Troy Powell has been removed from his position as Artistic Director of Ailey II following an independent investigation into alleged acts of sexual misconduct. This investigation was launched in early June after two videos accusing Powell of inappropriate behavior were posted on TikTok, the popular video sharing app.
The first video involved dancers dropping scraps of paper as a message appeared: “When you wanna be in Ailey II. But guys gotta sleep with Troy Powell.” The second video involved an unidentified dancer accusing the Ailey organization of housing a known sexual predator. After these videos were removed from TikTok, the Ailey organization placed Powell on leave of absence. His name and most-recently choreographed ballet were also stricken from Ailey’s June 11th Virtual Spirit Gala. The gala was an online substitute for the company’s traditional spring gala event, which Powell choreographed last year using students from the Ailey School.
Online outrage to the allegations included denouncements from Ryan Houston, a former apprentice with Ailey II—who urged dancers via an Instagram post to speak up about their experiences with Powell—and from Addison Ector, a former student of the Ailey School and soloist with Complexions Ballet.
In an Instagram video that was posted on June 29, Ector alleged that during his time as a student at the Ailey School, Powell sent him a text message containing an inappropriate photo of his anatomy. In Ector’s recollection, he was interrogated about the incident by a male director of the Ailey School. After being asked if Powell’s face was in the picture—it was not—Ector stated that he was told, “Well we can’t really confirm that it was him or not.” A Title XI investigation was not launched on Ector’s behalf. Instead, he continued to interact with Powell during the remainder of his time as a student.
Similar allegations of sexual misconduct have been leveled within the dance community in the past few years. In August 2019, students of the Royal Ballet’s associated school lodged complaints against choreographer Liam Scarlett. Though Scarlett, a leading ballet choreographer and resident artist of the company, was dismissed in March, the investigation “found there were no matters to pursue in relation to alleged contact with students of the Royal Ballet School.” This follows a pattern of independent investigations finding zero merit to claims of abuse against Peter Martins at New York City Ballet or at Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, both in 2018. In stark contrast, Powell has been dismissed and implicated for his behavior.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater released the following statement on the matter to Observer:
“In June, the Ailey organization placed Troy Powell, Artistic Director of Ailey II, on leave of absence and retained an outside investigator after learning of troubling comments made about him on social media sites. A thorough inquiry has now been completed, with the investigator concluding that Mr. Powell engaged in inappropriate communications with adults enrolled in the School who were interested in joining Ailey II. Because his conduct was inconsistent with the standards expected of Ailey’s staff, executive leadership concluded that Mr. Powell could not continue in his position with the organization, and he is no longer employed in any capacity. We affirm our commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for all.”
Powell’s dismissal from the Ailey institution ends his relationship with the company that began at the age of nine, after he was handpicked for a scholarship to attend its school by Alvin Ailey himself. He joined Ailey II in 1988, was promoted to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater by then-artistic director Judith Jamison in 1991, and upon retiring in 2001, was appointed a master teacher at the Ailey School and resident choreographer of Ailey 2. Following a few years as associate director of the junior company, he succeeded Sylvia Waters, Ailey II’s founding artistic director, in 2012. This story is still developing.