Joan Acocella has brought jaw-dropping secrets from backstage to center stage in her graphic New Yorker article regarding the scandals and unethical behaviors at the New York City Ballet (Feb. 18 and 25th edition). I am left thinking about what can be done to change the attitudes, behaviors, silences, accusations, and, to date, non-resolutions of the depravity and unethical situations she describes.
I ponder the vicissitudes of unrestrained narcissism and abuse in asymmetrical relationships. In this context, the phenomenon of the “star performer” is a factor to consider as we think about public or authority figures who violate another’s body, dignity, privacy, and civil rights. What is our fascination with fame? Why are so many people “addicted” to the lure of celebrity? Why are we so mesmerized with some famous performers that ethical violations frequently are tolerated and kept secret? Is this the high price paid by some who strive for success in their careers and look to trusted mentors, employers, and teachers to help them network and find jobs in the arts, a profession notorious for low pay and limited professional opportunity?
Most mentors, employers, celebrities, and teachers do NOT engage in unethical practices and honorably tend to the welfare of their students or employees. However, for those persons who have been seriously mistreated, the effects are traumatic and can be life-changing.
Hopefully Ms. Acocella’s article will propel transparent discussions and healing actions by boards, artists, teachers, institutions, and audiences to reassess our idealization and infatuation with fame and replace it with greater understanding of the power of the arts and artists to connect us with our most noble instincts.
If you are a member of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), you are welcome to attend my presentation at the upcoming Conference in Spokane, Washington. I will be joined by attorney Annika Schorasch to discuss #Me Too: Challenges for Music Teachers. The #Me Too Movement presents complex and serious challenges and responsibilities for all of us.