State says ballet school founder will not face criminal charges following alleged sexual assault

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The State of Alaska will not pursue charges in a case of alleged sexual assault by a prominent Anchorage ballet instructor, the District Attorney’s office said Thursday.

The decision follows a December incident in which, after a big performance - the culmination of at least a whole season, if not years, of work, which is supposed to be one of the highlights of a dancer's career - a young woman said she had been sexually assaulted, and the dream became a nightmare.

The date was Dec. 8: Alex Icet, relatively new in the ballet world, said that on that night, an instructor she was close to sexually assaulted her at a Nutcracker after-party.

"The line is always so blurred," Icet said. "You're used to this person touching your body, correcting it. And at that point, you're like, 'Is this a massage? Where is the line?'"

"I made it very clear," she said.

Her alleged attacker was Michelangelo Canale, a well-known figure in the ballet community who has been serving as the creative director for the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy. He founded the school in 1997.

In mid-December of 2017, the Anchorage Police Dept. sent out a public request for information about Canale and any additional victims who might have had an experience similar to Icet's.

But in January, following investigations, the Dept. of Law released a statement saying the State would likely be unable to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"This in no [sic] ways implies that Mr. Canale's conduct is not of concern," the letter, from Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and Asst. District Attorney Andrew Grannik to APD Det. Brett Sarber, said. "But based on my detailed review of the investigation and all available evidence, the state will be unable to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Therefore," the letter continues, "the State will not be initiating a prosecution against Mr. Canale."

A post Icet shared on her Facebook profile prompted numerous women to come forward with their own accounts of sexual misconduct by Canale, both on and off school grounds.

"A little bit of it kind of falls on all of us," said Aurora Milam, a former instructor at the school. "We knew that there was a problem. It's a long, hard, difficult road, and sometimes it's easier to just get out of the way."

As for Icet, she has since departed from the Anchorage Ballet and said she will be focusing on her nursing career.

"I told someone after the production that, 'I know you're happy to see me do this (performance), but I'm not going to do ballet anymore, and this is why.'

"I drove over on (that) Monday," she continued. "Couldn't muster the courage to go into the studio. Came back Tuesday and left a withdrawal slip, which said, 'sexual coercion by Michelangelo.' Afterwards someone in the parking lot came up to me and said, 'He's been touching me too.'"

Milam said Icet, who she taught during her time at the school, has been the first to publicly decry sexual misconduct by Canale, but that she's hardly the only one who left because of his behavior.

"One after one," she said, "a mass exit of program students. And there was a mass exit, beginning with me, of faculty, too."

Edward Barrington, ACBA Board President, told Channel 2 in mid-January that Canale had been suspended since the board found out about the allegations.

"The Board has responded," he wrote in an email, "with administrated suspension of it's Artistic Director until investigations are complete."

He said after the State’s announcement that the ACBA Board will issue an official statement after its next meeting, a date for which has not yet been set.

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