Ballet dancer

Ballet dancer who used ‘fame and prestige’ to sexually assault students jailed

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The former English National Ballet dancer who used his ‘fame and prestige’ to sexually assault four young female students has been jailed for nine years.

Yat-Sen Chang, 50, inappropriately touched teenagers during massages at two dance schools in London between 2009 and 2016.

The Cuban joined the English National Ballet in 1993 and was the company’s principal dancer until 2011, performing in productions such as The Nutcracker, Coppelia and Sleeping Beauty.

Chang targeted his victims, aged between 16 and 19 at the time, at the English National Ballet and Young Dancers Academy, where a dance studio is named after him.

You got emboldened when young women didn’t report your conduct

He was jailed for a total of nine years at Isleworth Crown Court on Wednesday after being found guilty of 12 counts of sexual assault and one count of assault by penetration following a trial earlier this year.

Judge Edward Connell told Chang, “You took advantage of your fame and position of trust” to engage in “grooming-type behavior” and carry out the attacks “for your own sexual gratification”.

“For years you used your notoriety and prestige in the world of ballet to abuse young women who were your students.

“You became emboldened when the young women did not report your conduct.

“Your offense had a profound impact on all of your victims and you have shown no remorse for your appalling behavior.”

During the trial, prosecutor Joel Smith said the “internationally acclaimed” ballet dancer was “both famous and revered” by young dancers and ballet students.

He told jurors that Chang “used his position” to commit sexual offenses against young students in his charge.

“For his part, he was confident that his fame and position would protect him from complaints or consequences for his actions,” Mr Smith said.

“The story of this case is unfortunately often heard – it is a man with power and prestige who uses it to abuse younger women.

“Yet he used his power and influence to sexually abuse and intimidate his young victims.”

He ruined most of my later teenage years. I hope he faces what he did with regret and pain

In a victim impact statement read in court, a woman, who left the world of ballet, told how she had felt ‘vulnerable and numb’ by what had happened to her.

Another said she thought Chang had been “nice” to her and helped her improve her dancing, but that as she got older “she became more and more disgusted with what had happened and mad” at herself for not realizing it sooner.

“He wasted most of my last teenage years. I hope he faces what he did with regret and pain,” she said.

“I still feel haunted, violated, shamed and humiliated.”

Chang, who then lived and worked as a ballet dancer in the German port city of Kiel, described himself as “a hero in the world of ballet” and “a star”.

He said he had “no idea” why the allegations were being made against him and denied touching any of the complainants inappropriately or sexually.

His attorney, Kathryn Hirst, said “he maintains he is not guilty in these cases” but “accepts the jury’s verdicts”.

She said Chang, who comes from a “passionate dance” family, began his ballet career in Cuba when he was very young, with his international career peaking as a principal dancer.

“He will never be able to regain his peak physical condition after a period of imprisonment,” she said.

“Most importantly, he understands he is no longer employable and any company considering employing him should give serious thought to his reputation.”

Chang, who has a longtime partner and a grown daughter, was found not guilty of one count of assault by penetration.