(NEW YORK) — Prominent Italian theater director Antonio Calenda, 73, and 27-year-old model and dancer Natasha Diamond-Walker, are no longer in a relationship. The pair have split up after a year and a half of dating.
Now Calenda, who is director of the Teatro Stabile in Trieste, Italy, and lives in Rome, has sued Diamond-Walker in New York State Supreme Court, alleging that Diamond-Walker “manipulated” him “into buying her lavish gifts during the course of their relationship,” according to the lawsuit filed Monday.
The budding dancer, who is from Los Angeles and attended Fordham University in New York, first met Calenda in February 2011, while performing in “Looking for Picasso,” which Calenda directed in Italy.
During the relationship, Diamond-Walker borrowed $775,500 from Calenda to purchase an apartment on New York’s Upper West Side, according to the lawsuit. While the two had entered into a written agreement in which Diamond-Walker promised to repay the money without interest, several months after Diamond-Walker moved into her new home she “severed” her relationship with Calenda, declaring she never intended to repay the loan. In the lawsuit, Calenda claimed fraud: “It is clear [Diamond-Walker] orchestrated a fraudulent scheme to obtain the funds necessary to purchase the property,” according to the court filing.
When reached by ABC News, Eric Cohen, Diamond-Walker’s attorney, said, “These allegations are a gross mischaracterization of the facts. This is really a story about an older man in a position of power seeking to control a young woman. Natasha is a talented artist who will defend herself against these allegations.”
LaRue Allen, executive director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, called Diamond-Walker, who is one of the company’s regular dancers, “a vivacious, warm and outgoing individual.”
Allen recalled when Calenda, who also directed the 1973 movie One Russian Summer, and Diamond-Walker first met. “We had a group of dancers, nine women, who worked with us in Italy since 2010 on Italian Projects,” which Calenda directed.
“I have a great deal of respect for him,” Allen said. “His work with the Martha Graham dancers was amazing,” but “sometimes these relationships don’t work out.”
Allen said her dance company never had a policy that prohibited dancers from having a relationship with a show’s director. “We do not censor our dancer’s personal lives,” said Allen. “If an adult individual chooses to have an affair with another adult individual, we do not prohibit that.”
Calenda is seeking abouit $1.8 million in damages for “fraud and compensatory damages,” said Calenda’s attorney, Marc Fitapelli.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN
Eli Watkins, CNN
Ray Sanchez, CNN