Top Ballet Academy Pushed Children to Smoke: Report

It was used as a weight control method, commission finds
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2019 12:35 PM CST
Top Ballet Academy Pushed Children to Smoke: Report
People walk past the Austrian State Opera in Vienna, Austria, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019.   (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

The prestigious ballet academy at Vienna State Opera encouraged its pupils to smoke for weight control, according to an investigation by a government-backed special commission. "It is clear that children and adolescents are not sufficiently protected from discrimination, neglect, and negative medical effects," says the report from the commission, which also found students did not receive sufficient medical care and noted that the way they were trained was "endangering their wellbeing." The report also found they were referred to by not only their names, but their clothing sizes, the BBC reports. As the Guardian explains, the controversy erupted in April with a magazine exposé accusing the academy of mental, physical, and even sexual abuse of its students. The resulting commission interviewed 24 people during 16 hearings.

The high-profile academy, created in 1771, is one of the top schools for ballet in Europe and often sends alumni to companies including London's Royal Ballet, St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky, and New York's American Ballet Theatre. The Vienna State Opera says it has already cut the number of performances students participate in, and would look over the commission's report before offering any other response. It had also already started offering a course on nutrition and body image and hired psychologists to support students, but the commission says those steps weren't enough. The head of the three-member commission also found the State Opera's director, who is leaving next year for a post in Italy, did not carry out his full supervisory duties. Austria's culture minister says it's urgent that the problems be fixed. (More Vienna stories.)

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