Salon Talks: Wilhelmina Frankfurt

Did NYCB do enough to protect dancers?

After decades as director of the New York City Ballet, Peter Martins has retired amidst allegations of physical and sexual misconduct. In her first on-camera interview, a former dancer shared details of her allegations of abuse against Martins with Salon and discussed what needs to change about the culture and power dynamics of the dance world.

Wilhelmina Frankfurt, a former City Ballet dancer and current dance educator, joined Salon’s Alyona Minkovski on “Salon Talks.” In one incident, Frankfurt alleged that Martins “took me and pulled me into his dressing room and, exposed himself to me” during a performance.

Frankfurt says she didn’t report the incident at the time because there was no one to go to at NYCB, and the dynamics at the dance company placed all the power in the hands of the director. “It was too scary as a dancer because these people determine your life, and all you want to do is dance.”

Frankfurt also described witnessing Martins abuse other dancers. She left the City Ballet in 1985.

There is currently an investigation into the allegations against Martins, but a report in the New York Times questions if the board allowed him to act with impunity for years. Martins said in his resignation letter that he feels the investigation would have “vindicated” him, and that he stepped aside to “bring an end to the disruption” that has enveloped the dance world. The New York Times, however, reported that 24 people described a culture of intimidation.

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