A former English National Ballet principal dancer used his ‘power and prestige’ to sexually abuse young dance students in his charge, a court has heard.
Yat-Sen Chang, 49, was charged with 12 counts of sexual assault and two counts of assault by penetration against a woman aged 16 or older.
The alleged offenses allegedly took place at the English National Ballet and Young Dancers Academy in London between December 2009 and March 2016. Chang, who lives in the German port city of Kiel, has denied all charges.
Opening the trial at Isleworth Crown Court, prosecuting Joel Smith said Chang was ‘famous and revered’ by young dancers and ballet students, and used his position to commit sexual offenses against young students “to whom he had been entrusted with teaching”.
“For his part, he believed that his fame and position would shield him from complaints or consequences for his actions,” Smith told jurors. “The story of this case is unfortunately often heard: it is a man with power and prestige who uses it to abuse younger women.”
The alleged offenses concern four complainants aged 16 to 18 at the time of the events. The court heard Chang was heard ‘giggling’ or ‘laughing’ as he allegedly assaulted students, who accused him of touching them inappropriately during school massages.
Smith said the first complainant remembered a “scary breath” as Chang massaged her leg after complaining of a tight muscle. He said the complainant “thought it was a bit weird” and that it “didn’t feel like a sports massage”, claiming that Chang massaged her “in an intimate area”.
Smith said after the incident, Chang continued to place the alleged victim “in embarrassing and sexual situations,” which he said was “part of the grooming behavior” he exhibited.
Jurors heard that the defendant allegedly undressed in front of the complainant after leading her into the men’s locker room and attempted on another occasion to take a shower with her in the girls’ locker room.
Smith said Chang’s behavior became “more forceful and more explicit”, describing an alleged incident in which the defendant allegedly sexually assaulted the complainant in her apartment after he tackled her to the ground.
A second alleged victim described how she “kind of froze” while Chang massaged her, the court heard, while another complainant described the alleged offense as “frightening me a lot”.
The fourth plaintiff accused Chang of sexually assaulting her in the bathroom, causing her pain, Smith said.
One of the alleged victims told her school about what happened in April 2016 and police were called, the court heard.
According to a profile on the Theater Kiel website, Chang joined the English National Ballet in 1993 and served as a principal dancer until 2011, during which time he starred in productions such as The Nutcracker, Coppélia and La Sleeping Beauty.
The trial is expected to last three weeks.