In the weeks leading up to the opening of the Broadway revival of “West Side Story,” a small contingent of protesters and an online petition have called for the removal of a prominent cast member, Amar Ramasar, who was at one point fired from New York City Ballet after he shared sexually explicit photos of another dancer.
On Friday, the woman depicted in those photos, who is Mr. Ramasar’s girlfriend, spoke out. And she made clear that she thought Mr. Ramasar was being unfairly targeted.
“I am not a victim in this,” the dancer, Alexa Maxwell, said in a news release. She explained that Mr. Ramasar had expressed his regret over the situation and that she had forgiven him.
Ms. Maxwell, 25, has previously tried to keep her name out of the public discussion, but said that the recent protests — one of them scheduled for Friday night outside the theater where “West Side Story” is now in previews — prompted her to release the statement.
The objections have put a cloud over the production, and over Mr. Ramasar, 38, who has regained his job at City Ballet and resumed his acting career. In “West Side Story” he plays Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, a neighborhood gang.
The allegations against him surfaced in 2018 when Alexandra Waterbury, a former student of the School of American Ballet, which is affiliated with City Ballet, sued the ballet and several men, including Chase Finlay, a dancer who had been her boyfriend, as well as Mr. Ramasar.
In the lawsuit, Ms. Waterbury accused Mr. Finlay of sharing explicit photographs of her with Mr. Ramasar and others, without Ms. Waterbury’s consent. Mr. Ramasar was accused of sending Mr. Finlay photos of a different dancer, who was not named in the lawsuit but who Ms. Maxwell now says was she. Mr. Finlay resigned from the ballet; Mr. Ramasar and another dancer were fired, but an arbitrator later ruled that their dismissals were too harsh a punishment.
In an interview on Friday, Ms. Maxwell said she was exasperated by comments online calling Mr. Ramasar a “rapist” and by private messages chiding her for staying in the relationship despite his behavior.
Ms. Maxwell said that while she considered Mr. Ramasar’s decision to share her photos a “misstep in judgment,” she had forgiven him. She said she had told the arbitrator the same.
The couple have been together for nearly five years, she said. “He apologized time and time again, and I think that it’s my choice as a woman to forgive him,” she said.
During an hourlong phone conversation with Ms. Waterbury after her lawsuit was filed in 2018, Ms. Maxwell said, Ms. Waterbury tried to persuade her to join the lawsuit by saying that City Ballet “is worth half a billion dollars,” and that she would win “a lot” and could have “an entirely new life.”
Ms. Waterbury’s lawyer, Jordan K. Merson, said in a statement that Ms. Maxwell’s description of her conversation with Ms. Waterbury was inaccurate, but he did not go into specifics. Mr. Merson said that the timing of Ms. Maxwell’s statement, more than a year after the lawsuit was filed, was “suspect,” but that it helped to demonstrate the “problematic culture” at City Ballet.
“It is unfortunate that Ms. Maxwell would try to taint Ms. Waterbury with all that she has done for the #MeToo movement,” he said.
Ms. Maxwell’s public statement came as Mr. Ramasar and City Ballet have been seeking to dismiss Ms. Waterbury’s lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The lawsuit accuses the ballet of condoning the dancers’ bad behavior; the ballet has denied that, and noted that it took steps to discipline the dancers as soon as it learned of the allegations and investigated them. Ms. Waterbury’s suit also accused Mr. Ramasar of encouraging Mr. Finlay to send him the explicit photos of her; in court papers, Mr. Ramasar’s attorney noted that Mr. Finlay had already shared explicit images of Ms. Waterbury with others several times before his text exchange with Mr. Ramasar.
Scott Rudin, who is the Broadway show’s lead producer, said in a statement that Mr. Ramasar is an “exemplary company member,” noting that the behavior in question did not involve the production.
“He has more than earned our trust,” he said, “and the ‘West Side Story’ company stands with him.”
Ms. Maxwell said that the decision to speak publicly about Mr. Ramasar was her own but that she made sure the musical production was aware before she did so.
Michael Cooper and Michael Paulson contributed reporting.
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