Chas. Ballet: Email was slander Lawsuit claims anonymous critic delivered 'disparaging remarks'

Jill Eathorne-Bahr, who is resident choreographer with the Charleston Ballet Theatre, is mentioned in the anonymous email over which the group has filed a lawsuit claiming slander.

The Charleston Ballet Theatre has sued an anonymous critic for slander, citing an email containing what the suit calls “defamatory statements and disparaging remarks.”

The short email was distributed Feb. 17 “to several dance companies all over the United States, including members of the Regional Dance America (RDA),” a ballet trade group, according to the suit. It referred to recent difficulties at the Charleston Ballet, which is incorporated in Tennessee as Beale Street Ballet.

“Things at Charleston Ballet Theatre are not what they seem,” the email reads. “More and more members of the board resign every day due to the abusive treatment of dancers and the mismanaging of funds.”

The email goes on to urge recipients of the note to “do your research on the matter” and includes links to recent local newspaper articles describing board resignations and allegations of plagiarism.

“The accusations mentioned are not just accusations, but truths that upon investigation have resulted in supporters, donors and dancers leaving the company at the hands of Jill Bahr,” the email states. It is signed “Someone who cares.”

An email message sent to the address could not be delivered. An error message stated, “This user doesn’t have a account.”

Messages left for Charleston Ballet CEO Jill Eathorne-Bahr and attorney Joshua P. Cantwell on Tuesday went unanswered.

The Post and Courier reported March 25 that the Charleston Ballet’s loss of board members and precarious financial situation threatened its survival. Several major funders said they could not write checks to the arts organization unless its corporate status as a functioning nonprofit was secure.

The article cited a January board subcommittee report summarizing several complaints issued by dancers, including “discontent with the style of management” and “a perception that laws are not adhered to and that plagiarism has occurred.”

The subcommittee also listed erratic scheduling and excessive work hours, intolerance for sick days, inadequate supplies of pointe shoes, disrespectful treatment of dancers and risks of injury.

Last month, Bahr responded to the newspaper’s queries with a written statement acknowledging some of the management and financial problems, as well as the report concerning dancers’ complaints.

“They (the dancers) are aware of the subcommittee report to the board and we discussed it as a group the week the Board of Directors resigned,” Bahr wrote.

She faulted unidentified critics for undermining the well-being of the ballet company.

“The harsh reality is that certain individuals continue to generate this negative press through social media and the Internet,” Bahr wrote.