EIGHT months ago, in April, the prestigious Vienna State Opera’s ballet academy was hit by an abuse scandal.
An investigation was launched and the Vienna State Opera promised far-reaching reforms after allegations that students at the academy were subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse by two teachers.
The Austrian magazine Falter claimed in an article that pupils at the academy were hit, kicked, scratched until they bled, pulled by their hair and subjected to a stream of humiliating comments about their bodies. They received no psychological or nutritional support and some developed bulimia or anorexia.
Now the Austrian commission investigating the abuse says the State Opera is endangering well-being of the young students by encouraging them to smoke to stay slim.
There are three commission members carrying out the investigation and have, to date, held 16 hearings, interviewing a total of 24 people.
Susanne Reindl-Krauskopf, commission head, heard how students were advised to start smoking to stay slim. That despite hours of training and performances, the students received insufficient medical care. Susanne found a general “disregard” for child welfare.
Since the allegations surfaced, the academy has introduced a course to teach students about nutrition and body image and hired psychologists to support them.
But the commission has overturned these measures as insufficient and state that the State Opera’s director, Dominique Meyer, failed to fully carry out his supervisory responsibilities.
The Vienna State Opera’s ballet academy was created in 1771 and is one of Europe’s most prestigious ballet schools which attracts aspirant from around the world and boasts to have alumni who dance for some of the world’s most famed dance companies including London’s Royal Ballet.