

      1. Max Grimm says:

        To make the last sentence clearer….
        The dancer and his attorney have announced their intention to appeal *the judge’s ruling*.

      2. V.Lind says:

        This is what I assumed — that the task of replacing a ballet master was much tougher than that of replacing or benching a dancer. So this “solution” is for the company’s convenience, and a judge who probably has no clue about how a dancer maintains his career sees it as the best option.

        If the abuse was verbal, surely there is some solution that can prevent anyone losing his job. How extreme must it have been that a judge deems separation of these two men necessary? And if the ballet master — who has been judged guilty of this charge or nobody would have to be removed except perhaps him — is THAT abusive, can it only be to this one dancer? Has nobody else felt the sting sufficiently to need to be removed from him?

        Lots of interesting questions here. But lots of solutions no being explored; if the dancer is essentially suspended with pay and compensation, he could at least take company class, which can surely be conducted by someone other than the ballet master. That would maintain the contact he craves. It is very hard on a 30-year-old dancer not to be rehearsing and performing — there is no solution there under this judgment.

        “Derogatory remarks”: if vicious enough, fire the bastard. But are we not being a bit of a delicate flower here? A STRONG reprimand to the ballet master by the company management, a warning, an apology to the dancer, and an undertaking that there would be no more of this sort of thing might solve it all. That a judge was even brought in, and that he deemed the case so toxic that the two had to be kept apart, indicated something rather more than “derogatory remarks.” I doubt Google translate will provide. So I hope Slipped Disc will.

        1. Anon says:

          Re ‘derogatory remarks’: I don’t know what the ballet master did. It is my conjecture from the article, that it was only verbal, since anything else would have likely resulted in a more drastic wording than only that the dancer ‘felt’ assaulted by the ballet master’s ‘reactions’.

          “Until in September of last year he publicly professes to change in his sexual assignment between male and female feeling to be gender fluid (not to be confused with transgender). The ballet master’s reactions to this are felt by the dancer as sexual harassment and assault.”

        2. Max Grimm says:

          Done more clarification….
          The judge didn’t rule on the “verbal sexual assault” itself, nor was the principal ballet master found guilty of the alleged behaviour so far.
          The judge (the dancer’s lawsuit was handled by the labour court) merely ruled the actions taken by the Semperoper’s administration in dealing with the matter to be legal and acceptable.
          What makes it difficult for the dancer’s plea to receive more sympathetic consideration is the fact that he, the dancer, is the one who refuses to work with or in the presence of the principal ballet master, citing an “impossible atmosphere”. This is why the Semperoper took the step of benching him with pay while they conduct an internal investigation.

          1. Max Grimm says:

            The first sentence should read *for more clarification* and it is *verbal sexual harassment* not “assault” as my mobile device’s swipe-to-write function would like to have it.

  2. John Borstlap says:

    I’m impressed how people can find ever more nuances in gender politics, which provide ever more opportunities to get offended:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/gender-fluid

    1. Anmarie says:

      How else could they get their 15 minutes of fame?

  3. Sharon says:

    I do not know how large or established the Semperoper Ballet is and I know that the arts in Germany receive a lot more government support. However, I know that most arts organizations remain barely in the black and that benching a full time dancer at full pay is expensive I was on the board of directors of a small social service non profit involved in a lawsuit that dragged on for four years. It tied us up for 4 years, was very expensive in both monetary expenses and in the use of staff time, made it very difficult to continue our routine work and impossible to start new projects–and it started when someone on the board felt disrespected and started making all sorts of false accusations in a variety of court petitions.
    The whole Met Opera thing started when some of Levine’s former acolytes and Levine himself, felt disrespected and/or dismissed.
    I realize that part of this gender fluidity stuff is a fad (although part of it does reflect changing gender roles in western society) but if one remembers to always “Do (and speak) unto others as one would want them to speak unto you” a lot of the rancor that ends of hindering and sometimes even destroying the work of good organizations would cease because “people may forget what you say but they never forget how you made them feel.” When people feel valued and respected they can be very forgiving of error and delay, when they do not, every little problem and obstacle becomes a big deal. Structures and procedures ARE very important to the healthy functioning of organizations but at the end of the day, it’s all about relationships.

    1. Edgar says:

      Fully agree, Sharon. It’s all about relationships. One wrong word can do terrible damage and affect much more than the injured relationship between two persons. Sadly, we live in a time in which common norms and practices of decency are severely weakened. As the valuable ancient Hebrew wisdom says: “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141.3)

      As for “gender fluidity” – some of it may be a “fad”, as you say. Yet it is also the reality that human sexuality is not merely “male” and “female”, but that there is a wide spectrum of “sexualities”. Ancient cultures knew this well, and found ways to live this reality especially, but not exclusively, in the religious/ritual/liturgical realm out of which dance and theater and music were born.

      The sorry impression I have from this Dresden debacle is that there are two egos at play here (literally), with neither willing to speak with each other and achieve understanding and the renewal of their relationship. I hope that either the Ballet Director or the General Director have undertaken efforts to get both the ballet master and the dancer in one room to talk things through and come to a new understanding on how to move forward. If this has happened and was unsuccessful – well, no one can be forbidden to go to court. The current situation is the chance for all involved to accept the learning opportunities it presents for the Dresden Staatsoper as a whole, and, of course, especially for its Ballet company. May it not go unused.


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