It seems as if every day brings another story about a public figure being accused of sexual harassment. The dance world isn't immune - we've seen scandal after scandal (New York City Ballet recently fired several dancers over a photo scandal, and just a few weeks ago, a Royal Winnipeg ballet teacher was accused of pressuring students into nude photos). And there's more; this weekend, the New York Times broke a story detailing accusations against Belgian choreographer and visual artist Jan Fabre.
Fabre, who is 59 and is currently the director of his company Troubleyn, is a highly regarded figure both in his own country and around the world. As a choreographer, he's known for his evocative and controversial pieces, many of which includes nudity and violence. He's also gained respect as a visual artist - in 2008, he was the first living artist to have a solo exhibition displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris. He even created a work of art for the entryway of the Royal Palace of Brussels... made out of over a million beetles. He's received a number of high honors, including the Grand Officer in the Order of the Crown from the Royal family of Belgium.
However, it looks like trouble is brewing. On September 12th, eight former members of his dance company published a signed public letter in Belgian magazine Rekto Verso that detailed years of sexual harassment. In addition to the eight named dancers, the letter was also signed anonymously by 12 current or former members of the company.
The letter states that, in addition to being verbally abusive and belligerent during rehearsal, Mr. Fabre pressured dancers to take provocative photos in exchange for money, or better parts in various projects. The company denies the allegations, stating that any photography projects the dancers may have participated in were public, and that he did not offer roles in exchange for sexual acts. Mr. Fabre responded with a statement: “It was never my intention to intimidate or hurt people psychologically or sexually. I would like to urge women who claim my behavior was unacceptable to use the available procedures. I will fully cooperate.” Stay tuned.
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