NY City Ballet chief retires amid sexual allegations

NY City Ballet chief retires amid sexual allegations


norman lebrecht

January 02, 2018

Peter Martins, 71, has announced his retirement.

He had been accused by several dancers of physical and verbal abuse, as well as sexual harassment.

The Danish balletmaster has denied the allegations, insisting that he will be vindicated by an internal investigation.

Under pressure, he decided not to wait for the outcome. Martins has been in charge of NYCB for more than 30 years.


  • MWnyc says:

    Key detail that may have determined Martins’s decision to resign now: on Thursday he was arrested for driving drunk (a crime for which he already has one conviction).

    I’m speculating, of course, but when the board heard that, they may well have told him that enough is enough.

    • Sharon B Long says:

      If I recall in the early nineties his wife took some legal actions for domestic abuse. However, I think he’s done a great job with the New York City Ballet and unlike previous directors has encouraged the dancers to continue their educations so they will have something to fall back on when they can no longer dance.

  • Sue says:

    The Kangaroo Court sits.

    • Terence says:


      Whether individual allegations are true, false or subject to interpretation, careers can now be ended by allegation alone.

      What defence is possible in the current climate?

  • MacroV says:

    I have no idea about Martins’ behavior, but even from my limited experience with the ballet world, I totally believe it’s possible. Martins or someone in his position can rule over a ballet troupe in a way completely unlike the relationship between conductor and orchestra musicians, who are older and have pretty good employment protections. Dancers are young, usually not well educated since they tend to join a company in their late teens, and – this is important – have minimal job security; they usually work on one-year contracts, and if they displease the artistic director or suffer an injury, their careers can be over in an instant. So it doesn’t strain credulity that young women competing for limited places in featured roles would be vulnerable to exploitation.

  • Sharon says:

    If Martins was abusive it’s surprising that it’s coming out now although it is possible that the abuse might be worse if the drinking has gotten worse. I have read Jock Soto’s a retired principal in the NYCB (New York City Ballet) biography which was written after he retired and he has nothing but very positive things to say about Martins while he said some negative things about others, such as the dictatorial behavior of Jerome Robbins etc.
    At one time it was the NYCB’s fourth ring society (at the time twelve dollar tickets) that kept me in New York City. When my life was spiraling out of control in other ways I was drawn to all that controlled energy in ballet that I was on some level hoping to bring into my own life.
    Having said this, I now find Ballanchine style neo classical dance, in which the NYCB specializes, behind the times and almost immoral. The ballet craze of the 1970s was part of the sexual revolution and “new morality” where sexual physicality for sexual physicality’s sake (and ballet is all about sexual physicality) was considered “liberating”. .
    In truth, however, it is all about the objectification of people, and especially women.
    In Maria Tallchief’s, who was married to Balanchine, autobiography she stated that they used to go to art museums to give Balanchine ideas for his choreography. He wanted to create pretty animated pictures, little more. The whole point of neoclassical ballet is not to use dance to tell or story or even express an emotion but instead to turn people into nothing more than beautiful moving images. Jewels for ex is the iconic neoclassical ballet which turned women into animated Jewels. I once read a book about the philosophy of ballet called “The Dancer as an Aesthetic Object”. That says it all.
    Maria Tallchief, who was married to Balanchine in the early 1950s said in her autobiography that what broke up the marriage was that she realized that she did not believe in this approach and yet she was expected to work day and night with Balanchine setting this up in the NYCB and dancing in it.
    As I have said in other posts, for people immersed in the arts life begins to imitate art. When women are objectified can sexual abuse be far behind? Neo classical ballet is an acceptable form of soft porn.
    I understand that the NYCB is losing audience both in the Koch theater and in SPAC (the state park that used to be their summer home). There are a number of reasons for this but I believe that a large part of it is that people can no longer relate to people being turned into objects, even objects of beauty, and may even find it distasteful.
    However, although NYCB does a lot of new choreography most of it is about nothing more than creating new moving images.
    What ballet needs to do is follow in the tradition of Jerome Robbins and develop story ballets based on modern stories full of emotion to which people can relate. I was very encouraged by a trend called “movement theater” that was beginning to gain some traction fifteen to five years ago where theater used more movement, as opposed to just being verbally oriented. Dance movements were incorporated to move the story along, not just as an aside. Unfortunately, this seems to have fizzled out