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    Runway shows continued apace on the fourth day of Milan Fashion Week as the itinerant fashion crowd took an analytical attitude toward the cases of the virus from China clustered not far away in northern Italy. Milan city officials closed offices as a precaution as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases grew in an area just an hour outside of the fashion capital. Milan is the capital of Italy's Lombardy region, which reported 39 confirmed cases tied to a single patient. While there was chatter at runway shows and other Fashion Week events about the rapidly spiking infections, health worries remained remote enough. 'For the moment the situation is under control,’’ the president of the Italian National Fashion Chamber, Carlo Capasa, said. ‘’It doesn’t seem to me, in this moment, for what regards our sector, our fashion week, that there are signs of danger,’’ Capasa said. ‘’We are tranquil and prudent.’’ Still, MIDO, the world's largest eyewear industry fair, announced Saturday that it would postpone the gathering scheduled Feb. 29-March 2 until June, due to concerns over the virus. ‘’The evolution of this health crisis under way in our country does not leave any doubt over our decision,'' MIDO president Giovanni Vitaloni said in a statement. Highlights from previews for Fall-Winter 2020-21 womenswear looks: ___ FASHION’S VIRAL ECONOMIC CONCERNS While the virus clusters didn't cause undue health concerns at Milan Fashion Week, fashion houses remain worried about the longer-term economic impact. Chinese consumers at home and abroad are responsible for one-third of global luxury sales. The Italian fashion chamber has already forecast a 2% contraction in first-half revenues. ‘’I think we have to live day by day because it is beyond our control,’’ Ferruccio Ferragamo, son of the late Salvatore Ferragamo, said at the brand's Saturday’s runway preview. ‘’We try to do our best with heart and head, everything in order to get over this.’’ He said the brand is maintaining close contact with its people in China. ‘’I think that if we are very ‘foot on the ground,’ we will benefit later,’’ Ferragamo said. Giorgio Armani also expressed longer-term uncertainty ‘’We don’t know when we will be able to breath a sigh of relief,’’ the designer said. Armani said the challenge for businesses won't end when the virus stops spreading. At that point, a fashion companies will need to renovate stores and ‘’again create enthusiasm among the people,'' he said after the Emporio Armani preview Friday. ___ FERRAGAMO’S ‘’METAMODERN’’ WOMAN The queen, the mother, the lover, the sage, the maiden, the huntress and the mystic. They are the seven Jungian archetypes that inspired creative director Paul Andrew’s newest collection for Salvatore Ferragamo. ‘’I was thinking that here, today, in this modern age, a woman in any given hour is all of those things together,’’ Andrew said backstage. Andrew’s mood board was full of ‘’iconic’’ women who fulfill those roles. They included Nancy Pelosi, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Sharon Stone, in her ‘’Fatal Attraction,’’ iteration, and Wanda Ferragamo, Salvatore’s widow, who helped turn his luxury shoe business into the global luxury brand it is today. The collection brimmed with Italian craftsmanship -- from wavy woven bags made from upcycled left-over leather from the Ferragamo warehouses, to hand-made macramé inserts in an archival botanical print that enhanced the back of a print blouse with eye-catching detail. Trousers were high-waisted, sometimes corseted and other times layered with a built-in side-cinched long skirt on top. Knitwear, worn perhaps as mini-dresses, came embroidered with exotic florals. Leather coats had a light feel and incorporated scarves. The design feature was repeated on sheer dresses and blazers, creating a dramatic effect. And there were strong all-leather pant looks for anyone wanting to star in their own James Bond thriller. The opening and closing looks featured fringe-adorned dresses -- one a shimmering silver fringe skirt over a black sheath, and the other long strands of ribbon trailing from a black strapless number -- that had a polished, shredded effect. Coincidence that it comes just weeks after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shredded a copy of U.S. President Trump’s State of the Union address on live TV? ‘’She’s an incredible woman,’’ Andrew said of Pelosi. ‘’She is powerful, she is strong, she is comfortable with herself. She is everything I admire in a woman.’’ ___ ANNAKIKI REPRESENTS CHINA IN MILAN Annakiki creator and designer Anna Yang filled her Milan runway with a zany collection of expertly constructed, playful silhouettes. As the only Chinese brand originally on the Milan schedule that was able to keep its runway appointment, Yang was ‘’very emotional about the show,'' said an associate, who goes by Meng. ‘’She's worried about public opinion.'' The show was packed, including Capasa in the front row, and her return to making an upbeat and fun collection after a more commercial last season was popular with the fashion crowd. That included a multi-tiered bubble ruffle dress, an overcoat with accentuated sleeves and a bubble skirt finish, and a mini-dress with puffy circular shoulders contrasting with the tightly cinched waist — all in bright hues of pink or orange. For him, there was an oversize tan plaid suit jacket that looked as if it had been mauled, revealing purple undertones. Yang makes all of her accessories and part of her ready-to-wear collection in Italy, and the other half in Shenzhen, China. The collection was mostly complete before the Chinese New Year and in Milan before flights closed. Three other Chinese brands had to pull out of Milan Fashion Week due to travel issues related to the virus. Annakiki's Chinese factory was able to open last week after a three-week closure, Meng said. But business still faces a tough recovery in China, where traffic at 24 monobrand stores has been ‘’down to zero,'' she said. The brand is also available in eight cities outside Asia, including London, Paris and Florence as well as online. ___ MISSONI’S GEOMETRIC MISSION Angela Missoni presented a co-ed collection bursting with youthful touches for mixing and matching. For her, there were light-weight knit tunics with diagonal stripes, worn with dark horizontally striped leggings. Overcoats were oversized and enveloping. Layered cardigans were worn with loose knit pants tucked into boots. Looks were finished with glittery knit gardening gloves, kerchiefs around the neck or Renaissance painter hats. The uniting theme was geometry: stripes of all types, that is horizontal, diagonal, vertical, triangular and patchwork. For him, geometric patterns clashed on a clean silhouette: a knit top of tiny bursts, patchwork pants and houndstooth overcoat covered with triangle patches. Sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid closed the Missoni show, side-by-side, fittingly for the brand that is still firmly in family hands. ____ ERMANNO SCERVINO’S FEMININE BEAUTY Lace and embroidery lent beauty to Ermanno Scervino’s ever-light creations for next fall and winter. Strong floral embroidery, white on black, gave a Nordic edge to belted overcoats and ponchos, and a couture touch to puffer coats. Sequins became a glam daytime office look on a green asymmetrical skirt paired with a knit turtleneck. Pretty transparent pleated skirts were worn over sequined layers for a pretty impact. Slip dresses ranged from leather and lace combos in black to white-on-white embroidery. Beautiful golden lame suits will light up any holiday party next season. ‘’It’s an unconditional celebration of beautiful femininity,’’ Scervino said in show notes.
  • Hundreds of supporters of Julian Assange marched through London on Saturday to pressure the U.K. government into refusing to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States to face spying charges. Famous backers, including Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood joined the crowd protesting the U.S. espionage charges against the founder of the secret-spilling website. An extradition hearing for Assange is due to begin in a London court on Monday. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told a rally outside Parliament that the prosecution of Assange represented “a dark force against (those) who want justice, transparency and truth.' U.S. prosecutors have charged the 48-year-old Australian computer expert with espionage over WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of confidential government documents. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison. American authorities say Assange conspired with U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange argues he acted as a journalist and is therefore entitled to First Amendment protection. He also maintains the documents exposed wrongdoing and protected many people. Civil liberties groups and journalism organizations, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, have urged the U.S. to drop the charges, saying they set a chilling precedent for freedom of the press. More than 40 jurists from the U.K., the U.S., France and other countries published a letter Saturday asking the British government to reject the extradition request. They accused the U.S. of “extra-territorial overreach” in seeking to prosecute an Australian who was based in the U.K. Assange is currently incarcerated in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, having previously spent seven years inside the Embassy of Ecuador. He holed up in the South American country’s U.K. diplomatic mission in 2012 to avoid being sent to Sweden to face questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations. That case has since been dropped. Assange was evicted from the embassy in April 2019 and arrested by British police for jumping bail seven years earlier. Assange’s legal team argues that the case against him is politically motivated. His lawyers said they would present evidence they claim shows that Assange was offered a pardon if he agreed to say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. Emails embarrassing for the Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign were hacked before being published by WikiLeaks in 2016. Assange’s lawyers say the offer was made in August 2017 by then-Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who claimed to be acting on behalf of President Donald Trump. The White House called the claim “a complete fabrication and a total lie.” Rohrabacher said in a statement that he told Assange “that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him. At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President.” ___ This story has been corrected to show that Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders is American, not British.
  • Hollywood's awards season isn't over quite yet, with the NAACP Image Awards putting the spotlight Saturday on the achievements of actors and musicians of color. The evening's honorees include Oscar contenders, namely Cynthia Erivo, who starred in the Harriet Tubman biopic, “Harriet.” It also will showcase several actors and films that missed out on recognition at the Academy Awards, such as Eddie Murphy and his film “Dolemite is My Name” and Lupita Nyong'o, who starred in “Us.” The awards are being handed out in Pasadena at a ceremony that will be broadcast live on BET beginning at 5 p.m. PST. Rihanna and U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia will be among the show's special honorees. Lewis will receive the Chairman's Award, which goes to people who show exemplary public service and “create agents of change,” according to the NAACP. Past recipients include filmmaker Tyler Perry and then-Sen. Barack Obama. Ava DuVernay’s series “When They See Us” and “Dolemite is My Name” are among the 42 nominations for Netflix at the 51st edition of the Image Awards, which are presented to performers and writers of color. Lizzo will compete for entertainer of year against Perry, Regina King, Billy Porter and Angela Bassett. “Dolemite is My Name” will compete for best motion picture along with “Harriet,” “Just Mercy,” “Queen & Slim” and “Us.” Jordan Peele's “Us” and “Queen & Slim” helped Universal Pictures earn the most nominations in the film categories, with 15. Presenters will include Jamie Foxx, Alicia Keys, Morgan Freeman, Tiffany Haddish and Janelle Monae. Anthony Anderson, star of the ABC comedy “black-ish,” returns as host for the seventh time.
  • Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows: ABC's “This Week' — TBA. ___ NBC's “Meet the Press' — Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence; Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. ___ CBS' “Face the Nation' — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden; national security adviser Robert O'Brien. ___ CNN's “State of the Union' — TBA. ___ “Fox News Sunday' — Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer; Short.
  • WarnerMedia's new streaming service will debut with some extra “Friends.” The company announced Friday that the entire original “Friends” cast will reunite for an unscripted special that will be available on HBO Max when the service debuts in May. A reunion has been long-sought by fans of the NBC series, which ended its 236-episode run in 2004. HBO Max will also carry every episode of the sitcom, which has proved enduringly popular, including with young audiences who discovered the show when it was available on Netflix. The show made Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer into household names and won six Emmy Awards. “Guess you could call this the one where they all got back together — we are reuniting with David, Jennifer, Courteney, Matt, Lisa, and Matthew for an HBO Max special that will be programmed alongside the entire ‘Friends’ library,” said Kevin Reilly, HBO Max's chief content officer. The special is being called a “celebration of the beloved show” and will be shot on the same Burbank, California, soundstage where the series filmed. The stars posted identical Instagram posts of an old publicity photo of all them with the caption, “It's happening.” LeBlanc's post kept the same message but went farther back in TV history — he used a “M-A-S-H” cast photo instead. The show's stars and its co-creator, Marta Kauffman, have long fielded questions about a possible reunion. Rumblings of an unscripted reunion special picked up after the WarnerMedia announced it would launch its HBO Max service into the crowded streaming landscape. It was also announced Friday that cable channel TBS will air the show's entire run weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and career diplomat who during the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump offered a chilling account of alleged threats from Trump and his allies, has a book deal. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that it had acquired Yovanovitch's planned memoir, currently untitled. According to the publisher, the book will trace her long career, from Mogadishu, Somalia, to Kyiv and “finally back to Washington, D.C. — where, to her dismay, she found a political system beset by many of the same challenges she had spent her career combating overseas.' “Yovanovitch’s book will deliver pointed reflections on the issues confronting America today, and thoughts on how we can shore up our democracy,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in an announcement. Financial terms were not disclosed, but two people familiar with the deal told the AP that the agreement was worth seven figures, even though the book is not expected until Spring 2021, months after this fall's election. They were not authorized to discuss negotiations and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss financial terms. Yovanovitch was represented by the Javelin literary agency, where other clients include former FBI Director James Comey and former national security adviser John Bolton. “Ambassador Yovanovitch has had a 30-year career of public service in many locations, with many lessons to be drawn. This is about much more than just the recent controversy,' said Houghton Mifflin Senior Vice President and Publisher Bruce Nichols, in response to a question about why her book wasn't coming out this year. Yovanovitch told House investigators last year that Ukrainian officials had warned her in advance that Rudy Giuliani and other Trump insiders were planning to “do things, including to me” and were “looking to hurt” her. Pushed out of her job earlier in 2019 on Trump’s orders, she testified that a senior Ukrainian official told her that “I really needed to watch my back.” Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv as Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was involved with Burisma, a gas company there. Biden, the former vice president, is a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. According to a rough transcript released by the White House, Trump told Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy last summer that Yovanovitch “was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news.' The allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate a political opponent led to his impeachment in December on two counts by the Democratic-run House. Earlier this month, the Republican-run Senate acquitted him on both counts. Yovanovitch, 61, was appointed ambassador to Ukraine in 2016 by President Barack Obama. She recently was given the Trainor Award, an honor for international diplomacy presented by Georgetown University, and currently is a non-resident fellow at Georgetown's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. ___ This story has been updated to correct the original headline, which referred to former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as `Former Ukraine diplomat'
  • While taboos surrounding online dating are long gone, some of today’s app users are sick of the endless swiping and virtual pen-paling that leads nowhere when it comes to long-term relationships, according to industry leaders who are responding with new ways to get users off their phones and out meeting people in the real world. David Vermeulen is one such leader. His Inner Circle, launched in 2012, is more closely curating users looking for meaningful connections, and he's hosting offline events in cities around the globe to help make that happen among his more than 2 million members. He said he saw a big shift in online dating attitudes toward the end of the decade as some people have become “Tinder tired.” “They really now are looking for something more serious, something more genuine,” Vermeulen said. Justin McLeod, who launched Hinge in 2011, shares Vermeulen’s view that dating apps should be focused on getting people offline. Hinge’s tag line is the app that's 'designed to be deleted.” In 2016, Hinge intentionally removed the swipe option to encourage more interaction. When they were told that people felt overwhelmed by their number of choices, they created a “most compatible” function. That, he said, 'really helps people focus and get out on dates faster.” The Inner Circle plans to add a “Let’s Meet' button to speed up the pathway from app to real-life date. “If you both click it, you can within the chat select days and venues that we propose and then you can go on a date really quickly. And I mean going out for a coffee. I mean, that's the first step. But for a lot of people, it's quite a big step and we tried to make that much more easy,' Vermeulen said. His app also plans to add an automated response to anyone who just messages “Hi” as an introduction, which he said is often a dead-end to dating. “We're gonna say, OK, this is not the best start for a conversation. You have to do better,' Vermeulen said. It's not just the newer generation of apps that are adapting to changing dating attitudes. OkCupid is one of the original dating sites, started by two Harvard math graduates in 2004. Beginning life as a desktop website, it developed into an app with the advent of smartphones. Today, OkCupid boasts that it sets up 50,000 dates per week. The site enforces certain restrictions to try and weed out those not interested in getting to that date. The company insists that users post more than one photo and puts them through a list of localized timely questions before a profile can be set up. So if you thought you should avoid talking politics or religion on a first date, it seems the tides are turning. Users can filter based on their views from climate change to Brexit. “In the U.S., we may ask you, how do you feel the upcoming election? We may say, could you date someone that didn't vote?” said OkCupid’s global chief marketing officer, Melissa Hobley. According to a Pew Research Center study last year, 3 in 10 Americans have used a dating site or app and 12 percent have married or have been in a committed relationship with someone they met through online dating. Hobley said one of the most exciting developments as digital dating moves into the 2020s is in emerging markets including India, Indonesia, Turkey, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea, where dating hasn’t always been so easy. In India, for example, a new generation of women are 'going to university, and they're working, and they're saying arranged marriage is not for me, and I want the ability to find my own person, and for my marriage to be a choice that I make,” she said. Hobley has also seen strides in inclusiveness and support throughout LGBTQ communities, creating a safe space to express gender and sexuality preferences and to meet potential partners. “An estimated 70 to 80 percent of LGBTQ relationships started on a dating app,” she said. For Hobley, the love doesn't stop there. She said she gets an average of 5 to 20 wedding emails and invites a week. “I will crash your wedding,” she jokes, “but we also send a gift.” ___ Associated Press writer Alicia Rancilio in New York contributed to this story.
  • Italian archaeologists unveiled to the press Friday an exciting new find from the Roman Forum, which they say could be the lost shrine dedicated some 2,600 years ago to Romulus, Rome's legendary founder and first king. Visually, the discovery first announced Tuesday is not very remarkable: Peering down in an excavated space beneath the Curia Julia, or ancient senate house, one sees something resembling a washtub that archaeologists say is a sarcophagus, or stone coffin. There's also a cylindrical stone block, a chunky stub of what might have been an altar. Both items are made of tuff, carved from the Capitoline Hill that overlooks the Forum, and which is home to today's City Hall. The recently excavated area “represents a place, which in history and in the Roman imagination, speaks about the cult ofRomulus,”said archaeologist Patrizia Fortini. Fortini says no one's hypothesizing the sarcophagus actually ever contained the bones of Romulus who, with his twin Remus, established the city near the Tiber River around 753 B.C. and founded the kingdom of Rome. It likely dates to the 6th Century BC, some 200 years after Romulus' time. “We don't know whether Romulus physically existed' the way he was described in legends, Fortini said. But some ancient sources claimed that Romulus was buried in the area of the find, and the sarcophagus could have served as a memorial. Alfonsina Russo, the archaeologist in charge of the site, noted that according to some ancient traditions Romulus was killed and chopped to pieces, or ascended into heaven. “Therefore,this cannot be his tomb, but it is very likely, we believe, that this is a memorial site, a cenotaph,” Russo added. While excavations continue, authorities hope the public will be able to stroll underground to view the find in about two years. Legends hold that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf as babies, but later Romulus killed his twin brother in a dispute. Curiously, it's the second time the sarcophagus and cylindrical stone stub have been unearthed, but it's only now that archaeologists are attributing an exciting significance to them. In 1899, an Italian archaeologist, Giacomo Boni, was the first to systematically excavate the area. He described in his writings finding “a rectangular, tub-shaped crate in tuff” and the cylindrical stone, which he likened to a tree trunk. The open-topped “crate” contained what apparently were odds and ends — fragments of pottery, pebbles, sea shells and a piece of reddish plaster. Boni attributed no particular importance to his finds, and in the 1930s, during the regime of dictator Mussolini, a monumental staircase to the Curia building was built over the site. 'We thought it would have been destroyed'' by the 1930s construction above ground, Russo said. But Fortini's intuition told her that what Boni had found was likely a shrine to Romulus, since the area is one associated with the origins of Rome, and she sought to excavate there. A crucial clue for Fortini to decide where to dig was the location a few meters (yards) away of a black marble pavement known by its Latin name, Lapis Niger. Fortini noted in an interview that the Lapis Niger, one of the oldest relics in the Forum, was long believed to mark a sacred spot and was linked to the origins of Rome.
  • How much to show and how much not to show, that is the fashion question this season. It may be reductive to say that runway shows are about how women dress. But the conversation has sharpened in the #MeToo era. Is a sheer dress that reveals the undergarments beneath, however prettily prepared, empowering or exploitative? What about conspicuous displays of skin? Giorgio Armani responded to the question elegantly in the latest collection for his youthful Emporio Armani line, offering women a range of options that are appropriate for their age and shape. The 85-year-old designer also gave a passionate backstage discourse about the body-baring collections of fellow designers, saying he thinks they reveal too much at the expense of women. Some highlights from Friday’s womenswear trends for next fall and winter: EMPORIO ARMANI RAILS AGAINST TRENDS Giorgio Armani railed against colleagues who, in the name of trends, push the limit on revealing garments, enticing women to make choices that might be inappropriate for their age, shape or occasion. ‘’We say that women are being raped in a corner. Women continue to be raped by designers,’’ Armani said Friday during a backstage news conference in Milan. Pressed to clarify, he said: ‘’Women can be raped in various ways. Throwing her under a stairwell or suggesting she dresses in a certain way:. For me, that is raping a woman.’’ The words were strong, and Armani's press office said later that the 85-year-old designer was speaking metaphorically and passionately about a direction in luxury fashion that he sees as damaging to women’s images. Armani has been dressing women for 45 years. One of his first design successes was a softened suit jacket, a creation that women of that time say was immensely liberating in a way that is difficult to comprehend in the spandex era. He is one of the few designers who, when discussing his collections, makes clear he takes different body shapes into consideration. In that vein, the Emporio Armani line took a stand against trends, targeting youthful dressers who are not necessarily that young. For next fall and winter, he crafted a range of jackets, from long and flowing to short and pleated. Trousers were dressed up with silk draping. The show closed with shimmering cocktail dresses that turned on elegant ruffles and floral constructions. The palette was dark blue and black, as well as deeper shades of peacock blue and emerald green. ‘’Trends are nothing,’’ Armani said. ‘’I am trying to improve the woman who is living now.’’ His recipe is simple: black works for everyone. ‘’It helps women to acquire allure,’’ he explained. Great legs can carry short skirts. Not so great legs, ‘’a longer skirt with a little movement helps.’’ Leggings are to be avoided for anyone with ‘’a slightly accentuated behind.’’ The pearls of wisdom might seem like common sense to people who aren't in the throes of runway trends. But Armani knows their power, ‘’I want to give full freedom to women,’’ Armani said. ‘’If they have some common sense, and they do, they know how to manage these possibilities.’’
  • There was a chorus outside the Broadway Theatre on Thursday at the opening night of a new revival of “West Side Story” but what was being sung was a protest chant. A group of about 100 people demanded the removal of cast member Amar Ramasar, who was fired and then reinstated last year at New York City Ballet for sharing nude photos of women and sexually explicit texts. The protesters chanted 'Hey hey, ho ho, Amar Ramasar has got to go!” before the curtain went up even as the opening night celebration drew such stars as Andrea Martin, Julie Taymor, Vanessa Hudgens, Alec Baldwin and Iman. Protests outside Broadway shows are relatively rare but have occurred by anti-Scientology activists outside “All My Sons” starring Katie Holmes in 2008 and outside “The Scottsboro Boys” in 2010 by people upset by that show's material. Alexandra Waterbury, a former student with the City Ballet's affiliated school, the School of American Ballet, alleged in 2018 that Ramasar and two other men shared nude photos of her, taken without her knowledge, with other men in the company. Since, then, there’s been a petition to remove Ramasar from “West Side Story,” where he plays Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. Producers in a statement last week backed the actor, noting that the incident took place in a different workplace and “has been both fully adjudicated and definitively concluded according to the specific rules of that workplace.” “There is zero consideration being given to his potentially being terminated from this workplace, as there has been no transgression of any kind, ever, in this workplace,” the statement read. Protesters held signs that read: “Boo Bernardo” and “Keep Predators Off the Stage.” One of the organizers, Megan Rabin, said she wanted alleged abusers to know they’ve been put on notice. 'I hope that we can set the precedent that Broadway is no place for a sex offender. There's no place in the spotlight for a sex offender, and men who abuse their power will face consequences for it,” Rabin said. Actor's Equity Association, which represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers, issued a statement saying it is trying to ensure that all Broadway actors work in a harassment-free environment. “Everyone at ‘West Side Story’ should be able to go to work and perform feeling safe and protected in their workplace. Equity has been in communication with the general manager and the members of the show. As a union, Equity’s role is to ensure that our members are protected in the workplace and we take that responsibility very seriously. Equity will continue to hold all employers to their legal obligation to maintain a safe and harassment-free environment,' said Executive Director Mary McColl. Ramasar and another dancer were initially terminated by New York City Ballet. The third dancer resigned before he could be fired. Their union, the American Guild of Musical Artists, appealed the firings to the arbitrator, and both were reinstated last year. Ramasar did not return to the ballet company. ___ Associated Press writer Mark Kennedy contributed to this report.