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.

Isn’t It Better To Be Damned If You Do Try

Chad Bauman, Executive Director at Milwaukee Rep made a post on LinkedIn today where he acknowledged that making a change in a business model can threaten the existence of an organization, but that changing times and expectations often leave you no choice.  While he is talking about the current challenges performing arts organizations face, he cites a series of decisions Milwaukee Rep faced in its early years that nearly saw the end of the theater.

Milwaukee Rep had a similar crisis nearly a decade after its founding. In its earliest years, it built a large audience based on the star system bringing big stars to Milwaukee to perform. In 1961, the star system was abruptly ended and a resident acting company was founded. In less than a year, the theater lost 60,000 patrons, or two-thirds of its audience. It took seven years for the theater to rebuild its audience and it nearly went bankrupt on multiple occasions. The decision was a correct one as the theater would eventually grow to more than 150,000 patrons, but it almost collapsed along the way.

The star system was common practice in theater in the late 19th century that waned rather than something Milwaukee Rep specifically was doing and decided to end. While the star system is most frequently associated with film studios, they adopted it from theater which apparently borrowed the concept from P.T. Barnum.

I have seen stories similar to this in which arts organizations made decisions 10-15 years ago to make changes in their business models or change their programming mix to include segments of their community which were underrepresented in their audience and casting. They too came to the brink of closing.

There is obviously a bit of survivorship bias to some of these cases. Those that didn’t succeed in the shift weren’t around to talk about it later. With all the closures, downgrading, layoffs, etc that arts organizations are undergoing, we are hearing of many more stories of arts organizations who are having difficulty continuing their existence than we did 10-15 years ago. Some of them were in the middle of trying to effect change, others were trying to stick with what worked in the past so there is no clear indication about which approach may be better in these times.

Some that haven’t closed completely may reorganize and continue on as Milwaukee Rep did. I am sure no one wants to be faced with the prospect of it taking seven years and several brushes with bankruptcy to make a successful transition.   From one perspective though, it might be better to fail while trying to do better for your community rather than attempting to preserve the status quo for as long as possible.

Apparently Work Still Required At Newfields Museum

Well apparently my optimism about the direction of the Indianapolis Museum at Newfields was a little premature. In late September I wrote about how the museum had just hired. Belinda Tate, a new director who it was hoped would help the museum move past the controversy surround a job posting in 2021 which said they were ““…seeking a director who would work not only to attract a more diverse audience but to maintain its “traditional, core, white art audience.’”

Tate was joining CEO/President Colette Pierce Burnette, who had replaced previous CEO who resigned due to the controversy. Unfortunately, as of about 10 days ago,  Burnette resigned after about 15 months in her position and was joined by three board members.

While neither Burnette or the museum discussed the specifics of her departure, Adrienne Sims, the latest board member to resign wrote in her resignation that:

“As a seasoned HR executive, I believe in the importance of strong HR practices, collaborative decision-making and adherence to proper governance procedures for the well-being of the organization. Recent leadership decisions were not made in an inclusive and consultative manner, which has been disheartening,” she said.

“I hope that in the future, decisions of this nature will be approached with integrity and demonstrate a commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect for all.”


Julie Goodman, president and CEO of Indy Arts Council, weighed in on Burnette’s departure in a Facebook post following the museum’s announcement demanding transparency and calling out what she said was “callous and cold communication fueling a cycle of trauma and harm.”

So it appears that there was at least some awareness that elements of the museum’s internal culture still required attention in order for the organization to move forward.

A number of Indianapolis based Black organizations issued a statement calling for clarity about Burnette’s departure and “..the Indiana Black Expo and Indianapolis Urban League announced they have brought their partnerships with Newfields “to a complete halt” due to the sudden departure of the museum’s CEO.”

Unisex Restrooms Look A Little More Attractive When You’re Waiting On A Long Line

A couple weeks ago, Rainer Glaap posted a link to a news story about people in Germany advocating for unisex restrooms.  It wasn’t so much about wanting to provide spaces for people identifying with differing genders, but because the lines for the women’s room at public events are too dang long! (Article in German so you’ll have to run it through a translator if you browser doesn’t have one built in)

The waiting women agree: “It’s annoying, but what do you want to do? Well, you could make unisex toilets,” says one. “It’s not just at concerts – the women’s toilet is always full,” says another. “Personally, it wouldn’t bother me if everyone used one toilet because I notice that it’s quicker, especially in men’s toilets, and I think: Why can’t I just go to the other one?” asks another.


If women didn’t always have to go past the urinals, many people in the queue would simply go to where something was free anyway. “As far as I’m concerned, you could just have gender-neutral, shared toilets. That would be fine for me,” says a waiting woman, or: “We’ve already gone into the men’s toilet. What are we left with? A solution would be more toilets.” “I would also like unisex toilets, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

Other than the obvious observation that this issue seems to be near universal since I have posted similar stories from England as well as a history of women’s lounges, what was somewhat interesting about this story was the suggestion that the number of restrooms is limited to the official regulations for insurance reasons.

According to the regulation, for example, there must be twelve toilets for 1,000 women. However, eight toilets and twelve urinals are required for 1,000 men. So there are more sanitary installations for men in the same space.


Meeting places such as theaters or concert halls are free to build more toilets than required, but for insurance reasons they always build as closely as possible to the DIN standard and the regulation, says Illing-Moritz. The building regulations therefore urgently need to be adapted. It has long been scientifically proven that women have a greater need for toilets. With the third gender category “diverse”, an adjustment would also be needed there.

I am not quite sure what sort of hazard a venue might be flirting with by adding more toilets. I am sure many attendees would suggest there is a greater risk associated with not being able to get to a stall in a timely manner. The article also notes that people spend so much time standing online, they don’t have an opportunity to buy drinks and other things which would enhance revenue.

I would also observe that there is an increased chance these days that people will observe it is a lot easier to get into their restroom at home and stay there instead of venturing out to a performance venue. So if the opportunity presents itself to add some more accommodations to restrooms, some venues may decide it outweighs whatever issues insurance might present.