Arctic Air dancers removed after investigation into alleged assault claims

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The Velveteen Rabbit creator alleges that her male dancers assaulted her while she was pregnant with her daughter

Three members of the Australian dance company Arctic Air have been removed from tour after an investigation into claims of misconduct made by a founding member, Nick Lazzarini.

Lazzarini, co-creater of the Choreographic Academy program and the puppet show The Velveteen Rabbit, alleged that her male dancers had subjected her to an “extremely aggressive” rooming-house assault while she was pregnant.

She also alleged that two male crew members had sexually harassed her after she gave birth.

Arctic Air co-founder Nick Lazzarini defends decision to let theatre show Choreography Academy’s show despite rape allegations Read more

The assault by the four men allegedly took place last November. But in a statement on Facebook, Arctic Air said it had only recently been made aware of the incident.

“Nick Lazzarini has revealed that she experienced very serious and extremely aggressive sexual harassment and assault during Arctic Air tours to the US last year,” Arctic Air’s general manager, Matthew Bell, said in a statement.

“The majority of the attendees on the tour were female and also housed in the same room as Nick Lazzarini and her husband John O’Neill. She said that the threats and behaviour felt toxic, like a toxic place.”

Chris Dobbs, Arctic Air’s artistic director, said he had decided to take Lazzarini and two others from the touring troupe off the tour following the matter.

“Our safety is paramount,” Dobbs said. “Following these accounts we have withdrawn two dancers from the tour.

“I would like to stress that Nick and John did not experience or witness any of the acts claimed by Nick and John,” Dobbs said.

“They also reported the acts to the company on more than one occasion and the company has reported these acts to the authorities.”

Dobbs, who last year was accused of making unwelcome advances on dancers, accused Lazzarini of publishing a “defamatory, untrue press release” that had caused “a deep, deep trauma” for members of the Arctic Air troupe and their families.

Arctic Air’s fifth and final touring production, Choreography Academy, began previews at the Sydney theatre last week and officially opens on 1 July.

Greta Curran, founder of the Women’s Equality Party and a dancer who had been involved in Choreography Academy and toured with Arctic Air, told Guardian Australia the group were “very broken”.

“Our other dancers have felt very guilty about having gone along with this tour and it has been very difficult for the families of the Arctic Air dancers and everyone that has been involved with Arctic Air,” she said.

“It is extremely disheartening and tragic for these dancers. And even sadder for a community that claims to fight for gender equality.

“We were all in shock at this latest episode and we are still reeling from the shock of witnessing members of the Arctic Air male dancers as they have clearly very high levels of unacceptable behaviour.”

She urged Arctic Air to have a “shaken survivor culture” where members can come forward if they think they are being treated unfairly.

“The women are determined to push their bodies to the limit, do unscripted sex scenes and extreme violence and everything in between – but we are still not comfortable sharing these stories, because they make us feel uncomfortable.”

Her daughter, Gemma Curran, who appeared in Choreography Academy, said she was conflicted about inviting Arctic Air dancers to her birthday party last Saturday.

“I don’t like the idea of putting women’s bodies in jeopardy by being kind of passive-aggressive towards other women,” Gemma Curran said.

“It’s hard because we’re not safe. And it makes it very upsetting to know what they may be going through.”

When asked about a possible apology for the dancers and families, she said: “That would be lovely, but they’re obviously not going to accept it.”

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