Opera ballet

Paris Opera dancers complain of harassment and mismanagement

Sexual and verbal harassment. A lack of support and care. Incompetence. These are just some of the accusations leveled against the management of the Paris Opera and the company’s artistic director, Aurélie Dupont, in an anonymous internal questionnaire that caused furor in the French media after being leaked to journalists. last week.

“The current director seems to have no managerial skills, and no desire to acquire any” and “We are no longer children!” were among the scathing remarks.

Although the results were intended for internal use, the 179-page document was sent to the media shortly after it was distributed to the company’s 154 dancers, 108 of whom responded. After Le Figaro contacted the ballet company for comment, the Paris Opera released a statement on Saturday, signed by 99 dancers, stating that “the disclosure of this questionnaire was without the consent of the dancers” and that “it has been intentionally deployed to harm the institution and the dancers.

The Paris Opera Ballet questionnaire was carried out by the company’s Artistic Expression Committee, four dancers elected by their peers each season with the mandate to liaise between the dancers and the artistic director. On Tuesday, the four, whose names have not been made public, resigned from the committee.

The level of dissatisfaction revealed by the questionnaire is striking. Nearly 90% answered no to the question “Do you think you benefit from quality management?” More specifically, 77% said they had been verbally harassed or witnessed verbal harassment of a colleague by Paris Opera staff, while 26% said they had been sexually harassed or witnessed at work.

These accusations come in a tense climate for the ballet world, which has not remained immune to the #MeToo movement. In December, Peter Martins retired from his position as chief ballet master of the New York City Ballet, following allegations of abuse and harassment; after an investigation, the company said the charges were unsubstantiated. Tamara Rojo, the director of the English National Ballet, has come under scrutiny over her relationship with a company dancer. And in March, Kenneth Greve, the director of the National Ballet of Finland, was removed from his leadership role after accusations of improper conduct by dancers.

Stéphane Lissner, the director of the Paris Opera, said in an interview with Le Monde that he had learned of three cases of sexual harassment since the appointment of Ms. Dupont in 2016, after the resignation of Benjamin Millepied, the former principal of the New York City Ballet whose attempts to modernize aspects of the Paris Opera Ballet have met with controversy and widespread internal resistance. Two of the harassment cases, Lissner said, had led to the perpetrators being fired and a third was still under investigation. “There is zero tolerance,” he said.

But 87% of respondents said the procedures for dealing with harassment were not clear enough or confidential enough to encourage reporting of such incidents.

Racism was not specifically addressed in the questionnaire, which included questions on issues such as arts policy, the quality of cafeteria food and the cleanliness of bathrooms. (A crushing nudge on the last two counts.) But two dancers mention the frequency of offhand racist remarks in the sections in which they are asked for additional thoughts.

Issues of racism and diversity were highlighted by Mr Millepied during his tenure, although Mr Lissner denied there was any bias at the company.

“We will of course think about the organization and the reason for these tensions,” he told Le Monde, adding that Ms. Dupont had maintained “a high artistic level” and that subscription audiences had increased by 7%.

None of the dancers contacted for comment would speak on the record. Ms Dupont, who was due to hold a meeting with the dancers on Wednesday, did not respond to a request for an interview.