17 May 2021
By Nancy Dobbs Owen
The dance world is undergoing a reckoning and one of the voices leading the way is President & Founder of Dance Data Project® (DDP), Elizabeth Yntema. Ms. Yntema is an advocate for women in ballet and by extension all of those outside of the power structure. DDP recently posted an important new resource on their site, a multi layered section focused on both student and professional dancer safety, particularly in regard to sexual harassment and assault. It includes a Best Practices Guideline for Schools and Companies, a page of links and resources, and an Inclusive Technique Class Checklist. In addition to the website additions, Ms. Yntema interviewed Emma Lister and Zoë Ashe Brown of the Movers, Shakers, Makers podcast on May 6 about mental health and sexual assault in the ballet world. You can watch the interview on the website or on YouTube. Both podcasters are professional dancers, choreographers and educators, working in England, the UK and Europe. Ms. Lister, after training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and a freelance career in England, runs Make//Shift company with her husband, circus artist Sakari Männistö. Ms. Ashe Brown is a ballerina and choreographer currently dancing with the Royal Ballet of Flanders and choreographing with the support of The Arts Council of Ireland and Dance Ireland.
I spoke with Ms. Yntema on May 11 regarding the Best Practices Guide and her ideas for moving forward as an industry that often permits or dismisses harm done to its most vulnerable community members. Our discussion took place in the aftermath of British choreographer Liam Scarlett’s death and the day before the conviction of former English National Ballet principal dancer Yat-Sen Chang for sexual assault in England. This follows numerous scandals in the United States over the last several years, the most infamous at NYCB. As both a lawyer and an advocate for women’s rights in ballet, Ms. Yntema is in a unique position to guide the industry and by extension, the country, forward.
“If organizations knew or should have known about assault, they may be criminally liable. There is a duty to investigate, document, and be transparent about their findings once they receive a report. Failure to act opens the organization to potentially catastrophic consequences.”
Read the full write-up here.