NEW YORK (AP) — Peter Martins, the influential leader of New York City Ballet for three decades, has taken a leave of absence pending an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.

The company confirmed late Thursday that 71-year-old Martins had requested and was granted a temporary leave from both the company and the affiliated School of American Ballet until an independent investigation concluded. The probe, which is being conducted by a law firm, was launched after the company received an anonymous letter accusing Martins of past sexual harassment. City Ballet has said that allegation was not specific.

In addition, the Washington Post reported Thursday that a former City Ballet dancer, Kelly Boal, had accused Martins of grabbing and shaking her in a violent way during a 1989 confrontation. Martins denied that allegation to the Post.

City Ballet spokesman Rob Daniels said the company's board had met Thursday evening and approved Martins' request for a leave.

Advertisement

"Because of all the distraction that these false claims are creating for New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet, which I love and to which I have devoted the last 47 years of my life, I am asking the board of directors of both institutions for permission to take a temporary leave of absence until such time as the current independent investigation into these matters has been completed," Martins said in a statement.

There was no immediate announcement as to who would take Martins' place at City Ballet during his leave.

Martins has been a prominent figure on the New York cultural scene for many years, and one of the most powerful ballet directors in the world. He arrived at City Ballet as a dancer from his native Denmark, and ultimately succeeded the legendary George Balanchine as leader of the troupe, first sharing the job with Jerome Robbins and then taking sole leadership in 1990. He also has choreographed many ballets for the company.

Martins is married to Darci Kistler, a former principal dancer at the company. In 1992, Martins was charged with third-degree assault against Kistler; she later dropped the charge.

The Washington Post report quoted Boal, now 51, as saying that Martins, after a bad rehearsal one day in 1989 "grabbed my shoulder and pulled me out into the hallway, shaking me by the shoulders, screaming at me. ... He had his hands around my neck, choking me and screaming at me. And then he pushed me away and he left."

Boal is married to Peter Boal, former principal dancer at City Ballet and now artistic director at Pacific Northwest Ballet.