A Culture Of 'Degradation', 'Abuse', and 'Disregard'

by Michael Mahany | 9/11/2018 6:50 PM

Chase Finlay (left) and Alexandra Waterbury (right) at the 2018 New York City Ballet Spring Gala. Photo credit: Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images. 


The explosive reporting that came out of The New York Times, the Associated Press, and Gothamist last Wednesday and Thursday afternoon is seeming to be a catalyst now reshaping the dance worlds progression forward in regard to the handling of sexual harassment and assault, especially in the institutional setting. 


The specifics that emerged from the story, published September 5th, detailed the lawsuit being brought about by former School Of American Ballet dancer Alexandra Waterbury, 19. In the suit, Waterbury alleges former principal danseur Chase Finlay shared nude photos and sexually explicit videos of her with other male dancers in the company as well as donors to the Ballet and accuses the Ballet itself of cultivating a fraternity-like atmosphere. 


Last month, Finlay resigned from New York City Ballet, and two other principal dancers, Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro were suspended without pay until next year. 


According to the Times and the reporting from the AP in regards to the officially filed complaint, a group of male dancers regularly shared nude photos of female dancers with each other and understood that they could degrade, demean, mistreat and abuse, assault and batter women without consequence.’” 


Alexandra Waterbury (left) and Chase Finlay (right). Photo Credit: Jared Siskin/Getty Images 


According to the report, donors to the ballet suggested to Finlay, that the men should tie ballerinas up and abuse them like farm animals.” Finlay apparently replied, or like the sluts they are.”  


The report also mentions allegations about an incident in Washington DC when, Finlay and other dancers trashed a hotel room in Washington, D.C. at a party where they plied underage girls with drugs and alcohol. 


For several years, defendant New York City Ballet, Inc. has condoned, encouraged, fostered, and permitted an environment where its agents, servants, employees, donors, principals, and/or others affiliated with it abused, degraded and mistreated alcohol, drugs, and women,” Waterburys complaint states. This fraternity-like atmosphere permeates the Ballet and its dancers and emboldens them to disregard the law and violate the basic rights of women.”’ 


As per reports from the Gothamist of a statement from Waterbudys attorney, Jordan Merson, his client, is suing both NYC Ballet and Finlay for intentional affliction of emotional distress, assault, and batteryThis lawsuit is to hold accountable those responsible for the unknowing and unlawful dissemination of Ms. Waterbury's most private and intimate images. Today, Ms. Waterbury is standing up to those who have degraded and humiliated her. 


Last month Finlay resigned from the Ballet, and two other dancers, Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro were suspended.  


At the time, The New York Times reported, "In a statement, Charles W. Scharf, chairman of the City Ballet board, said the company had several weeks ago 'received a letter alleging inappropriate communications made via personal text and email by three members of the company.' The letter did not come from someone in the company, and the communications were 'personal in nature.' But, after an investigation, the company 'determined that each man had violated the norms of conduct that New York City Ballet expects from its employees.'" 


After the release of the complaint filed on behalf of Ms. Waterbury against City Ballet and Mr. Finlay, New York City Ballet released a statement: 


"New York City Ballet is confident that there is no basis for this lawsuit, and vehemently denies the allegations that the Company has condoned, encouraged, or fostered the kind of activity that Mr. Finlay and the others named have participated in, which were off-hours activities that were not known, approved, or facilitated by NYCB. Despite that, once NYCB was made aware of the allegations we investigated them and found that the actions had violated the Companys norms of conduct, and immediate and appropriate action was taken. NYCB learned of this matter directly from the plaintiffs attorney, Jordan Merson, in June of this year. Merson had contacted NYCB to try to negotiate a payment from the Company to settle the matter to avoid adverse publicity, but NYCB refused the demand. NYCB has no liability for the actions specified in the complaint and has taken the appropriate disciplinary actions for the dancers involved." 


Merson, attorney for Waterbury countered the Ballets statement.  


This lawsuit has nothing to do with Ms. Waterbury's rebuffed attempt to obtain peace and closure with the Ballet, and has nothing to do with the Ballet 'avoiding adverse publicity' and has everything to do with her seeking redress from the Ballet,” Merson said. The suggestion by the Ballet that Ms. Waterburys claims are not meritorious further strengthens her resolve to vindicate her rights in this lawsuit. 


This is an ongoing story. Stay with Dance Network for updates. 

 Michael Mahany is a writer, host, actor, and serves as the New York City Correspondent for Dance Network. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.