To both the general public and future generations of performers to inform, we have, former employees and trainees of Jan Fabre at Troubleyn vzw, us, united to share our experiences and our voices to be heard in the context of #metoo and the social changes associated.
In response to this collective response, the statements of Jan Fabre in an interview to the public broadcaster VRT on Wednesday 27 June 2018. Therein he shared his thoughts on the results of a study commissioned by the Flemish minister of Culture Sven Gatz, about unacceptable behaviour in the culture and media sector.
The starting point for the interview was the headline, ” One in four women in cultursector victim of sexual or physical crossing behaviour’. For the camera responds Fabre, surprised and with disbelief at those figures. He says that he is the actions and measures of the minister supports, but adds that ” there’s also something dangerous about this is, because you get the relationship – the secret bond between the director, choreographer, actors, dancers – incredibly is going to destroy and hurt.’
Fabre illustrates his vision with a glimpse into the daily practice of the company. ‘For example, I recently created a piece, Belgium Rules: a tribute to Rubens, Félicien Rops, Paul Delvaux, René Magritte. And I had my company suddenly go explain to young actresses and dancers that those artists are not seksisten.”
Then it gets Fabre also a situation in which he was one of the performers on stage by the micro toeschreeuwde that they had to go train, because they re too thick. Afterwards was an assistant to him, come and tell that such comments offensive. Fabre assures the interviewer that such comments are ‘always fair’, but that he has noticed that people lately are more susceptible become. “One year ago”, he concludes, ‘were there any problems with it.’
The weight of one dancer
To outsiders they sound like statements might be trivial or a matter of artistic freedom, but some of us were there on the two moments which Fabre describes it, and to be able to testify about several inaccuracies in his report. One of the anleidingen for the conversation about sexism in Belgium Rules was a written review in the magazine Etcetera, who are asked questions in fabre’s staging of a series of art-historical images, and therefore not the work of the late Belgian artists themselves. These questions had to Fabre, not Rubens.
Also of the moment when He publicly drew attention to the weight of a single dancer, some of us were witness. It was going to be a long and painful game of humiliation, in which Fabre was insinuating that she was pregnant. That harassment continued until she burst into tears.
Trivial is that last situation. It is also not an isolated case. They surprised us also. It is just one of the many confusing psychological games in which your subject can be as you with Fabre’s works. In and around the repetitiezaal of Troubleyn is the humiliation of the routine. In particular, female bodies are the butt of painful and often openly sexist criticism – no matter how they look.
One day it is Fabre a performer on a bottom, the next day he breaks that systematically. Not rarely picks up he there than one person as a scapegoat to aware of tensions to arouse the rest of the group. The combination of fabre’s unpredictable temper and his authority over the space that he as a director managed, creates a tense environment in which everyone is at least implicitly encouraged to be the director often enough to please.
Fabre’s dominant position is still subtly reinforced by the fact that he performers nicknames. Some may need coaxing sound, other are clearly derogatory and racist. In the TELEVISION interview, says Fabre: “All flesh, you have to respect, so also the woman.’ However, he once said in front of all the performers to a female performer: “You’re beautiful, but you have no sense, like a chicken without a head.’
Or about what ‘mutual respect’ has He the right, if he is not a European intern to the head winds that if they do not get better go and play, he will return to her country?
Some might argue that this is just part of an artistic strategy that Fabre his artistic result can only achieve by his performers beyond their limits to drive. Against this, we want to bring that it is always the performer that the physical and emotional price to pay, never the company or the persons who have the say.
Fabre’s changing attitudes and erratic behavior have the self-confidence and self-esteem of many of the employees not well done. Many of us had after their departure from the company, psychological help seeking, and have our experiences described as traumatic scars on us. One performer summed it up thus: ‘He describes us as “warriors of beauty”, but eventually, you feel a beaten dog.’
Perhaps some will insist that pain now once belong to certain artistic practices – that is the price you pay for ‘good art’. But performers tackle their vulnerabilities is only the prelude to an even darker and more hidden practice in Troubleyn. In the TELEVISION interview claims Fabre that in the forty years that he been with his company, there have never been problems with sexual crossing behavior. That is a lie. Thus, he leads the audience to distract attention from his own incriminating intimidation.
Very recently, in the spring of 2018, took one of the performers in the company dismissal, for which she also sexual harassment specified as one of the reasons. In her correspondence with the company explicitly mentions it: “The impact of a disrespectful and painful #metoo-the experience worked negatively in my work and my inner peace.” For her, her work ” is no longer a blissful challenge and opportunity, but a manipulative fight.’
Shortly followed by a colleague who, for similar reasons even though two other performers the company had seen leaving. And last month got another two colleagues out. None of them wanted to even longer silently submit to such an environment. In two years ‘ time so as to have a total of six people of the door behind him close pulled, after they directly were involved in cases of sexual crossing behavior or against it protested cases where now often referred to as ‘#metoo’.
To twenty years back
What a #metoo-the experience means in the context of Troubleyn?
Harassment, sexism, and vrouwonvriendelijkheid keep exactly what they have always retained. By sharing our experiences, gather and discuss, to reflect – one is going to even twenty years back – we began to see that employees of Troubleyn for years have had to navigate around an unprofessional and improper dealing on the work. This is not a new generation extra-sensitive’. It is also not a problem ‘the last year’.
One performer who fifteen years ago with Fabre worked, says: “When all gold is ultimately the principle: no sex, no solo. When I meet people in my area about my experience told and they took just their shoulders, as if that now once at the job heard.’
Our collected experiences and testimonials often appear to be so similar that there are clear patterns stand out of fabre’s behavior. So manifest testimonies of eight different performers that Fabre there is a permanent semi-secret fotopraktijk has. For that ‘side-projects’ he invites regular performers at him at home ‘to art,’ but that appears to turn out on an opportunity to the performer to sexual approach.
One person describes such a situation as follows: “I was already at least a year at the company involved, when He asked me for a nevenproject that in the black would be paid, and for which I told no one anything should tell. The project came out you had to shoot in a situation that I still today only with shame can talk. It was called ‘work’, but felt very uncomfortable. I got alcohol and then drugs are offered to me be freer to feel (it remains the only time in my life that I drugs have taken) and that led eventually that Fabre me to be more early.’
Large sums of money
This semi-secret photo projects and the exchange of sex, are within the company of a hidden currency has become, that the performer access ensures to solos or future job offers in return for their response to fabre’s advances. Performers that these advances have rejected and try to have a respectful and professional relationship to maintain, had to deal with subtle or less subtle forms of punishment – including stalking, verbal humiliation, aggression and manipulation.
Sometimes performers large sums of money offered – at first glance, as a compensation for their participation in this private photo shoots. That in itself is provocative, if you have the low official wages of Troubleyn and the non-payment of the many trainees in accounting.
One performer gave this description: “When I after the shot, further advances had been rejected, I felt terrible, I was upset. Fabre understood that not and told me there is no big deal to do. I wanted to give him the money back, but he refused. He told me that he is much more earned by the sale of those photos, so that the money, my share was. He asked me if I wanted to return because I was a ‘whore’ felt.’
“A week later he invited me out for a fancy dinner and he offered me a solo. In the weeks that followed, he continued to call me at abnormal times, with the assignment to sexy underwear and high heels to buy for further photo shoots. I refused, but I feel that I paid a price for it. Awkward episodes followed.’
‘During rehearsals, it could happen that he is my role inperkte and that I have certain pieces kwijtspeelde to another dancer. You know, of course, never be sure with that photo shoot had to do, but it changed something in his behavior. One time I followed his instructions quickly enough, and he came calling out the scene, with his fist in the air, as if he were me would save. He said: “If the premiere there will not arrive, I had my taken off stage.’ He went through with the offer of photo shoots, which I always refused. He remained the solo quote.’
Since Troubleyn functions according to a strict hierarchical logic, such punishment during the rehearsals often not, because new performers in the line ‘harder’ to be treated. Of trainees and performers with a lower position in the Fabreaanse hierarchy, it is expected that the humiliation, intimidation and punishment to endure as their older colleagues in the past have done. It looks like a test to prove yourself, but in reality it is a collective driven spiral of abuse, where everyone is involuntarily complicit.
Fabre and his supporters can such situations be regarded as expressions of artistic freedom and – in that sense – as a human right. Employees who do not agree with certain practices that break with the ‘conventional’ rules, but from the company steps, that is, here and there, the logic.
But also artistic workplaces are bound to regulations. When we the union asked to have the own privacy of Troubleyn, to look, turned out to Article 46 is replaced by the following: ‘No single act that psychological risks, including acts of violence, harassment or undesired sexual behaviour at work, may be accepted or tolerated. This applies to employer and employee, but also for third parties who come into contact with employees for the performance of their work.’
Our growing testimonials call so the question: where should these rules, as many of the people at Troubleyn work, the harmful repercussions of Jan fabre’s behavior does not seem to see or recognize – or worse, when Fabre his own behavior defends as ‘always fair’? How complicit – intentionally or not – are the other employees of this organization?
Why not earlier?
You may wonder why the testifying performers not previously considered to have spoken. The answer is simple: Troubleyn is not a place where you have an open call. In Troubleyn are performers expected to hold steady, unless they are given permission to speak. And even then, there are many unspoken rules about what you can and not really on the table. Be accepted as a member of the company is a process of perseverance. A difficult and long auditieperiode, with hundreds of other performers that same job would, makes you a ‘chosen one’.
But even then, when you do finally get a job, you will have to continue to fight for your place among the loyal people who have been with Fabre have worked. Then resign more than just be faced with unemployment. Everyone in the industry knows how much such a choice also your reputation, ambitions, and career ruin.
Despite our maximum effort to get within Troubleyn an inclusive conversation to open about #metoo, that was not successful. Or was that conversation avoided, were either performers immediately before an ultimatum made. One performer said, ” When Fabre to do justified, we were told immediately that we were free to leave” if one of us did not completely agree. The young performers who chose to stay were then given the assignment to Troubleyn a letter to focus where they would explain why they Fabre wanted to continue to work – as if it were a loyaliteitskwestie went.’
No longer silently watch
On this basis, we have come to the conclusion that these issues are not resolved will be from the company Troubleyn itself. We called in the help of various industry organisations, but none of them seems to be the mandate to have to intervene in the situation at Troubleyn. With the support of the trade union, we have even legal advice obtained, but we came to the conclusion that the legal system is too slow.
How can we have two or three years to wait for our voices to be heard, while we new colleagues uninformed about what happened in the past happened? We can no longer silently stand back and watch how more and more colleagues to resign, while Troubleyn the reasons behind their decision distorts and obscures.
Apart from what we have seen, heard and/or passed, we want to acknowledge that many of us are also things learned during our time at Troubleyn. At the same time, many of us have directly had to deal with sexism and abuse of power. Some of us are of those practices only witnessed, but all we demand that they stop.
As Fabre says that the ‘secret band’ between the director and the performer become damaged when the consciousness around sexism and inappropriate sexual behaviour is increasing, we want him like to remind you that it is precisely his inability to be open, aware and respectful work environment, that the true threat to any artistic relationship that builds on a deep understanding of trust.
Speak frankly about the issues at Troubleyn is not an attack on artistic freedom, but rather an attempt to be a very scary concept of freedom to break open. (Freedom for whom? To what to do with it?) So, we want a fundamental question to pose: “What are we in the name of art so desperately to defend and justify? Who we protect, and why should we course want to continue?’
The problem starts nor stops at the threshold of Troubleyn. In the first place, this letter must be read as an attempt to put an end to a zwijgcultuur and to draw attention to toxic work environments in the broad artistic field. This letter is not a personal statement. By being open about how we fabre’s behavior yourself have experienced, we hope a much needed conversation in the industry to boot.
We all have responsibilities. Our responsibility today is to speak out.
We are asking the artistic community to this call to support and invest in. We ask the board of directors of Troubleyn to have to take responsibility. We ask the government and its institutions to also have their role to play in the liable keeping of individuals and organizations.
Together, we will no longer be a culture of hypocrisy and denial to support in the name of art. Together we will work towards a more inclusive notion of artistic freedom.
Today, do our votes to them. They will be heard.
We, (former) employees and trainees at Troubleyn,drawing in support and solidarity with all our colleagues,
Erna Ómarsdóttir, a performer, 1998/99-2003
Geneviève Lagravière, performer 2002-2004
Louise Peterhoff, performer 2003
Maryam Hedayat, production intern 2012
Merel Severs, 2012-2018
Nelle Hens, 2012-2015
Marleen van Uden, performer 2016-2017
Tabitha Cholet, performer 2016-2018
Anonymous performer, 2000-2001, man
Anonymous stagiaire, 2001, wife
Anonymous performer, 2001-2004, woman
Anonymous performer, 2002-2003, woman
Anonymous trainee(e), 2003, non-binary
Anonymous employee, 6 years, female
Anonymous performer, 2004-2007, woman
Anonymous performer, 2 years, female
Anonymous, performer, 2014, woman
Anonymous performer, 2 years, female
Anonymous performer, 6 years, man
Anonymous trainee/performer, 2017-2018, woman