Opera ballet

Vienna State Opera ballet academy ‘told child dancers to smoke’, investigation finds


Children at Vienna’s prestigious ballet academy were routinely humiliated and told to smoke to stay slim, according to an investigation.

A government-backed commission found that the welfare of child performers was not taken into account at the Vienna State Opera Academy, according to a summary of the report.

The Vienna State Opera said it had already reduced the number of student performances and would study the report in detail before giving a more in-depth response, according to news agency Agence France-Presse. (AFP). CNN has contacted the opera for comment on the new report.

The latest investigation follows a scandal that erupted in April when the Falter newspaper published a report alleging physical and mental abuse against students, including sexual assault.

The Austrian weekly’s investigation included allegations that dancers as young as 11 were kicked, scratched and frequently pressured to lose weight.

The opera admitted at the time that some of its performers had suffered abuse. Its manager, Dominique Meyer, told Australian channel ORF TV that a teacher was fired after the investigation and said he wanted a full investigation into the allegations, according to local media.

The authors of the report wrote that they were “convinced that children and young people do not enjoy the necessary level of protection against discrimination, neglect and health problems”.

It highlighted “demeaning comments, the derogatory nature of comments regarding eating behavior, (supposed) aesthetic requirements and an underdeveloped communication regime”.

The perpetrators also allege the young dancers were told to smoke to lose weight and were called by their first names and clothing sizes, AFP news agency reported.

“When students show signs of eating disorders, the Academy is very reluctant to ban them from training,” the report’s summary continues.

Meyer, the opera director, is a former French politician who has run the opera since 2010. He is set to take over Milan’s famed La Scala opera house in the new year.