A few days ago a star choreographer for Britain’s Royal Ballet died at the age of 35. Liam Scarlett’s career had been taking off, with widely praised ballet productions under his belt and more in the pipeline from all over the world. He was the product of an intensely specialized education, having trained as a ballet dancer from the age of eight, successfully making the transition from performance to choreography.
Then he was accused of sexual harassment, within the Royal Ballet. An independent investigation took place, which concluded that there “were no matters to pursue in relation to alleged contact with students of The Royal Ballet School”.
This was not good enough, however. The Royal Ballet, followed by the other institutions which had commissioned work from him, cut all ties with him and informed him that his work would never be seen again. With his professional life in this tiny, specialized world essentially over, Scarlett killed himself.
I have no special information about Scarlett or this case. Perhaps there were some special features of the case I don’t know about which vindicate the Royal Ballet’s actions. It is part of a pattern of “cancel culture,” however, which cannot be explained away. This is a culture in which individuals accused of wrongdoing are destroyed, in terms of reputation and career, even if the normal mechanisms of oversight and investigation conclude that they are not guilty.