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Liam Scarlett Suspended From The Royal Ballet Over Claims of Inappropriate Behavior With Students

Liam Scarlett in rehearsal for The Age of Anxiety in 2014. Bill Cooper, courtesy of The Royal Ballet

Yesterday The Times reported that Royal Ballet artist in residence Liam Scarlett has been suspended from the company since last August, following allegations of inappropriate behavior with students. The company brought in the employment firm Linda Harvey Associates to conduct an independent investigation, which is still underway. No findings have yet been made against Scarlett.

Australia's Queensland Ballet, where Scarlett is artistic associate, has also suspended its relationship with the choreographer, and San Francisco Ballet just announced that they're replacing Scarlett's Hummingbird in the company's February program.

A former Royal Ballet School student told The Times that Scarlett encouraged him to send him an intimate photograph, and that Scarlett had shared sexual messages with at least 10 male students via Facebook. Scarlett is also being accused of commenting on dancers' genitalia, touching their backsides and walking in on them changing. "As a dancer you are trained to say yes to everything," the former student told The Times. "Because it's so competitive you can't lose an opportunity, so when someone with a lot of power asks you to do something you are pre-programmed to do it."

Scarlett, 33, graduated from The Royal Ballet School in 2005, where he won several choreographic awards. He joined the company the same year and was promoted to first artist in 2008. In 2012, he stepped back from dancing to become The Royal Ballet's first artist in residence, and in 2014 he became the youngest choreographer to create a full-length ballet on the company with the debut of his Frankenstein. In recent years he's been celebrated for his new production of Swan Lake and work on Disney's The Nutcracker & The Four Realms. According to The Guardian, rehearsals for Scarlett's new production of Oklahoma were postponed in August, at the time that the inquiry was opened. The company said the change in programming was due to a scheduling conflict.

Scarlett is the next in what is becoming a long list of dancers, choreographers and directors in the ballet world accused of sexual misconduct since the start of the #MeToo movement. Court proceedings for Alexandra Waterbury's lawsuit against New York City Ballet, former NYCB principals Chase Finlay and Zachary Catazaro, current NYCB principal Amar Ramasar, NYCB donor Jared Longhitano and the School of American Ballet are currently underway. Earlier this week protestors rallied against Ramasar's casting in the West Side Story Broadway revival; a Change.org petition to remove Ramasar from the stage has already gathered nearly 24,000 signatures. This news followed in the wake of Peter Martins' retirement as NYCB's ballet master in chief amid sexual misconduct allegations, and former American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes' resignation after an allegation of sexual misconduct. We'll continue to keep you updated as more of Scarlett's story is revealed in the coming days.



Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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