CriticalDance Forum

Allegations of drug abuse
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Author:  ksneds [ Thu Jul 07, 2011 8:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Allegations of drug abuse

The Politken appears to be making a splash with allegations of widespread cocaine abuse and imminent large scale departures at the RDB. Supposedly the company did an internal report, which suggests a significant problem. ... ge-ballet/ ... -paa-coke/ ... inmisbrug/ ... kokainsag/
This article is setting the paper up for trouble since article is about Nilas Martins' arrest, but uses a picture of, I think, Alexander Ritter. Not good to misidentify someone when you're talking about a drug arrest.

It's hard to tell whether this is a complete fabrication, a huge blow up of a minor problem or the truth. The company - or rather the school - has certainly been the subject of salacious rumour-mongering before. Several years ago there was a series of articles alleging abuse etc. at the ballet school. If I remember correctly, there was a brief investigation of sorts, which clearly turned up nothing, as the whole kit n' kaboodle never surfaced in newsprint again. Then there were some negative reactions to certain scenes in recent documentaries about the company - which I might add, didn't sugar coat much. And with the tour over, news of real interest tending to be slow in the summer, and quite potentially, the desire for the newspapers to escape from the important and unpleasant stories (i.e. right wingers, new border controls) - the ballet is ripe fodder for gossip. It's much more fun and attention grabbing to write about ballet gossip than to address the no-easy-solution problems like immigration and finances.

Now, I'd be shocked if there wasn't some drug use going on - this is a group mainly of teenagers, 20 and 30-somethings after all. And it was Nilas Martins at NYCB - when Hübbe was still a company member - who got arrested for cocaine possession. But I'd be hard-pressed to think that a significant chunk of the company could be having such a problem and the company still performing at such a high level. (Apparently they had some not entirely stellar nights on tour, but the reviews from the season at home were very positive, as were the majority of the tour reviews - and the criticisms tended to be leveled at the productions, not the dancing).

We'll know within a couple of months if the departures are true - the company returns to rehearsals late this month and starts performances in August. My feeling is that this is a case of a paper looking for stories, and an internal report of which the contents are not being revealed. As one of the articles mentions, there are very valid reasons for a company conducting internal reports on health and other issues. Eating disorders are hardly unheard of, the company has had issues with injuries, and after a couple of years with a new director, it's very valid to want to gauge the feelings of the company about the new directorship. Remember that both dancers and director are civil servants, and performance reviews are par for the course when you work for the government.

However, again for very valid reasons - privacy foremost, particularly when health issues are concerned - those reports are often not to be released beyond the company, consultant and here, the government. And this is what the press hates - and loves to make a story out of. (Heavy sarcasm)If a report or info is not publically released - it simply must contain something damning.(Heavy sarcasm). In my field - public health - this is a frequent problem, because info on outbreaks and/or other issues may not always be released or released promptly, for a number of honest reasons. And inevitably, the press jumps on this and assumes there's a huge cover-up.

There may well also be some less than thrilled dancers when it comes to Hübbe. The company had enjoyed a relatively "lax" work environment, but Hübbe has been outspoken about wanting to (and apparently being successful), at making the work situation more strict in terms of enforcing attendance at company class among other things. That said, the RDB's work hours and conditions reflect the norm in Northern Europe, as opposed to longer work hours & less vacation in North America (for dancers and non-dancers alike). So there might be some sour grapes. No huge shocker. In every work place, someone isn't fond of the boss.

However, I think the company is going to have to come clean in some way. Hübbe has certainly been outspoken, and came from a ballet scene in NYC where cocaine certainly was not unheard of, as per the very public arrest of Nilas Martins, and alcohol abuse was also not unheard of (as per the arrest of Martins Sr.). Unlike, in the US, director and dancers are civil servants, so they have to live up to the standards of the government, not of private funders. Which may be a shock, particular to dancers coming from outside Europe - who are used to answering only to the artistic director. And I think, regardless of the truth, the dancers better be much more aware of their behavior, because in this era of financial instability and the right wing shift that has ensued, arts are no longer safe anywhere, especially when the government is the primary source of funds. Not to mention that the average Dane is not likely to be very sympathetic with the perceived "easy life" of a dancer - i.e. pension at 40, couple of months off etc.

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Allegations of drug abuse

I would be surprised if there were no drug abuse at all as dancers are no different to other sections of society within Europe where an increasingly relaxed attitude to drugs prevails. Having worked with two dance companies in my life, one modern and one classical, I have certainly encountered drug and substance abuse but the attitudes of the AD’s concerned could not have been more different as one would have simply accepted it whereas the other would have cracked a couple of heads together had he caught the guys in question. It would surprise me if this turns out to be prevalent amongst the RDB dancers, more likely some journalist got wind of an isolated occurrence and is creating a story out of very little. I suppose there is an equivalent of the silly season in the Danish press and we are moving towards it.

Alcohol abuse is a very different story and in particular the wheels of the Russian ballet machine are well oiled by vodka. Those with booze problems are many and varied and occasionally the general public gets to know about it e.g. the Martins case or in the autobiography of the late John Gilpin, but with alcohol not staying in the bloodstream as long as drugs it is often less easy to detect.

I’m sure there are dancers that don’t get on with Hubbe as new bosses like to change the status quo, but I would need to know the numbers and calibre of these forthcoming leavers before I started to wonder if he is getting things wrong or not. Having watched Hubbe in action I consider him a first rate coach but I’ve heard rumours of disquiet over casting decisions from certain fans of the company.

Perhaps your definition of ‘lax’ is a little different from mine Kate, I have to say that from classes I’ve attended both pre and post Nikolai Hubbe the work ethic seemed remarkably strong with none of those shows of temperament among certain dancers that I’ve witnessed in other companies (of course they may have been on best behaviour with a visitor sitting in).

The very uneven reviews they received on the US tour were perplexing, though the company still retains a style of its own and that style may not have found favour with critics that were unfamiliar with it. If there is a bigger problem then I imagine some action will need to be taken.

Author:  LMCtech [ Fri Jul 08, 2011 12:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Allegations of drug abuse

Oh good, a fun ballet scandal. That of course probably isn't one.

Thank you both for your thoughtful analyses. I suspect this is much ado about nothing. It is unreasonable to suspect that young professional are not indulging in some recreational drug use. Why should ballet be different from investment banking? If it isn't affecting the quality of the work or the work environment, then it isn't a problem. Just like in investment banking.

If this does prove to be a fabrication or exaggeration, is the legal recourse for anyone mentioned in the article or for the company?

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Allegations of drug abuse

As to 'lax', I was referring to the situation prior to Hübbe - which I don't think anyone would deny - where attendance at company class was not what it should have been. Certainly, dancers at companies like NYCB also don't go to company class, but they tend to be going to other classes - and I don't think are any other options for class in Copenhagen. And, at least under Andersen, the vibe around the theatre was quite relaxed - I don't have much to compare it to, so I don't know whether it was too relaxed or par for the course.

However, I would agree, that in class, the RDB dancers work as hard, if not harder, than dancers at any other company.

LMC Tech - I don't know about libel law in Denmark, but such allegations wouldn't be flung around so loosely in the UK. My feeling is that things are less strict in Denmark, otherwise the so-called stories about the school would have made some lawyers very rich.

As to the drug use - as I mentioned, unlike investment bankers, the dancers are civil servants. And when you are paid by the government, the expectations are different - fair or not, public behavior is fair game for scrutiny. It's also quite possible that they may have drug testing, as is the case in some businesses.

Author:  LMCtech [ Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Allegations of drug abuse

I did not remember that the Danish dancers are public servants. I guess that could change expectations quite a bit.

And I was thinking the same thing about British libel law.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Jul 10, 2011 2:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Allegations of drug abuse

A follow-up story in the Copenhagen Post.

Copenhagen Post

Author:  LMCtech [ Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Allegations of drug abuse

Why does this seem like such a non-story to me? Am I just jaded.

Also, and completely off topic, he is wearing an awesome scarf and I want to knit one.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Aug 10, 2011 12:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Allegations of drug abuse

Further discussion by Jennifer Buley in the Copenhagen Post.

Copenhagen Post

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