The Vienna State Opera Ballet School has been accused of endangering the well-being of its young students by encouraging them to smoke to stay thin, an Austrian commission investigating alleged abuse says in a report released on Tuesday.
In April, media reports from the Austrian news magazine Sway accused the school of inflicting abuse, both mental and physical, on its students, including sexual assault. Cases of students being beaten, scratched until they bleed, bullied on their bodies and having their hair pulled have been reported. The bullying was severe enough to cause an eating disorder in some students.
“A lot of children have lost their dream of dancing,” said Luisa Solowjowa, a former student at the academy. New York Times in a phone interview when the allegations first surfaced in April. She said her instructor kicked her “like a soccer ball” at one point.
At the time, the academy released a statement saying that falter the investigation had “uncovered very unpleasant incidents, which are completely intolerable and which we deeply regret: Some individuals have behaved very badly. Students who have suffered physical or emotional abuse have our deepest sympathy.”
The commission also confirmed that insufficient medical care was provided to students and that they were addressed by their first name and clothing size. Training loads were also insufficiently controlled, according to the report, “putting their well-being at risk”.
“It is clear that children and adolescents are not sufficiently protected against discrimination, neglect and adverse medical effects,” said commission chair Susanne Reindl-Krauskopf. The Guardian. She says Dominique Meyer, the director of the State Opera, has failed to fulfill her supervisory responsibilities.
Meyer called for a “full investigation” into the charges when they surfaced in April. He is expected to leave the State Opera for a position at Italy’s La Scala in 2020 after working with the Vienna State Opera for a full decade.
Since April, the school has been offering classes on nutrition and body image and has hired a psychologist, two measures deemed insufficient by the commission.
“It is clear that children and adolescents are not adequately protected against discrimination, neglect and adverse medical effects,” the report says.
The Vienna State Opera informed The Guardian that the children’s representation program had already been cut, but said he needed to study the report in detail before giving them a full comment.
The school, established in 1771, has been one of the shining jewels in Vienna’s cultural crown, attracting attention and applicants from around the world. Graduates of the school went on to dance for companies such as the Royal Ballet in London, the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg and the American Ballet Theater in New York.
The report is the result of 16 hearings and 24 interviews.