Cloud Lingers Over Jan Fabre’s Show at NYU Amid Sexual Harassment Complaints

Posted November 9, 2018 8:49 p.m. EST

Belgian activists, including some who once worked with the acclaimed multidisciplinary artist Jan Fabre, have demanded New York University do more to address allegations of sexual harassment against Fabre as his company prepares to perform at NYU on Saturday.

Former members of Fabre’s company have accused him of demanding sex for solos, asking a dancer to masturbate in front of him, and generally running a performing arts company where “humiliation is a daily bread,” as they stated in an open letter published on a Belgian magazine’s website.

Fabre has denied all the allegations, which are being investigated by Belgian authorities.

On Saturday, Fabre’s company, Troubleyn, will perform a 24-hour show, “Mount Olympus,” at the NYU Skirball Center. It features 27 performers portraying characters from Greek tragedy who fight, engage in simulated orgies, as well as dance, sing and take naps. Tickets cost from $100 to $275.

The Skirball Center discusses the allegations on its website on a page providing notes for the show. They are not mentioned on the main ticketing page for “Mount Olympus.”

On Tuesday, Engagement, a group combating sexism in the arts that includes former Troubleyn members, sent an email to Skirball Center employees saying more information needed to be provided. “As a self-defined ‘home for cutting-edge performance and discourse,’ we would like to see these issues overtly displayed,” the email said. They were not calling for a boycott, it added, but information on the allegations should be shared “clearly and publicly.”

A second email to Jay Wegman, Skirball’s senior director, said he had a duty to say more. “Silence is your privilege, but breaking it is your responsibility,” the email said.

Wegman said in an email to The New York Times that Skirball had “behaved responsibly in including information about the issue on our website, and we’ve been forthcoming about it in all our communications with the public.”

“This has been an unusual situation, and we’ve tried to achieve a thoughtful, appropriate outcome,” Wegman added. “We understand that the accusations were serious, and NYU takes the issue of sexual misconduct seriously and is not afraid to act on it.

“However, we were concerned about taking steps that would penalize the performers and crew.”

After the allegations came to light, the center “stipulated that Fabre could not appear publicly in conjunction with the show,” Wegman said. It also offered refunds to anyone who wanted one.

Some theaters in Europe have canceled appearances by Fabre or his company following the allegations, while other events have gone ahead.

Fabre is not talking to the media, a spokesman said. A statement on Troubleyn’s website says the allegations have “turned our company upside down.” It has hired an external company to produce a “risk analysis” that “will give advice on how the company should act to avoid working situations that form a risk for the health and professional performance of performers and employees,” the spokesman added.