Nick Lazzarini, the first-ever winner of the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance,” has been removed from a popular touring dance company following allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour raised in a Toronto Star investigation.
Titans of Dance, which hosts dance schools across the United States, said Lazzarini will not be attending their events “until further notice.” The allegations stem from Lazzarini’s time working for another dance company.
“Our events have always centered on providing a safe day of education and inspiration for dancers of all ages. We believe this is best achieved by providing the dancers a diverse faculty in a stress-free environment. We will continue to uphold this philosophy,” a statement posted on the Titans of Dance Instagram account said.
Meanwhile, a U.S. dance studio said the 37-year-old choreographer no longer has a residency at its South Carolina conservatory.
Lazzarini did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lazzarini has denied subjecting anyone to unwanted sexual advances during his time at Break the Floor (BTF), a prominent company that tours Canada, the United States and Mexico hosting dance classes and putting on performances led by elite dancers and choreographers known from Broadway, film and television. Lazzarini had worked there until 2019.
A Star investigation found allegations of widespread sexual harassment and predatory behaviour by BTF coaches over their younger students, where dancers say their complaints of inappropriate conduct have been dismissed by the company’s owner, letting the problem fester for years.
Eight former staff and students alleged BTF employees, famous in the dance world, initiated sexual conversations, propositioned them for sex, sent them nude photos, sexually harassed them at work or engaged in sexual relationships with them.
Break the Floor’s CEO Gil Stroming previously told the Star that the dance company did not have “fully thought out policies and procedures regarding this” and, “over the last year and half we have worked very hard to make BTF a better and safer environment for everyone.”
Six of the eight dancers alleged Lazzarini subjected them to unwanted sexual advances. Three of them said these alleged advances happened when they were under 18.
Toronto-born Isla Clarke was 16 in 2012 when she alleges she received a nude photo texted from Lazzarini, who was nearly twice her age. He was inviting her to his hotel room, she alleges.
The alleged sexual proposition happened at a BTF event in New York City where Lazzarini had been among a panel of judges grading Clarke’s performance.
Clarke said she turned down Lazzarini’s request to join him in his hotel room. The Star has not seen the now-deleted text from Lazzarini, but has spoken with two people with whom Clarke shared or discussed the message.
In a previous statement to the Star, Lazzarini apologized “to those who bravely stepped forward to share their truth.”
“I have dedicated my life to creating happiness and joy in this world through dance and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have caused anyone to feel sad or hurt,” he said.
“While some of what is being said about me is inaccurate or mischaracterized, there is enough truth in their stories to make me feel ashamed and remorseful. I apologize and sincerely regret that my actions have hurt people I cherish or has broken their trust.”
In a later response, after being presented with another accusation that he sent nude photos to a teenage dancer, Lazzarini added: “I have never subjected anyone to unwanted sexual advances. Any claims to the contrary are simply untrue.”
In 2019, according to multiple sources, Lazzarini accidentally posted to Instagram a video that appears to show himself masturbating. After the Star published its investigation last week, BTF issued a statement saying it fired the choreographer following this incident “because of concerns about this type of behaviour.”
Titans of Dance did not say whether its recent removal of Lazzarini from its tour is permanent.
Columbia City Jazz Conservatory (CCJ), a dance studio in South Carolina, confirmed that Lazzarini “no longer has a residency” at the studio.
“We’ve had parent/student meetings in the last few days to discuss our feelings on the alleged events, and our studio policy on safety and diversity issues, and the fact that Nick wouldn’t be teaching any more,” said Les Mizzell, business manager of the CCJ.
Morgan Bocknek works on the Star’s Digital Desk, based in Toronto. She is also a Star contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @mobocks