Alexandra Waterbury protests outside a February preview performance of "West Side Story" on Broadway in New York.

Protests against a star of 'West Side Story' on Broadway reveal a #MeToo saga that's not what you might expect

Updated 4:05 AM ET, Sat March 7, 2020

New York (CNN)A revival of "West Side Story" has been roiled in protests as one of its stars faces renewed heat for admittedly exchanging nude images of two women years ago without their consent.

For the past several weeks, protesters have gathered ahead of performances at the Broadway Theatre in Manhattan's Times Square District, where the musical recently opened. They carry signs that read, "Boo Bernardo" and "Keep Predators Off The Stage."
Their target is Amar Ramasar, who plays Bernardo, one of the lead roles.
Amar Ramasar attends the National Dance Institute Annual Gala in 2018 in New York.
Ramasar admitted in 2018 to receiving nude images of Alexandra Waterbury, one of the protesters, from a fellow New York City Ballet dancer.
Ramasar, 38, responded with nude images of his own girlfriend, Alexa Maxwell, he also acknowledged. The women, who are also ballet dancers, were unaware at the time that the photos had been exchanged, they told CNN.
Since the #MeToo movement took hold in 2017, the pattern of escalating accusations has become familiar, repeating itself across multiple industries with the aim of holding accountable those allegedly involved in sexual misconduct and those who cover it up.
But here is where this story splits.
Alexandra Waterbury attends a "Green Book" screening in 2018 in New York.
Maxwell, 25, is still in a relationship with Ramasar and maintains that she has forgiven him. She argues that because he sent images only of her, she is the only one who can label herself his victim -- and she doesn't see herself that way, she told CNN.
"I am a huge supporter of the #MeToo movement and women," Maxwell said. "But in this particular case, if Amar was to be 'Me Tooed,' in a sense, I think that I would have to be the one to 'Me Too' him, and I'm not doing that."
Waterbury, 22, began protesting against Ramasar outside the new show because she considers both herself and Maxwell victims. The ballet star, she said, must face judgment for his role in the photo exchange, whether it is civil liability, criminal prosecution or being forced out of "West Side Story" and the dance world altogether, she said.
"People have been blacklisted for less," Waterbury said. "And then somebody who's been proven, and has admitted and his girlfriend has admitted that he did this without consent -- why is he allowed to continue?"
The women's postures highlight some of the murkier aspects of the #MeToo effort, from the varying degrees of sexual misconduct -- particularly in the digital age -- to the limits of forgiveness and who can carry the movement's mantle.

A forgiving partner becomes an online target

The New York City Ballet fired Ramasar in fall 2018 over the nude image-sharing scandal, but Ramasar later was reinstated after a union disputed the termination and he agreed to undergo counseling for standards of conduct, according to the ballet company.
Ramasar's lawyer described his client's actions as a "mistake." The dancer "understands that his actions have been disruptive to many people, and he takes full responsibility for them," attorney Lance Gotko told CNN.
Alexa Maxwell of the New York City Ballet performs in 2015.
Maxwell says she forgave Ramasar because he voluntarily confessed to her that he had sent the photos soon after doing so and because he said he had not participated in group chats that included abusive language toward other dancers, she told CNN.
"It was a mistake. And it was hurtful to me more than anyone because it was my photos that were sent," Maxwell said.
Maxwell finds the protesters' signs "frustrating" because she believes they unfairly attribute to Ramasar crimes he has not been accused of committing, she said.
"It's not fair for him to be taking responsibility for things that he didn't do," Maxwell said. "Not saying he didn't do anything, but he's not a rapist. He's not a pedophile and not a sexual predator."
Maxwell's support for her boyfriend has opened her up to online criticism from other women, including Waterbury, she said.
Online commenters have told Maxwell she is a "victim" who is unwittingly trapped in an abusive relationship, she said. Others have said she does not support the #MeToo movement. One called her a "selfish cow."
Waterbury, who is studying gender and women's studies at Columbia University, recently took aim at Maxwell, a student at Fordham University.
"Dancers make very little and often times don't have college educations to fall back on," Waterbury said in an Instagram story post about Maxwell that she confirmed with CNN.
Waterbury believes Maxwell is "in extreme denial about what (Ramasar) has done to her and the significance of it," she told CNN.

An accuser says she feels like 'just a body'

Waterbury alleges that her boyfriend at the time, Chase Finlay, took the nude images and videos of her without her knowledge before sharing them widely across multiple conversations with Ramasar and other members of the New York City Ballet organization.
Chase Finlay attends the New York City Ballet 2017 Spring Gala.
In one group chat, of which Ramasar was not part, one participant said of the dancers in the nude images: "I bet we could tie some of them up and abuse them like farm animals," according to a lawsuit Waterbury filed in 2018 against Ramasar, Finlay, the New York City Ballet and others over the photo exchanges.
Waterbury alleges assault and negligence, as well as other claims against Ramasar, Finlay and the New York City Ballet, according to the suit.
Ramasar denies the allegations against him. Motions to dismiss by the other defendants are pending.
Ramasar, the suit alleges, not only sent his girlfriend's nude photographs to Finlay but also asked Finlay for nude photos and videos and received images of Waterbury.
"If he hadn't asked for photos of me, maybe they wouldn't have been taken," Waterbury said. "I'm, like, you're just as responsible as Chase is. Because he asked for it. You know, he asked to see me that way."
Ramasar's lawyer denies that Ramasar requested by name any images of Waterbury. Gotko also denies that Ramasar knew Finlay would send images of Waterbury. Instead, he asserts Ramasar was asking Finlay for general nude images.
But for Waterbury, that shows that, to Ramasar, she "was just a body."

Assault, revenge porn and other claims unfounded, defendants say

The suit also accuses the New York City Ballet of fostering an abusive environment that allowed the nude photo exchange to exist.
The ballet company's chairman, Charles W. Scharf, responded to Waterbury's allegations of a toxic culture at the company in 2018, telling The New York Times, "New York City Ballet is confident that there is no basis for this lawsuit, and vehemently denies the allegations that the company has condoned, encouraged, or fostered the kind of activity that Mr. Finlay and the others named have participated in."
The New York City Ballet declined to comment to CNN about Ramasar, his termination and reinstatement or his role in "West Side Story."
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