Prominent Male Ballet Dancer Thrives, Gets ‘Raucous Standing Ovation’ After Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Despite his nude photo-sharing scandal, the New York Times called Amar Ramasar “one of City Ballet’s most beloved stars” after his retirement.

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Prominent Male Ballet Dancer Thrives, Gets ‘Raucous Standing Ovation’ After Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Photo:Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images (Getty Images)

There’s been a lot of eulogizing lately of a time before the #MeToo movement, when men in positions of power could do whatever they wanted without fear of being accused of harassment, abuse, or assault. But that world, in which women did not have the public support to come forward with allegations of abuse, no longer seems like it’s in need of eulogizing at all.

The ballet world, of course, has its own set of sexual misconduct apologists and recovered perpetrators. Ballet’s first major #MeToo movement was started by dancer Alexandra Waterbury, who filed a lawsuit against the New York City Ballet and some of its male dancers in 2018 for their involvement in the sharing of nude images and sexually explicit videos of her. At least one of those accused men appears to be doing just fine: NYCB principal Amar Ramasar, who gave his first interview since he was named in Waterbury’s suit to the New York Times on Wednesday.

The article describes Ramasar as “a popular City Ballet dancer who was caught up in a scandal,” “one of City Ballet’s most beloved stars,” and as having taken his final bows before retiring from City Ballet last month to a “raucous standing ovation, with a crowd of supporters standing behind him.” In the article, Ramasar “expressed contrition” for his behavior in 2018, saying he intended to make “amends with those he had hurt.”

Ramasar, who was initially fired from City Ballet in the wake of the lawsuit and later reinstated with help from his union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, claimed he was working on becoming a “more considerate person.” While that work was not described in detail, the article notes that City Ballet reportedly allowed dancers to opt out of working with Ramasar if they felt uncomfortable. In the same paragraph as his unspecific apology, Ramasar “lament[s] what he described as the public mischaracterizations of what he had done.”

What he had done, according to the lawsuit filed by Waterbury, who was a student at the School of American Ballet, was encourage fellow City Ballet principal dancer Chase Finlay (Waterbury’s boyfriend at the time) to send sexually explicit content of Waterbury via text message—which Finlay allegedly did without Waterbury’s consent or knowledge. Ramasar was 36-years-old at the time, while Waterbury was 20. Waterbury also alleged that Ramasar had engaged with other vulgar texts about female dancers and had sent Finlay explicit photos of a NYCB corps de ballet dancer.

Waterbury’s complaint argued that the actions of both Finlay and Ramasar weren’t just a “misstep in judgment,” but a symptom of a “fraternity-like” workplace that she says City Ballet was responsible for enabling, if not actively fostering. While a judge dropped Ramasar from the case as a defendant, Waterbury had hoped to prove that City Ballet had failed to protect her and that the actions of its male dancers weren’t just punishable, but entirely predictable based on past conduct. In ballet, where dancers are often required to be physically close to fellow dancers and their choreographers both for partnering sections and in training environments, abuses of power or inappropriate touching often get passed off as part of the process. While Ramasar owned up to “playfully” slapping other dancers on their rears “like the New York Yankees,” he did not publicly apologize to City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, who alleged that Ramasar had repeatedly touched her breasts in class for years in her 2021 memoir—an allegation that Ramasar again denied in his recent interview with the Times.

Waterbury believed the institutional culture of City Ballet—the same culture that led its former artistic director Peter Martins to silently retire amidst physical and sexual abuse allegations, including by Pazcoguin, all of which he has deniedwas an underlying culprit in the violation of her body and right to privacy. But a judge dismissed City Ballet as a defendant in the case in 2020. Earlier this year, however, an appellate court reinstated City Ballet as a defendant, finding that City Ballet “knew of its employees’–principal ballet dancers’—harmful propensities, failed to take appropriate action, and caused her harm,” according to a court filing. And those harmful propensities, despite his dismissal from the suit, include the actions of one Amar Ramasar. (Interestingly, the Times had not acknowledged this news until Wednesday’s article, which was published over a month after the court’s decision.)

This is the same Amar Ramasar who, despite protests and being inaccurately called a “rapist,” successfully starred in a Broadway production of “West Side Story,” produced by none other than Scott Rudin, who was outed as an abusive boss the following year. This is the same Ramasar who is set to enjoy a spectacular second-life at the Carolina Ballet, where he will be coaching the works of George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, two of City Ballet’s foundational choreographers. The role required the approval of the George Balanchine Trust and the Jerome Robbins Foundation, which hold the rights to their ballets. Carolina Ballet said he would be staging “Emeralds” and “Agon,” and working alongside Robert La Fosse to help set “The Concert” and “Afternoon of a Faun.” (We have requested comments from all three organizations, as well as Ramasar). And this is the same Ramasar who, in the face of a running list of allegations, enjoyed the privilege of retiring from City Ballet “on his own terms,” according to the Times.

On the eve of his last performance, Ramasar ended the night with none other than former City Ballet principal dancer Zachary Catazaro, who was fired after being named in the Waterbury suit for a text he received about female ballet dancers in which Jared Longhitano, a junior board member of NYCB, wrote: “I bet we could tie some of them up and abuse them like farm animals.” Like Ramasar, Catazaro was also reinstated by the union, but ultimately chose to leave the company.

Another embattled figure was in the audience that night: none other than Peter Martins himself. Ramasar reportedly intended to bring Martins onstage, but City Ballet told the Times that would not be allowed. Instead, Ramasar settled for a public hug with Martins in the audience. “It was more than I could ever have dreamed of,” Ramasar told the Times of his final performance, closing his thorny career with the City Ballet with one last rosy bow in the presence of two other so-called “cancelled” men, out enjoying a classy night at the ballet.

In many ways, this story isn’t about Ramasar at all, but about the women who, unlike the former principal, will be defined by their allegations for the rest of their lives. Because the truth is that you don’t have to be a rapist or a “sexual predator” to prove that you do not respect women. You also, unfortunately, do not have to be a good person to excel in an environment that enables men in powerful positions. And when you fall from one storied balletic institution, it must be quite comforting to know that plenty of other prestigious ballet companies will happily scoop you up into their arms, ready to present you to the world anew and to continue the cycle of misconduct for the next generation.

What if we imagined, instead, what it’s like to be Waterbury? To have been all but banned from ballet’s exclusive club because she dared to speak up. Or Pazcoguin, who performed and practiced throughout the 2022 season on the same stages and in the same rooms as a man who, to this day, says he never touched her inappropriately?

Ramasar says he was called a rapist after simply making a “terrible mistake.” But Ramasar’s story contains echoes of the stories of Brock Turner, of Trent Mays, of Matthew Barnett—of men who (for much more serious allegations) were allowed to more or less move on. But what did Ramasar really lose? In fact, the better question is: What did he win? And the answer, unfortunately, is a hell of a lot of opportunities and supporters. Or, as the Times puts it: “The audience’s warm reception…was a reminder that, whatever his difficulties offstage or within the company, he had remained a fan favorite.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Zachary Catazaro sent a text message about female NYCB dancers. It was Jared Longhitano, a junior board member of NYCB, who sent the message, which began, “I bet we could tie some of them up.” Catazaro and Finlay both received the message from Longhitano in a group text.

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