In the wake of allegations of sexual harassment leveled at two former members of the dance company Nick Lazzarini, known for his choreography in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Jersey Boys, was suddenly put on indefinite leave from his New York City Ballet tour on Monday night.
Announced via an open letter sent from the New York City Ballet and written by board member Diana DiMenna, Lazzarini’s absence came hours after the first of several allegations against him was published. The article, written by Jeanne Wolf for The New York Times, detailed the alleged abuse by Lazzarini of Tasha Schwikert, an actress and dancer who last worked with the company in 2017.
Lazzarini has previously denied his conduct with Schwikert was inappropriate.
Lazzarini was put on leave alongside company executive director Glenn Thompson. Both have since stepped down from their positions.
“Our board takes allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct very seriously and we are appalled that anyone would come forward with such detailed, detailed allegations,” Lazzarini wrote in a statement provided to The Times.
Lazzarini’s comments come on the heels of a pending investigation by dance journal The Star, which has been reporting over the last six months on several of the former dancers’ alleged experiences with the choreographer. They interviewed multiple former dancers for the article and took hundreds of photos with Lazzarini. The Globe, however, has yet to receive a response to an email message. The business partners of the company, Latterell & Haggie, which is owned by Lazzarini, are said to be investigating allegations of the executive director. It is currently unclear whether Thompson or Lazzarini will both resign.
“A lot of the same people at this company say this is the same company that I dance for. Now, three months later, it’s a lot of people that they don’t have in their favor.” – Tasha Schwikert, former member
Schwikert, the first former dancer to go public, did not agree to a sit-down interview with The Star.
The article does not name all of the former dancers who are alleged to have endured inappropriate behavior, but the Globe said that Schwikert, who danced with the company from 2010 to 2012, was the only dancer to whom it spoke.
In an interview with The Times, Schwikert, who said she was 13 at the time, said Lazzarini “was very touchy-feely, and would rub my legs and my arm or touch my hip.”
“At a certain point, I thought that was how dancers talk to each other,” she said. “It just happened over and over. The worst part of it was that I was also his girlfriend, and he was making it clear that it was only because of me that he was doing it. He liked my body, so he had to touch it.”
Schwikert said she was devastated when she was asked to perform in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 2015, and that she quit performing soon after.
“A lot of the same people at this company say this is the same company that I dance for,” she said. “Now, three months later, it’s a lot of people that they don’t have in their favor.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.
With each new encounter of abuse, one step forward and another step back