I have recently been instructed by someone who suffered abuse within ballet and dance and this has led me to have a closer look into this area, with some of the cases noted as:
- Chiswick School of Musical Theatre – a report by Rebecca Tuck QC found that the school had an “overly sexualised environment” and that some staff had entered into inappropriate relationships with school pupils. There was also an issue where teachers had used inappropriate language in respect of body image, something which has also been alleged in gymnastics recently. This report resulted in the Arts Ed Principal Chris Hocking resigning from his position. I have raised before the need for ballet and dance to be covered by the new positions of trust laws that are soon to come into force in England and Wales for sports coaches and religious leaders and this case sadly is another reason why that call for action is needed.
- Academy of Live and Recorded Arts – allegations of racist abuse resulted in the school’s principal Adrian Hall resigning from his position while in mid-2020 an investigation was started after allegations of sexual harassment were made against former staff members.
- English National Ballet and Young Dancers Academy in London – in 2021, Yat-Sen Chang was convicted of sexually assaulting four of his female students when they were aged between 16 and 19 years old. He was jailed for nine years.
- English National Ballet had already been under investigation as Newquay dance teacher Brett Bullock was sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexually assaulting five girls that he had taught to dance
- Neil Harris was found guilty in 2018 and 2020 of sexually abusing children at the Ann Harris School of Dance. He was found guilty in total of indecent assault against 14 girls and one boy between the 1960s and 1990s, and he received a total sentence of 13 years in prison and he will remain on the sex offenders register for life.
- English National Ballet – in 2018, it was reported that they had lost a third of their dancers in two years with one of the main problems being an abusive environment.
Sadly, it is clear that my client is not the only person who has allegedly suffered abuse in ballet and dance with a lot more needing to be done to ensure all that take part in them are safe from abuse.
In addition to the serious breaches of positions of trust by ballet and dance teachers who sexually abuse their pupils, the scale of abuse in the field causes a lot of concern as there appears to be an issue with body image that is quite different to that seen in sport (apart from potentially gymnastics), the arts or any other area where children are found. This issue can and does cause great harm to children and adults, and it appears that the world of ballet and dance are still to address it or the issue of sexual abuse.