The Pennsylvania Ballet comes up short

Size matters

The Philadelphia ballet world blew up this month after a Facebook cri de coeur surrounding ballerina Sara Michelle Murawski. The Philadelphia Daily News followed up on January 5, 2017 with a cover story: “Tutu Tall?” It reported the Pennsylvania Ballet did not renew Murawski’s contract for the coming year. In response to the growing storm, Pennsylvania Ballet Director David Gray released a statement that began, “Building a world-class ballet company is similar to building a world-class sports team.” It included lots of “Go, team (as long as you go away)” language such as, “We support our dancers in pursuing other opportunities….” 

Former Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancer Sara Murawski with soloist James Ihde in last month's production of 'The Nutcracker.' (Photo by Alexander Iziliaev)

But at the center of the badly handled controversy is a tall (five foot 11 inches) dancer who did not have a growth spurt overnight. Size always matters in ballet, but not always in the same way.

The long and short of it

In 1910, Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe shocked the world with the sensual ballet Scheherazade, with choreography by Michel Fokine and starring Vaslav Nijinsky as the golden slave and Ida Rubinstein as Zobeide, the sultan’s wife. Nijinsky, at five foot four, was the best dancer of his era. During his Scheherazade death scene, he was said to spin on his head with his feet straight up in the air. Rubinstein could not dance, but was renowned instead for her dramatic stillness when striking poses, her great “Amazonian” height, and her extreme thinness. Scheherazade’s erotic adagio was infamous. In ballet, as in life, when you are lying down, height does not matter.

Choreographer George Balanchine preferred more skill in his muses, but many of his favorite ballerinas stood about six feet tall en pointe, and again, were very slender. He often hired tall dancers to partner them, but in the 1970s and ‘80s, the best male dancer in the world was Mikhail Baryshnikov, who is five feet six inches tall. When he danced Balanchine’s Prodigal Son (also created for the Ballet Russe) with Karin von Aroldingen’s siren, his nose landed comfortably on her chest. Again, ballet proved that when it comes to great talent — and the illusion of wild sex — height doesn’t matter.

But sometimes, height does matter. Rubinstein was for a while a muse of Fokine, even though she couldn’t actually dance, and Balanchine’s neoclassical leotard ballets emphasize the tall, lean, ballerina — often too lean. Eating disorders are an open embarrassment to classical ballet, but they’re not new. Ida Rubinstein maintained an obsessive regimen to stay thin.

It is always about fashion

The Pennsylvania Ballet has always specialized in Balanchine and the modern aesthetic. But in 1978 the company introduced more traditional story ballets and promised the American Ballet Theater’s Ted Kivitt a shorter, lighter partner, Michelle Lucci, to do Coppélia. But Kivitt married her and took her to Milwaukee, so that didn’t work quite as expected. The company continued to add to its repertoire more story ballets: Giselle, Cinderella, Don Quixote, Dracula, and now Le Corsaire.

At first, the company offered one story ballet each season: Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Now we have three, including The Nutcracker, and each runs for at least twice as many performances as the programs composed of shorter, usually non-narrative pieces. That’s a big change, but change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Those traditional story ballets, once scorned as old fashioned, are suddenly hot again. And they come with a totally different aesthetic: weightless, ethereal, with lots of overhead lifts.

The bitter end

I can’t say whether the company did not renew the contract of a particular ballerina because her height did not fit the changing aesthetics of the Pennsylvania Ballet. We have only the cryptic official statement from the ballet, which has so far refused further comment. And we have the word of the understandably distraught dancer, who said she was told that the company could not afford to hire a taller dancer to partner her.

“Ballerina fired because she is tall,” is a simple story to tell. The real story is more complicated. Certainly the company could have let a shorter male dancer go if funding for a taller partner was the only issue. There may have been reasons that she was not told or did not hear.

But Corella started by firing half his dancers in a purge of those with a commitment to the founding principles of the company, so he didn’t get the benefit of the doubt he might otherwise have had when someone on Facebook said he fired her for ostensibly spurious reasons.  In particular, he didn’t get the benefit of the doubt when the company’s statement to the press read like a computer program wrote it by combining random phrases from a motivational handbook.   

If I were the ballerina, I would not want to place my firing in the spotlight. Other companies might have seen this as the normal process of a company’s changing direction. Now, in addition to the usual considerations, companies will have to wonder if hiring a dancer best known for being fired would be good or bad for them, and they have to wonder if she will make public her grievances with them.  

Our readers respond

Robin Poindexter

of Monroeville, PA on January 11, 2017

Not if the companies have integrity and courage. This company's behavior has been indefensible for quite a long time now. It's easy to take shots at the dancer, but she did not post her grievances on Facebook, and therefore this piece could be counted as slanderous of that individual.

Author's Response

Thank you for your comment.  If you read my BSR article, Ghosted by the Pennsylvania Ballet, you will see that I have been critical of the company myself, and I wasn’t exactly easy on them here. However, the dancer posted to Facebook about the situation on December 30, 2016, January 1, 2017, and January 2, 2017. Philly.com quoted the dancer's January 1, 2017 post in an article on January 3, 2017, and Jenice Armstrong asked for an interview in a comment on the January 2, 2017 post. That article appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News on January 5, 2017.

Robin Poindexter

of Monroeville, PA on January 11, 2017

Thank you for your willingness to amend the mistakes and misunderstandings. I would like to remark that it's unfortunate to read nearly everything in that final paragraph, but I had a sense that that is where the article was leading as I read through it. This dancer is far from "best known" for being fired. Her presence online and in the international dance platform has been visible and known for many years. She is followed on Faebook by over 10K in the dance community, and this event hasn't created many new followers. That alone proves this assertion a mischaracterization. Lastly, she did not place her firing in the spotlight. It is routine for Ellen Dunkel to interview Angel's fired dancers. Sara refused that interview, but a relative gave Ellen permission to use whatever she can glean from already-published social media material. Jenice Armstrong later contacted the family of two and asked if she could run a story on what it's like growing up as a tall dancer and the phases of struggle or obstacle. Completely unaware this could cause any kind of uproar, the two ladies agreed and talked a bit, not expecting any damaging "spotlight" for anyone. The drama that ensued had to do with people motivated to mitigate any perceived harms to their own, on both sides. Sara certainly never foresaw or wanted that — for anyone. I believe that a director with courage and integrity would hire her without hesitation if she would be a positive artistic addition to the company. Decency calls for directors not to be so easily daunted and to trust themselves to treat dancers as human beings. I have never heard of a dancer going into such a meeting having no idea she would be let go and hearing that shortly before performing a leading role.

Author's Response

Robin, I feel for this dancer, I really do, and my comments were meant more as a caution. Another company might find coverage that moved out of the ballet world and onto the supermarket racks something they could turn to their benefit. But I would delete those particular posts if they were mine, or make them completely private.

Robin Poindexter

of Monroeville, PA on January 11, 2017

I neglected to mention that the dancer was then asked for several TV interviews, and did not respond. Far from wanting to be in the off-stage spotlight, she said to her bosses "demote me to soloist if you need to for budgetary reasons, even if I stay there the rest of my career. All I want to do is dance." It is well known that this dancer loves Philadelphia, has roots here, and left a job she loved specifically because it was in her home country and beloved city, for which she was homesick. The material Ellen gleans from Facebook was only a cryptic note of emotional shock that the dancer wrote in the peak moment of despair. Beyond that, the information and details of her firing came sources other than herself. Events in ballet spread like wildfire. Everyone knows what happens, which is why she felt so moved by the love of her colleagues who stood side stage and applauded a bit more loudly for her her as she danced her role that late-afternoon soon after being given the news by her three bosses backstage in the dressing room. Please don't go after the dancer. She is already hurt. And badly. And very afraid.

Editor's Response

Robin, Camille Bacon-Smith sent me several screen grabs of Murawski's Facebook posts, so while your other comments are certainly valid, she did make the issue public on Facebook.

Robin Poindexter

of Monroeville, PA on January 11, 2017

To be fair, I've seen dancers in this company, both already fired and current old-guard ones, take to Facebook to post comments similar to those she posted, in the throes of shock and disappointment. The comments she made are innocuous ones, far less emphatic than ones I've seen. The controversy generated by this dancer has more to do with the number of followers than the nature or scale of her comments themselves. I was hardly aware of what she said in the peak moments, so I apologize if I characterized it that she had said nothing. What I can tell you is that never did the dancer intend to contribute to the already-very-negative public perception of this company that has been generated since long before her arrival. Look back a bit at her prior posts, all full of glowing positive sentiments supportive of the company, her love of her colleagues, and bosses. There are people in the company who speak both positively and negatively on social media. I've personally seen the small uproar that occurred when one felt humiliated in rehearsals and took to Facebook to say this. So this goes to point out that a broader question exists of what should be OK or customary to say or not to say, and perhaps this situation has schooled her on her naiveté with regard to the cheery attitude she had right up to the point of the shocking way that they dismissed her with no forewarning and prior to her being required to take the stage. The awareness that she was discontinued was ubiquitous shortly after the backstage meeting. It was known in the dance world within minutes and increasingly over the first hours and days. That's how this tightly knit world works. She had no intention of making it public in the way it's being characterized. She was distraught to the extreme of feeling lost and hopeless and without a sense that there will be any type of future for her, or that any person she knows in real life cares if she's whole or even alive. In such a moment, people reach out for some sign. I know that she was not reaching out for attention the way it apparently would be easy to willfully mischaracterize, but for a lifeline.

Michael Alvarez-Toye

of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on January 11, 2017

Jan 2: This is the night before...(a photo of bows at the end of a show). it was my last Balanchine Nutcracker sugarplum, and I was feeling soo blissful here after finishing all my sugarplum and dewdrop shows. I had Arabian left to finish the next day for Nutcracker season.

Jan 1: I don't have any words right now...these are my words for now...(a video showing the dancer dancing outdoors on the upper deck of a building with the city of Philadelphia in the backdrop), but I do need to say that all of the concerned and caring about me provides a comfort I would never have otherwise. I came here with my deepest fear being that I wouldn't be wanted here or be rejected here in the States... and of course my height, which I have always been self-conscious about. This is the hardest thing in my life, because I wanted to dance at home for so long. I still want to dance for this beautiful city that I loved and lived in before and in this company where I felt like I was becoming part of the family and loved my colleagues, and the recent professional relationship that I was blessed with by my new partner James for Nutcracker meant so much to me.

Dec 30: I don't believe in life any more..

David James

of Philadelphia, PA on January 11, 2017

It's a stretch to say "she did make the issue public on Facebook." This directs readers to infer that she willed it to be public and that her post made it public. It was already public by the time of her post, spreading in shock waves in the dance world. She was most likely very embarrassed and didn't want what happened to be public. The ballet made the decision that would inevitably go public within minutes of the decision being handed to her, and they know this. They handed it to her in the most public way possible. Any projection of the "going public" onto the dancer is classic projection, and if made on the part of the ballet, it's escapism of responsibility. We must not project onto a scapegoat who didn't want the event to occur in the first place, let alone for it to "go public." Any person in the dance community knows it full-well, will, and immediately.

Are you saying that there is something inherently wrong with an introvert going to social media as a hoped-for, to borrow Robin's metaphor, "lifeline" when her world implodes by surprise and when she is in a state of great existential angst? Her words contain no utterances of animosity, but instead display great personal, excruciating, emotional shock and pain.

The editor mentions screen captures as proof that Ms. Murawski took to social media to "make the issue public," but look at the actual fact-checking words, as posted by Michael Alvarez-Toye here in the discussion. I also have a screen capture from a commenter who commented under the article referenced in this piece. It reads: ~ What makes me utterly sick is that this news article says that her mom has fallen ill... and people who aren't total dolts should have no trouble appreciating that... and yet many here are showing no compassion at all. Not only that, but some are acting psychopathic, clearly making both of them feel more and more stress and defensive...and then laughing.

This is dangerous, serious stuff, people. The history of ballet is replete with suicides, and mockery, isolation, and rejection are common catalysts. This dancer's director told her very bad news before she went onstage, while she still had to get ready in makeup and costume. Then he watched her closely from the side of the stage. Did he do even one thing to assure her ability to go on? And let's hope he was only thinking in one sense. In the aftermath, has he done anything that could lead one to believe it is impossible for it to be interpreted in both senses?

Lori Santucci

of Philadelphia, PA on January 12, 2017

The Facebook tirades were launched not by the dancer (Sara) but by her mother. Your statement about there being "other reasons" rings true. Sara's case may be a perfect example of how helicopter parenting + social media are a bad combination. The ballet world is a small one, and one scandal (regardless of who starts it) can negate an entire career.

Michelene Murawski

of Philadelphia , PA on January 13, 2017

Dear Ms. Santucci, Thank you for inserting your ignorance about our family lifestyle, of which you clearly disapprove and deem worthy of costing my daughter her entire career. She can only hope that there are places out there where she will be embraced by people far less judgmental and far more noble than the take you have on everything. If we wanted to be a perfect cookie cutter family to suit your comfort zone, then I suppose we'd go seeking that. As you've seen if you've read other comments, as well as mine on social media, this dancer is in a lot of pain, and your condescending, better-than-us attitude doesn't help.

But let me point out the obvious: This "scandal" was started by the company that hired her out of a life we were both enjoying, blissfully away from the ignorance of harshly judgmental people here. The company that sought her then jerked her around up and down due to its own inner turmoil. This company has had scandal after scandal, and it's simply unfortunate that the most recent one befalls a dancer who came here with an open heart, truly trusting a director who told her that all of those whom he fired were not "good enough to be in any professional company."

Whether or not she continues in this career, I am happy that we've kept our dignity intact. The "scandal" was the way this company gave the news in the most public possible way, and risked the show in the process... and the news was out to most of the ballet world before either of us sought lifelines from our community of friends and allies.

Mary A. Bach

of Monroeville, PA on January 13, 2017

To Lori's (awful) comment: I'd like to take a look at your sentence here: "Your statement about there being 'other reasons' rings true." Have you lost all sense of chronology? You're saying that the mom took to social media after this event occurred (and inevitably went public as a consequence)... and after the mom took to her social media page to tell what happened and to grieve, this was the ballet's "other reason" for firing her? You do realize how twisted that is, don't you? Unless they had a premonition and took it to be reality. Let me assure you that prior to the news sprung on Miss Murawski, before she was required to perform, both ladies were bubbly, supportive, and outspoken in praise of the Pennsylvania Ballet. They got slapped hard with reality. Hard. And I mean hard. If you think this is for you to judge against them, I can only hope you never suffer as deeply as they are right now, after sacrificing like they both have for this dream of Sara's.

If the ballet world needs to root out any type of person, it would be the superstitious, over-interested, judgmental types who would throw a dancer under a bus or kick a horse when it's down. I'll take a helicopter single mom who has struggled and has Michelene's courage any time over a meddling neb who judges accomplished women simply because they don't fit the mold.

Michelene Murawski

of Center City/ Philadelphia, PA on January 13, 2017

Those who talk of helicopter parenting don't realize that they are helicoptering other families. Pennsylvania Ballet has ditched dancers before Sara. Let's see how much they will smear her, just because her mom didn't do what sexism teaches moms of particularly dancers to do: shut up and be invisible.

Let me tell you something about Sara. Another mom of a dancer there befriended her. This mom has also been shunned and treated despicably by the company, simply because she spoke out on behalf of dancers who were fired. She feared deeply that hers was next. Guess what? This mom told Sara that it would be detrimental to be her friend and that this mom would completely understand if Sara were to delete her from social media and hide the fact that Sara dares talk to her, because it could cost Sara her job. Sara's integrity did not waiver. She refused to betray a person and/or turn her back on someone.

This has been a cruel lesson for someone who is yet quite young, and, yes, dare I say it, vulnerable. Don't give me your thick-skin nonsense. It terrifies me... once she stops getting up with enthusiasm for her routines, it will be the start of a forever broken heart whose love and passion in life was stolen from her.

Lily Ameling

of New York, NY on January 13, 2017

Sara and her mother are part of my extended family. I've known them since childhood and near or far have always valued having them in my life. I wanted to publicly remind them to carry on the good fight. To Sara: I can only say to take pride in who you are, in how hard you work, in how greatly you love. Don't allow your identity to be dictated by anyone but yourself. Be vulnerable, be sweet-natured, be humble, be full of love for your art form, be honest and never trade integrity for "thick skin." The fact that so many people love you says something about how valuable you are to them, and they value you because of who you are, not who you are as a Pennsylvania Ballet dancer.

And to Michelene: This is one of my all-time favorite quotes: “Bring forth what is true; Write it so it it's clear. Defend it to your last breath.” — Ludwig Boltzmann, quoting Faust. Don't be discouraged. If people criticize you and Sara (for any reason), it's their loss. Pity them for not understanding because their lack of understanding means they have never experienced the beauty of a relationship like yours to Sara. Define yourself as you see fit, and don't let anyone else shake that.

Celine Ridella

of Philadelphia, PA on January 13, 2017

Directors are fickle, and Corella is exceptionally that way. In addition, few people in the arts reveal their "real" selves when at work, and ballet is work. Of course, everyone acts friendly, so it's understandable that the non-renewal of contracts seems out of the blue, with no indication of displeasure. But the undercurrent had been there for a while, just beneath the surface. What Sara did not hear was said behind closed doors, privately. It is never just one thing that causes a dancer to be let go. Non-renewed dancers are frequently given a simple explanation to avoid arguments: budget cuts, height, partnering. Sara and others were upset, which is to be expected. What was not expected was Sara's mother's histrionics and cries of injustice. Members of the dance community are sympathetic for Sara's situation (non-renewal), as most have been in the same place at one time in their lives. Each one of the dancers that Corella eliminated was equally talented, beautiful, and loved to dance. Each came from a different background, and each made many sacrifices to pursue a dance career. It may be difficult for Sara's career to recover— not from the non-renewal, but from the inappropriate behavior played out on social media.

Celine Ridella

of Philadelphia, PA on January 15, 2017

No, not every dancer is exactly equal. Some dancers are more skilled or have more experience than others. Some dancers fit the company and others do not. Some dancers are not renewed/fired and others are actually promoted. Certainly a dancer as experienced as Sara Murawski must realize the transient nature of a dance career, where dancers are frequently fired at the whim of finicky directors. And sometimes directors are disappointed when a dancer leaves for better opportunities elsewhere. But, as the article wisely points out: "Now, in addition to the usual considerations, companies will have to wonder if hiring a dancer best known for being fired would be good or bad for them, and they have to wonder if she will make public her grievances with them."

Claudia Folts

of Charlotte, NC on January 16, 2017

I have been following this story on Facebook and have read several articles about it. Maybe I am missing something, but I have seen nowhere that Sara Murawski has reacted with anything but normal disappointment over the loss of a job she loved. She is 25 years old and not her mother's or anyone else's keeper. Her mother is entitled to react any way she chooses. Even though we are about to go through a regime change politically, last I checked, we were all still entitled to free speech.

It is one thing to disagree and share opinions. It is quite another to do so in disparaging, rude, mean-spirited ways. Everyone really needs to take a step back and think before making some of these not-very-nice comments.

The professional ballet world is a tough, cold place. Those in power very often get away with unfair practices. Unfortunately, it is expected. The final paragraph of this opinion piece alone basically supports those unfair practices: "If I were the ballerina, I would not want to place my firing in the spotlight. Other companies might have seen this as the normal process of a company’s changing direction. Now, in addition to the usual considerations, companies will have to wonder if hiring a dancer best known for being fired would be good or bad for them, and they have to wonder if she will make public her grievances with them." Sounds like the way Trump wants our country to be run — no arguments, no comments, fear of speaking out honestly. Just follow along and take whatever garbage is thrown at you.

Joshua A. Sweeny

of Pittsburgh, PA on January 17, 2017

Ya'll have a fragile grasp on timelines and human decency. A girl gets wooed over from Europe (a very cushy unreplaceable job) to dance in a prestigious company back home and then gets dismissed in a really obviously abusive manner, and some of you want to manipulate the timing of events and make it about her mother and some Facebook posts, as if it retroactively justifies treating someone like a piece of shit. (Looking at you Lori Santuci, you are clearly another ballet mommy with an axe to grind.) What more appropriate time is there to become a raging asshole and blow up at people than when your kid is abused? I can't think of a more appropriate time. If this happened to my daughter, I would be punching people in their fucking mouths!

Sandra Pryor

of Hampton, VA on January 17, 2017

Camille, I read this article, some of the comments, and your previous article. I see several issues here. I don't see how a few public posts on Facebook can be construed as "going to the media." Philly.com took up the story, perhaps because "PA Ballet fires the Sugar Plum Fairy" would be sure to garner many clicks. I think the allegations of a dancer manipulating the media are unfair.

Second, in following these stories, I am getting quite an education in the ballet world. I have a Ph.D. in history, I am anything but a scholar on the history and culture of ballet. Still, I see gender and social class as very relevant here. The implication seems to be that the dance world expects Sara to say nothing about the firing. Doesn't that remind you a little of how, in the 1950s, women were expected to be silent and subservient, both at home and at work? Also, I've noticed how many dancers are women and artistic directors are men. The social class issue I see is how, in many companies, a dancer is sponsored by a wealthy person or group; basically, parents ensuring their dancer finds a job. I think that a great deal of the criticism directed to Sara's mother is because she does not come from extreme wealth... and Sara made it to the level of principal dancer on hard work and talent alone.

Third, there is the issue of Corella's mismanagement. It is sheer cruelty to tell a dancer that she will be fired before her final performance of The Nutcracker. He enticed her from a company in Europe, knowing how tall she is, and then suddenly changed his mind. Poor planning and financial mismanagement are factors, and, as you point out, the company has not issued a statement. The company changed direction when Corella fired 40% of the dancers. Sara was part of that changing direction, and now all of a sudden, she isn't? If this is an ongoing management style, then we need to ask if this sort of unstable management is in the best interests of the company.

Also, as you pointed out in your previous article, the new dancers were under-rehearsed, including a soloist who fell during a performance. If to "ride roughshod over his dancers" is a part of Corella's management style, maybe he is the one who should be fired?

Also, if I am not mistaken, European arts companies get state funding, so it takes a special kind of incompetence to run a dance company into bankruptcy in Europe. I won't doubt that Corella was an excellent dancer. But these skills do not necessarily translate into the managerial skills that are necessary for a competent artistic director.

Author's Response

As you note, I have not been a fan of Corella's management style, nor would I ever support censorship. Sara can certainly say what she wants, and I would not, in other circumstances, suggest otherwise. But in purely practical terms, while Facebook can be a place to reach out, it is also an important tool to market oneself. So, thinking to the future, to making a connection with a new company, it can help to manage one's image there.  

Carlie Stohoffer

of Philadelphia, PA on January 20, 2017

Sara had not spoken out against the company. But some people so much feared that she would that they actually imagined that she had, as well as what should be said to the world if she were to do so.

JoAnne Mason

of Fort Worth, TX on January 20, 2017

I had read somewhere in the article that Sara Murawski was an autistic dancer, but now I can't find it. I want to encourage Sara and her family to reach out to the autism community in their city. They can help with resources and perhaps use the Americans with Disabilities Act to help Sara keep her position in the dance company. Autism advocates are strong and numerous and they will help. Autistic dancers need role models like Sara. People with autism can do anything, and Sara can be a real champion for the autism community.

Michelene Murawski

of Philadelphia, PA on January 21, 2017

To the preposterous notion that Sara was given enough "notice" .. here is but one of countless copy/pastes I could provide to disprove that: "The application form should be fully completed and submitted before November 15th, 2016." To the author's retort to Sandra Pryor's points, and to those of us who've been the voices for the voiceless: "No person is your friend who demands your silence" ~ Alice Walker.

carlie stohoffer

of philadelphia, pa on January 26, 2017

Camille, While how you *feel* is: "I feel for this dancer, I really do," it sounds like you're trying to convince yourself. But beyond these easy words, you strongly imply that this female dancer owns no right to express a normal human emotion without deserving to be punished for it. This young lady never said anything in public beyond good things about the company she was in. Yet, your words suggest that it would be acceptable should she never again have a spot in the field she's trained physically and studied studiously for during almost her entire life, despite what she does from this point forward, and despite the outpouring of people on her fb page who know her in real life and praise her profusely for her gracious spirit and beautiful, ethereal dancing. Your entire essay leads to the conclusion that seems most important to you: that she should be finished. Worse, you aren't satisfied so you repeat it in the your (several times changed) replies within the comments numerous times. To really *feel* for someone includes more than words, but true empathy or sympathy. Anything else is a strategy of dishonesty meant to take down a naive reader's guard. I know this dancer very well, and your words continually repeating an implied directive to directors to consider punishing her mercilessly for a crime she didn't commit have hurt her at least as much as the crushing blow she's already suffered. More, in fact. Here are the gentle and wise words of a teacher in the dance world, and her perspective on Sara Michelle Murawski, to whom she refers to as "cosmic." "In moments of alone time, I think of how I would have responded if such a thing happened to me. I probably would have come unglued in a very public way. I marvel at the grace with which she handled all of this."

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