Alexandra Waterbury talks sexual assault, harassment in ballet at Berkeley Forum

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Renowned ballet dancer, Columbia University junior and fashion model Alexandra Waterbury spoke about the origins of her sexual harassment lawsuit against the New York City Ballet, or NYCB, at a Berkeley Forum event Thursday.

Ankita Inamdar, the Berkeley Forum vice president of finance, invited Waterbury after being inspired by the many women who came out during the #MeToo movement. Inamdar said she was unaware of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault and wants to continue the conversation to change women’s treatment in various professions.

Waterbury explained the origins of her lawsuit, which was filed in 2018. It started when she found group chats between her now ex-boyfriend Chase Finlay, Zachary Catazaro and Amar Ramasar, all of whom were male dancers with NYCB at the time. According to Waterbury, these men allegedly shared intimate photos and videos of her and other female dancers without their consent, apparently equivocating some women to farm animals.”

According to Waterbury, Finlay stepped down from his position a few days before the lawsuit was filed, whereas Catazaro and Ramasar were suspended and later fired.

Catazaro and Ramasar were reinstated, however, after a union arbitration took place that did not take any evidence from Waterbury’s lawsuit. Waterbury said Catazaro chose to continue dancing in Europe and Ramasar resumed his position at NYCB.

“This is what sexual assault of the 21st century looks like and it happens more often than you know,” Waterbury said at the event.

To examine ballet’s internal and external environment, where toxic masculinity is created, Waterbury used Christine Williams’ study “The Glass Escalator” as a framework of her speech. The study focuses on the societal phenomenon in which heterosexual men who enter female-dominated job sectors glide past their female colleagues in an invisible “escalator.”

“Chase Finlay very much benefited from his sex and gender performance within the dance world,” Waterbury said. “Chase rode what Williams described as the glass escalator. Where women often have trouble breaking through the glass ceiling in male-dominated industries, Williams found men actually were lifted up by their rarity in female-dominated industries.”

Waterbury explained that many male ballet dancers, by profession or hobby, are ridiculed and stereotyped as homosexual. In NYCB’s web series, Finlay and Ramasar seem to separate themselves from this stigma by appearing to brag about spending their days “lifting women.”

Audience member and Sausalito resident Victoria Vann Kuja said Waterbury’s story personally touched her. Kuja explained that she knows a Bay Area dancer who has been with her company for three years but has yet to receive a promotion, whereas her male counterparts have apparently “immediately gotten more money.”

While Waterbury’s story is closely associated with the #MeToo movement, she said her focus is on a larger scale.

“I would like to see people of all sexual orientations, genders and gender expressions living their lives to the fullest by pursuing their passions,” Waterbury said. “I would hope to see acceptance among colleagues inside their respective fields and acceptance from people outside of their fields. Changes in law and culture will only further the progress of our people.”

Contact Maxine Mouly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @moulymaxine.