January 2, 2018 / 6:38 PM / 9 months ago

New York Ballet leader retires after claims of sexual, physical abuse

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Longtime New York City Ballet chief Peter Martins said on Monday he was retiring from the prestigious dance company and from the American School of Ballet, where he is chairman of faculty, after allegations of sexual harassment and verbal and physical abuse of dancers.

The allegations are being investigated by an independent lawyer retained by the two organizations last month, after the New York City Ballet said it had received an anonymous letter making "general, nonspecific allegations of sexual harassment" against Martins.

In a letter to the boards of both institutions dated Monday, provided to Reuters by the New York City Ballet, Martins said: "I have denied, and continue to deny that I engaged in any such misconduct." He described the allegations as "largely anonymous and decades-old."

Martins, 71, could not be reached for comment on Monday. Reuters was unable to independently confirm any of the allegations.

He is the latest of dozens of high-profile men in media, entertainment and politics that have retired, resigned or been fired in the past few months following accusations of sexual harassment or assault.

"To bring an end to this disruption which has enveloped the Ballet and the School, I have decided that it is time for me to retire," the Danish-born ballet dancer and choreographer wrote in the letter.

Charles Scharf, chairman of the New York City Ballet, credited Martins with a strong performance during his tenure of more than 30 years as its ballet master-in-chief.

"At the same time, the board takes seriously the allegations that have been made against him and we expect the independent investigation of those allegations to be completed soon," Scharf said in a statement.

Martins said he chose to take a leave of absence from both institutions since the investigation began.

"I cooperated fully in the investigation and understand it will be completed shortly," he said. "I believe its findings would have vindicated me."

Scharf said a search for a new ballet master-in-chief will begin soon.

Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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