More Ballet And Body Weight Related Legal Action

Apropos to my post yesterday about Richmond Ballet dancers suing the organization for exerting so much pressure about their weight, there was another story a couple weeks ago that I forgot where the Executive Director and Artistic Director of the Cleveland Ballet were suspended after they chose not to renew the contract of a dancer who was hired to teach outreach classes at the Boys and Girls Club due to her weight.  After advocating to retain the dancer, the Outreach Director was told his contract would not be renewed either.

The events that led up to learning that news from Becker started at a School of Cleveland Ballet staff meeting on Aug.  1, where Guadalupe saw a photo of Harris teaching the tendu movement that was included in Becker’s outreach newsletter.

“[Gladisa] told me that she could not release the newsletter I had been working on, that the mockup was no good. She simply said, ‘the tendu picture,’ and I knew what she was gunning for at that point,” Becker said.  “I even asked the Artistic Director, ‘It seems like you’re insinuating that someone’s size or body weight would somehow be able to disqualify them,’ and before I could even finish my sentence, she’s just nodding. I was told that this fine teacher did not have the physical aesthetic required to teach tendu and pliés to the Boys and Girls Club children.”


Two days later, Becker wrote down what happened at the meeting and hand-delivered his account in a letter to Lilia Shtarkman in the Cleveland Ballet’s human resources department, but he never received a reply. He also tried but failed to meet with their HR consultant, Lana Krasnyansky Sokolinsky — who is Michael Krasnyansky’s daughter and Guadalupe’s step-daughter — before Becker was told his own contract would not be renewed as manager of the outreach program.

The news article goes on to note that while Cleveland Ballet has a policy of not discriminating against people who are members of protected classes, body size is not a protected class. Still the Ballet board conducted an internal investigation and engaged outside counsel to also investigate. Ultimately, the board decided to suspend the artistic and executive director pending the results of that investigation.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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