A world renowned Russian ballet dancer has blamed ‘cancel culture’ for the death of a fellow choreographer who died suddenly aged 35 – a year after he was suspended from the Royal Ballet amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
The American Ballet Theatre’s artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky said directors feared being ‘eaten alive’ if they put on shows by highly-acclaimed choreographer Liam Scarlett.
Mr Scarlett was accused of encouraging Royal Ballet School students to send naked photographs, commenting on dancers’ genitalia, touching their backsides and walking in on them changing over a 10-year period.
The choreographer – who joined the Royal Ballet Company in 2006 but retired in 2012 to focus on choreography – was cleared following an independent investigation.
Even so, The Royal Opera House, who run the Royal Ballet, ended its relationship with him in March last year – with several other theatres following suit.
The Royal Danish Theatre dropped all performances of his production of Frankenstein over allegations made between 2018 and 2019, just one day before he died.
The Opera house in London yesterday issued a tribute following his death, saying they are ‘deeply saddened’.
The American Ballet Theatre’s artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky (left) said ‘cancel culture is killing’ after directors refused to put on Liam Scarlett’s (right) ballets over the accusations
Mr Ratmansky said directors feared being ‘eaten alive’ if they put on shows by highly-acclaimed choreographer Mr Scarlett
He was cleared following an independent investigation. Even so, The Royal Opera House refused to work with him – with several other theatres following suit. Following Mr Scarlett’s death, Royal Opera House said on its official Twitter: ‘We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Liam Scarlett’s death’
Russian Mr Ratmansky said his death was a ‘tragic loss of a rare choreographic talent’, adding that directors refusing to make his shows ‘killed him’.
He wrote on Facebook: ‘I am shocked by the news of Liam Scarlett’s suicide. What a tragic loss of a rare choreographic talent.
‘How many amazing ballets he could have created yet!
‘After allegations of inappropriate behavior less than two years ago, companies that he worked for removed his ballets from the rep and canceled all his future contracts.
‘I did hear one director saying: “I can’t program his ballets, I’ll be eaten alive”.
‘Liam knew he has no future as a choreographer. That killed him.
‘It should not have happened. This cancel culture is killing, it is too much!
‘Would Diaghilev, Nureyev, Robbins and countless other greats, who were not spotless, be able to work today?
‘How is it possible that the whole ballet world, all of us, turned our backs on such an amazing talent, forcing him to die so young?
‘Shame and sadness. Rest in peace Liam.’
Mr Scarlett’s cause of death has not been confirmed.
A statement from his family yesterday said: ‘It is with great sadness that we announce the tragic, untimely death of our beloved Liam.
‘At this difficult time for all of our family, we would ask that you respect our privacy to enable us to grieve our loss.’
Liam Scarlett (pictured) was accused of encouraging Royal Ballet School students to send naked photographs, commenting on dancers’ genitalia, touching their backsides and walking in on them changing over a 10-year period
Last year an independent investigation into Mr Scarlett concluded there ‘were no matters to pursue in relation to alleged contact with students of The Royal Ballet School’.
The artist-in-residence had been investigated over claims of sexual misconduct involving students.
Independent investigators had probed claims Mr Scarlett behaved inappropriately with Royal Ballet School students, including encouraging them to send naked photographs.
One former student told the Times he was coaxed into sending an intimate photo when he was 18 and alleged Mr Scarlett had shared sexual messages with around 10 male students over Facebook.
Mr Scarlett was the youngest choreographer to have a full-length ballet commissioned by the company and was described as ‘potentially the greatest British choreographer since Kenneth Macmillan’
Liam Scarlett as Alain in the Royal Ballet’s production of Frederick Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardee at the Royal Opera House
Another student alleged he would also comment on dancers’ genitalia, touch their backsides and walk in on them changing.
He said: ‘As a dancer you are trained to say yes to everything.
‘Because it’s so competitive you can’t lose an opportunity, so when someone with a lot of power asks you to do something you are pre-programmed to do it.’
He claimed at the time he was speaking out to stop Mr Scarlett from working with students again.
Mr Scarlett (pictured meeting Prince Charles at the Royal Opera House) was the youngest choreographer to have a full-length ballet commissioned by the company
In March last year, the Royal Opera House said it would no longer work with Mr Scarlett.
The Royal Opera House runs the Royal Ballet.
Following Mr Scarlett’s death, Royal Opera House said on its official Twitter: ‘We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Liam Scarlett’s death.
‘Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this very sad time.’
The Royal Ballet School – an independent charity – was first made aware that the allegations involved some of its students in 2020.
The allegations sent shockwaves through the ballet world, with Australia’s Queensland Ballet among those to cut ties with him.
Mr Scarlett was the youngest choreographer to have a full-length ballet commissioned by the company.
He was described as ‘potentially the greatest British choreographer since Kenneth Macmillan’, the producer who launched British ballet onto the world stage for a quarter of a century.
His works for The Royal Ballet include Despite, Vayamos al Diablo, Consolations And Liebestraum, Asphodel Meadows, Hansel And Gretel, Jubilee pas de deux, which was in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and a new production of Swan Lake.
The choreographer (pictured left with dancers) graduated from the school in 2005
His death comes a day after all performances of his production of Frankenstein were axed by the Royal Danish Theatre after allegations of misconduct between 2018 and 2019 were made by several members of the Royal Danish Theatre’s staff.
Theatre director Kasper Holten said in The Times: ‘Offensive behaviour is unacceptable at the Royal Theatre.
‘The wellbeing and safety of our employees is a high priority for us.
‘We therefore do not wish to perform the works of the choreographer in question until further notice and Frankenstein in the spring of 2022 has therefore been cancelled.’
A spokesman for the Royal Opera House, which funds Royal Ballet, last year told The Times: ‘We were made aware of allegations relating to Liam Scarlett in August 2019.
‘The individual was immediately suspended and an independent disciplinary investigation opened.
‘The Royal Ballet Company has a code of conduct to ensure staff and visiting artists are always supported.
‘As the process is ongoing, and as a duty of care to staff and artists, we are unable to comment further.’