Cleveland Ballet Faces Controversy as Dance Instructor Alleges Discrimination Based on Body Size

Artistic Director and CEO of Cleveland Ballet Suspended Pending Investigation

The School of Cleveland Ballet is embroiled in controversy after a dance instructor, Brittani Harris, alleged that her teaching contract was not renewed due to her body size. The shocking revelation has led to the suspension of the Cleveland Ballet’s Artistic Director, Gladisa Guadalupe, and CEO, Michael Krasnyansky, who are also married. The incident has raised questions about body discrimination in the ballet industry and has prompted an internal and external review of the organization.

A Dream Job Turned Nightmare

Brittani Harris, a seasoned ballet instructor, was thrilled when she was hired by the School of Cleveland Ballet to teach ballet to children from the Girls and Boys Club of Akron. However, her excitement quickly turned to devastation when she learned that her teaching contract would not be renewed due to her body size. Harris, who has been teaching dance for over a decade, was shocked by the discriminatory decision.

A Disney Princess Teaching Style

Jim Becker, the former manager of the outreach program at the School of Cleveland Ballet, hired Harris and praised her teaching style, comparing it to “Story time with Belle” at Walt Disney World. Harris’s passion for teaching and her ability to inspire students were evident in her classes. However, her teaching abilities were overshadowed by her appearance, according to the allegations.

Discrimination Exposed

The events leading up to Harris’s contract non-renewal unfolded during a staff meeting at the School of Cleveland Ballet. Artistic Director Gladisa Guadalupe saw a photo of Harris teaching the tendu movement in an outreach newsletter and expressed disapproval. Becker, who witnessed the exchange, confronted Guadalupe about the insinuation that Harris’s body size disqualified her from teaching certain dance movements. Guadalupe’s response confirmed Becker’s suspicions.

Legal and Ethical Implications

The School of Cleveland Ballet claims to be a non-discriminatory organization, but the case highlights the lack of legal protection against body size discrimination. Civil Rights attorney Subodh Chandra explains that while body size is not a protected category, the situation is morally compelling and raises questions about fairness and irrationality. The case underscores the need for a broader understanding of discrimination beyond traditional categories.

Impact on Students and the Ballet Community

The alleged comments made by Guadalupe during the staff meeting went beyond discussing Harris’s body size. Guadalupe reportedly expressed concerns about the impact Harris’s presence might have on the children involved with the Cleveland Ballet, stating that it could send the wrong message. However, dance physical therapist Jenna Kantor dismisses the notion that larger body sizes correlate with a higher risk of injury in dance. The incident has sparked a broader conversation about body standards in the ballet community.


The School of Cleveland Ballet finds itself in the midst of a controversy as allegations of body size discrimination surface. The suspension of the Artistic Director and CEO reflects the seriousness with which the organization is addressing the issue. The incident raises important questions about the treatment of dancers and staff in the ballet industry and highlights the need for a more inclusive and diverse environment. As the internal and external investigations unfold, the ballet community awaits the outcome, hoping for a positive shift towards a more accepting and equitable future.






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