Two bosses of Cleveland Ballet have been suspended after firing a children’s instructor for being too large and attacking her over an image of her in a newsletter.
Their alleged behavior revolves around ballet instructor Brittani Harris who was informed in August her teaching contract would not be renewed due to her size.
In the days prior to receiving that news, a staff meeting had been held where artistic director Guadalupe saw a photo of Harris teaching the tendu movement.
The image had been selected as part of the outreach newsletter and Harris claims that after Guadalupe saw the image of her, she wanted to have it removed due to her size.
Guadalupe and Krasnyansky, seen together here, had to be removed after a two week initial investigation
Their alleged behavior revolves around ballet instructor Brittani Harris, pictured here, who was informed in August that her teaching contract would not be renewed due to her size
Harris had been hired by Jim Becker to help teach ballet to kids with the Girls and Boys Club of Akron.
Becker, who was at a School of Cleveland Ballet staff meeting on August 1, said that Guadalupe saw a photo of Harris teaching the tendu movement – and that is when things started to change.
Becker told WKYC Studios: ‘Gladisa told me that she could not release the newsletter I had been working on, that the mockup was no good. She simply said, ‘the tendu picture,’ and I knew what she was gunning for at that point.
‘Gladisa Guadalupe said something very closely to the effect, if not precisely, ‘That we cannot allow a teacher like this to work for us, because little girls will see that and think that is OK.
‘She said something to the effect of, ‘Young girls who are of grander size are at greater risk of injury,’ and if anybody tells you that, find a different dance studio.’
‘I even asked the Artistic Director, ‘It seems like you’re insinuating that someone’s size or body weight would somehow be able to disqualify them,’ and before I could even finish my sentence, she’s just nodded.
‘I was told that this fine teacher did not have the physical aesthetic required to teach tendu and pliés to the Boys and Girls Club children.’
In a bid to report this to the proper authorities, Becker wrote a letter to Lilia Shtarkman, Cleveland Ballet’s HR, and also tried to speak to another person in that department.
But the person he tried to have a meeting with was Lana Krasnyansky Sokolinsky — who is Michael Krasnyansky’s daughter and Guadalupe’s step-daughter.
In the days prior to receiving the news, a staff meeting had been held where artistic director Guadalupe saw a photo of Harris teaching the tendu movement, seen here
Guadalupe, right, and Michael, left, who are both married, are being probed further by the other members of the board over their alleged actions
Soon after, Becker was told his own contract would not be renewed as manager of the outreach program.
He told WKYC Studios: ‘I was obviously not able to work for a company that talked about their team that way.
‘I immediately called Lana at HR and she dodged all my texts and calls. I think the whole team knew about Gladisa’s disapproval of the Brittani hire.’
Recalling when she found out what was said about her, Harris said: ‘It was very hard to hear because, you know, it’s 2023, and maybe I’m not a prima ballerina, but I was never trying to be.
‘I love dance. I love to teach. I love children, and to have someone rip that away just because they didn’t like how I looked. It’s just not OK.’
Harris added: ‘I love getting to teach students something new. We can do pliés and tendus and easy things, but I love like seeing them get excited about learning something new.’
WKYC investigated the the perception of a larger body size and injury and dance, speaking with dance physical therapist Jenna Kantor.
Kantor told the outlet: ‘There’s no evidence supporting that at all. Ironically, it’s actually when somebody is underweight, they’re actually 1.8 times more likely to fracture a bone.
‘In ballet, we want everyone to be a stick. We don’t want to have any chest, we don’t want to have any glutes, nothing. It’s just everything’s got to be straight up and down. But not all bodies are made that way, even if they aren’t overweight.’
Harris, seen here with her two daughters, said finding out about the reaction to the picture was ‘very hard’
Harris is seen here with her husband Brandon. She had been teaching ballet for over a decade when she was dismissed
Speaking of Harris’ ability to teach, Becker said: ‘There’s a lot that happens between the steps, and you could teach a class on how to run [her] class.
‘Watching Brittani Harris teach was much like watching ‘Story time with Belle,’ the program at Walt Disney World.’
After WKYC approached Guadalupe, Krasnyansky and the board of Cleveland Ballet with the allegations and were told they would investigate.
Two weeks later, the board informed WKYC that they had suspended the two and that everyone involved had declined to be interviewed.
Cleveland Ballet told WKYC Studios in a statement: ‘Serious and disturbing allegations have been raised concerning Cleveland Ballet.
‘The Board of Directors takes these allegations seriously and is focusing its energy on reviewing the Ballet’s operations and responding appropriately.
‘The matter is being addressed by the independent Board members not part of the Ballet’s operations.
‘In addition to an internal review of these allegations which is underway, the Board has engaged experienced outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation of these allegations and advise the Board on how they relate to the workplace and operations of Cleveland Ballet.
‘The Board and its independent counsel will invest whatever time necessary to conduct a thorough and complete review.’
Despite her dismissal, Harris showed up to support her summer students in their season ending performance anyway.
She said: ‘It was awesome to see all the work we put in and then be so proud of them. I was not going to let them down.
‘And they had no idea what was going on. They just knew I was there for them, and I wouldn’t have changed it.’