New York City Ballet leader retires after misconduct claims surface

Peter Martins, the leader of the New York City Ballet, during a rehearsal in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Peter Martins, the leader of the New York City Ballet, during a rehearsal in Copenhagen, Denmark.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - After accusations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse, Peter Martins, the powerful leader of the New York City Ballet who shaped the company for more than three decades, has decided to retire.

"I have denied, and continue to deny, that I have engaged in any such misconduct," Martins, 71, said in a letter informing the board of his retirement, which takes effect immediately.

Mr Charles W. Scharf, chairman of the board, issued a statement thanking Martins for his contributions but noted the investigation was continuing.

Martins said in his letter: "I cooperated fully in the investigation and understand it will be completed shortly. I believe its findings would have vindicated me."

In his letter, he noted that the allegations had "inflicted on the ballet and the school - institutions which I love and to which I have devoted 50 years of my life - a tremendous toll of turmoil, disruption and expense."

He added: "It also has exacted a painful toll on me and my family."

He decided to retire to "bring an end to this disruption".

In recent interviews, 24 women and men - all former dancers at the company or its school - described a culture of intimidation under Martins, which they said had hurt the careers of generations of performers.

Vanessa Carlton, a former dancer with the company, recently sent an e-mail to Mr Robert I. Lipp, a vice chairman of City Ballet. "Every single ex-dancer that I know, including myself, will be devastated if Peter is allowed to waltz back into his office," she wrote.

But other dancers have defended him. "I've never felt in danger in his presence," said Megan Fairchild, who has been with the company for 16 years.

"He's the person I go to when I'm having trouble in the company or in life."