By Judith Mackrell
16 July 2018
Ballet companies are unique in ways that are wonderful and preposterous. At best, they are fabulously creative organisations to which loyal dancers, including the biggest stars, may devote entire careers. But, with scores of dancers striving to master extreme levels of physical perfection, pitted against each other for prime roles and principal rankings, they can also be hotbeds of competitive dissatisfaction. That intensity is exacerbated by the fact that presiding over these very young, driven, vulnerable egos is one person – the artistic director – who holds their destinies in his, and occasionally her, hands.
“Dancers today are not ‘behaving badly’, they are asking more of us as leaders,” wrote Scottish Ballet’s Christopher Hampson earlier this year. He was asking fellow artistic directors to reform their practices in the wake of accusations by ballet dancers around the world of bullying, aggression and misconduct. There have been complaints from dancers at leading companies – among them New York City Ballet, English National Ballet, Paris Opera and Finnish National Ballet – and some allegations have been extremely disturbing.
But what prompted Hampson was not so much specific cases as the conviction that such behaviour would continue to occur as long as certain assumptions within ballet culture have remained unchallenged. “I genuinely believe that every artistic director in the UK is trying to do their best by their dancers, but we all have a way to go,” he says. “We have a problem that we need to admit to, and it can be difficult to talk about because it can involve people in the past who we’ve held in such veneration.”
Read the full article in The Guardian.