Today's The Times has dedicated an article to ballet, and featured it not in the Culture section but on its front pages. Good news? Not really.
“English National Ballet has lost a third of its dancers in two years amid claims of verbal abuse and a hostile working environment.”
The newspaper has had “confidential discussions with more than ten sources” so it seems not to be the ranting of a single dancer who didn't get the part.
Aside from dancers complaining that the Company's Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo, has created a climate where dancers feel under pressure to work even when injured, and that their complaints to management are ignored, there are issues with Rojo's romantic involvement with Lead Principal, Isaac Hernández.
The Times reports that current and former members of ENB have said they “felt uncomfortable with Ms Rojo's romantic relationship with the senior dancer Isaac Hernández and feared perceptions of a possible conflict of interest could have influenced the recent departures and compromised the organisation.”
Denying the allegations of a “hostile working environment”, ENB stated, “We take the safety and wellbeing of our dancers and everyone who works with us extremely seriously. We are committed to providing a safe environment, free of harassment and bullying of any sort, and respond to any specific concerns that are raised.”
It maybe that Rojo's honeymoon period is over, though a honeymoon that has lasted since 2012 is long by anyone's standards. She has transformed the Company's profile and repertory, and most new works have been greeted with acclaim.
According to documents shown to the newspaper, ENB's management was informed about the “dissatisfaction with the culture and concerns about the relationship between Ms Rojo, 43, and Hernández, 27, a direct subordinate” by some of the Company, saying that it “changed the dynamics of the company — and not for the better.” This was apparently the cause of several departures and the organisation's executive leadership said that “quick fixes” were needed. A source, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of damaging their careers, said, “That doesn't get at the heart of the problem.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.