Why It’s A Big Deal That New York City Ballet Just Announced Promotions

by Michael Mahany | 10/16/2018 3:12 AM

Joseph Gordon and Tiler Peck in “Fancy Free”. Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

Last weekend, between the matinee of Robbins 100 and the evening performance of Short Stories, interim team Artistic Leader of New York City Ballet Jonathan Stafford, announced the promotion of seven ballet dancers within the company; including Joseph Gordon from Soloist to Principal, and six other corps de ballet dancers to Soloists.

These promotions are a big deal for the company that has struggled over the passed year with a number of newsworthy yet odious transgressions, and this news should be good news to dance fans everywhere.

Why? Well, it means that the institution is surviving. It means, that regardless of the inner details being sorted out amongst those who decide, the incredible artistry that is created within the hallowed halls of Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre is continuing.

That being said, the fact that the cultural legacy continues to live on, should not discount or stop those transgressions from being investigated and handled to the fullest and fairest degree.

Recently promoted Solist Claire Kretzschmar in the “Coffee Variation”. Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

Let Me Catch You Up:

Beginning late last year, accusations of sexual harassment, verbal and physical abuse, led to the January 1st, 2018 retirement of former Ballet Master In Chief, Peter Martins. While the accusations against Mr. Martins, were ultimately deemed non-corroborative by an internal investigation led by an outside council, many were not pleased with the outcome. Mr. Martins, who was a figurehead and artistic leader at City Ballet for close to three decades, it should be known, had faced accusations in the past.

While the full report on the investigation has not been publicly released, the allegations that spawned the internal examination came to light during the beginning of the #MeToo movement, and began the downward spiral out of which the company has been desperately trying to pull out.

It was the allegations brought forward by dancer Alexandra Waterbury against her former boyfriend and former principal dancer Chase Finlay, however, that dug the company into an even deeper public relations hole.

As per reporting on the suit Ms. Waterbury filed against New York City Ballet and Chase Finlay, Mr. Finlay took nude and sexually explicit photos of Ms. Waterbury and shared them with other former NYCB principal dancers Amar Ramasar, Zachary Catazaro, and a former financial benefactor to the company.

As a result, Mr. Finlay resigned— although the Ballet said it had decided it was going to let him go at the time of his resignation anyway,— and Mr. Ramasar and Mr. Catazaro were ultimately fired from the company. It should be noted that Mr. Ramasar and Mr. Catazaro both have released statements expressing their disappointment in the Ballet’s rush to judgment. Mr. Ramasar has vowed to tell his side of the story, and Mr. Catazaro put out a statement saying he had not played any part in sharing the material. The dancers’ union, the American Guild Of Musical Artists is also challenging the firings.

Recently promoted soloist Peter Walker (right) with Erica Pereira in “Romeo And Juliet”. Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

What It All Means

More than anything, these two major scandals shed more light on what seemed to be a series of institutional problems; deep seeded issues of power, inequality, gender, and the use of intimidation, all of which have likely been around for generations.

Nevertheless, when the new interim artistic team was put together after the allegations against Mr. Martins emerged last winter it marked a major step forward for the institution into a new era. 

That team, made up of former Ballet Master and principal dancer Jonathan Stafford, City Ballet superstar Justin Peck, and NYCB Ballet Masters Craig Hall and Rebecca Krohn—has provided a new perspective for the company in a time when youth and gender representation, especially in an artistic institutional setting, has needed to be seen.

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They have been, even while leading during this passed summer’s allegations by Alexandra Waterbury, the sign of much needed progress— and these recently announced promotions of a new principal male dancer, and six corps dancers, is another major advancement.

Though there is still much work to be done, many questions to be answered, and likely much more to be revealed, these promotions are a sign the legendary artistry of New York City Ballet lives on, yet more importantly, that things are seemingly moving forward, albeit slowly, but progressively. 

Joseph Gordon, according to NYCB’s statement on his promotion to principal, “was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and began his dance training at the age of five at The Phoenix Dance Academy. Gordon began studying at the School of American Ballet (SAB) during the 2006 summer course and enrolled as a full-time student that fall. In August of 2011, Gordon became an apprentice with NYCB, and in July of 2012, he joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet. He was promoted to soloist in February 2017. During the Company’s 2018 Fall Season, Gordon made his debut in George Balanchine’s “Diamonds” from Jewels and Symphony in C (First Movement), as well as Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun. He also originated a featured role in Matthew Neenan’s Fall 2018 premiere The Exchange, and performed featured roles in Justin Peck’s Pulcinella Variations, Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH, and Robbins’ Fancy Free. 

Also promoted to the position of soloist were  Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Coll, Claire Kretzschmar, Aaron Sanz, Sebastian Villarini-Velez, and Peter Walker.

It was also announced that Jonathan Fahoury, Mira Nadon, and Maxwell Read would join the company roster in the corps de ballet.

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

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