SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Syracuse City Ballet is publicly calling out its former dancers for the “misinformation campaign” they allegedly led against the company’s artistic director and administration.
In an Instagram post made over the weekend, the SCB’s Board of Directors released a statement, sharing the news that the allegations eight of its former dancers made against artistic director Caroline Sheridan were deemed unfounded by an independent HR company.
On Nov. 10, 2023, eight dancers with the SCB wrote to the executive staff and board of directors to express concerns about their physical and emotional well-being, as well as that of the student dancers involved in the highly popular performance of “The Nutcracker,” with problems stemming from issues with Sheridan.
The dancers alleged that Sheridan put dancers at risk when it came to performing certain moves and often created a hostile work environment.
“There were several instances where we felt like we were absolutely not to go over her head. And so we had no recourse for any kind of issues that came up. We had to go directly to her. There were a few instances that got really hostile, and it made us all feel like we couldn’t – we had nowhere to go with our issues,” dancer Cara Connolly told CNY Central in December.
The issues came to a head when Sheridan allegedly cornered a student dancer involved in “The Nutcracker” production, who posted her concerns with the company on Facebook.
Connoly said that Sheridan verbally accosted the student and asked her to report any disparaging comments about the company made by fellow dancers directly to her.
In its statement, SCB rebuffs the allegations, “Despite the apparent lack of substantial evidence to support their allegations, several of the Ballet’s former dancers have waged misinformation campaign in the media and on the internet, with particular vitriol directed at Ms. Sheridan, management and the Board of Directors of the Syracuse City Ballet.”
Brett W. Messenger, a consultant to Central New York Ballet, told CNY Central that the independent HR investigation into Sheridan was limited to the incident involving the student dancer, claiming that the student, nor her parents, were ever interviewed.
Messenger is also weary of the independent investigation’s findings, noting that it was never made clear if the investigator had any prior experience investigating this sort of case, what her qualifications were or if she was connected to SCB administration in any way.
The ballet asserts that at the time of the allegations, it took immediate action to address the dancers’ concerns, but that their ultimate decision to strike directly harmed the ballet’s efforts to produce “The Nutcracker.”
The unfounded attacks waged against our organization in the weeks leading up to The Nutcracker, including calls to boycott the Ballet’s Nutcracker, did result in substantially lower ticket sales than in previous years.
Following their termination from SCB, six dancers came together to form the Central New York Ballet and held its first performance, “A Celebration of the Season” at the Palace Theatre on Dec. 19, 2023.
The newly formed dance company consists of Cara Connolly, Lucy Hamilton, Claire Solis, Xavier Pugliese-Ciulei, Abigail Stewart and Lukas Figliozzi.
The SCB alleges in its statement that the ballet company was actually formed over a year ago to compete with the Syracuse City Ballet, saying that the Dec. 19 performance may have resulted in a violation of the non-compete agreements that former dancers signed with SCB.
In response to this claim, Messenger said that it is incorrect to say that the dancers planned to start a competing dance company over a year ago. A family member of a dance did indeed form a non-profit over a year ago, but it was unknown to most dancers and there were no plans to start a ballet company.
The company also announced its first official production “Swan Lake Act II and Bolero” will debut at the Oncenter’s Carrier Theater on Apr. 6 and 7.
In the press release announcing the show, the Central New York Ballet shared that the organization is centered around the artists, “who have voice and influence on all levels of the company.”
The dancers elected Aldo Kattón to be the company’s artistic director and elected Hamilton and Solis to serve as dancer representatives to management and artistic teams.
In a statement to CNY Central, the Central New York Ballet said it has “blossomed out of the outpouring of support from this community. We could not be more excited for the future or more grateful for how much support we have received from so many.”