In advance of its Broadway opening on February 20, West Side Story has released a statement of support regarding its most controversial cast member, Amar Ramasar. Ramasar, who plays Bernardo in Ivo van Hove’s reimagined production of the Bernstein classic, is currently a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, having been reinstated following a dismissal for sharing nude photos of other female dancers without their consent. Alexandra Waterbury – an NYCB dancer whose photos were shared by another male dancer in the company – recently held a protest outside the Broadway Theatre. A petition calling for Ramasar’s removal has garnered tens of thousands of signatures. (It was started by a Northeastern University student, Megan Rabin, who was motivated because “it just felt like no one was doing anything.”)
According to the statement, the production is behind Ramasar 100 percent and has not and will not consider removing him from the cast. It notes that the NYCB is a “different workplace” with “no affiliation” with West Side Story. Ramasar is described as a “valued colleague” who is performing “brilliantly.”
From West Side Story management:
The management of West Side Story stands, as it always has stood, with Amar Ramasar. While we support the right of assembly enjoyed by the protestors, the alleged incident took place in a different workplace — the New York City Ballet — which has no affiliation of any kind with West Side Story, and the dispute in question has been both fully adjudicated and definitively concluded according to the specific rules of that workplace, as mandated by the union that represents the parties involved in that incident. Mr. Ramasar is a principal dancer in good standing at the New York City Ballet. He is also a member in good standing of both AGMA (representing the company of NYCB) and Actors’ Equity Association (representing the company of West Side Story).
There is zero consideration being given to his potentially being terminated from this workplace, as there has been no transgression of any kind, ever, in this workplace. The West Side Story Company does not as a practice terminate employees without cause. There is no cause here. The West Side Story Company’s relationship to Mr. Ramasar is completely private to that company and exists solely between Mr. Ramasar and his fellow company members. He is a valued colleague who was hired to play a principal role in this production, which he is doing brilliantly, and which he will continue to do for the entire unabated length of his agreement.”
In September 2018, Ramasar was dismissed from the NYCB after Waterbury filed a suit against him — as well as her former boyfriend, Chase Finlay, and another NYCB member, Zachary Catazaro — for sharing nude photos. (The lawsuit accused Finlay of sending nude photos of Waterbury to Ramasar. It claimed Catazaro had exchanged different images with Finlay.) Finlay voluntarily resigned prior to Ramasar and Catazaro’s firings. The American Guild of Musical Artists contested these removals and, following an arbitration, Ramasar was eventually reinstated pending mandatory counseling. Catazaro was also cleared, but declined to return to the company.
Following the statement from the show’s management, Waterbury, Rabin, and Change.org (the site that hosts the removal petition) released a joint statement. It calls Ramasar’s behavior “vile” and says the lack of legal obligation does not nullify West Side Story’s “moral obligation to keep abusers off their stage.”
The statement released by West Side Story today demonstrates that the production cares more about money and talent than the safety of its performers. Amar Ramasar’s behavior at City Ballet was vile — yet West Side Story chose to hire him anyway.
Just because the production is not legally obligated to fire him doesn’t eliminate their moral obligation to keep abusers off the stage. Ramasar shared explicit photos of fellow ballerinas without their consent. His behavior was disgusting, damaging and unlawful.
We stand outside your theatre chanting because we have been told that Broadway is a safe, inclusive space. But with this production, Scott Rudin and his team have set a precedent that talent justifies abuse — and that’s not something we intend to be quiet about.
We will continue to ‘enjoy’ our right to assembly, and look forward to educating patrons about the sexual predator in your show again on opening night.
Update February 14, 9:oo a.m.: This piece has been updated to include a modified statement from West Side Story. An earlier statement, given exclusively to Playbill, said the “company” of the show stands with Ramasar. The amended statement, provided by the show’s press agents, now says the show’s “management” stands with Ramasar.