By Alex Marshall
12 April 2019
The Vienna State Opera’s ballet academy vowed to reform its practices after former students and staff said dancers as young as 11 were kicked, scratched and handled roughly in classes.
Others said they were regularly pressured to lose weight. Another said they had been sexually abused.
“Many children have lost their dream to dance,” said Luisa Solowjowa, 20, a former student, in a telephone interview. She said a teacher once kicked her “like a football.”
The academy acknowledged that students had been subject to physical and emotional abuse after allegations were reported on Tuesday by Falter, an Austrian newsmagazine.
Investigations by the magazine “uncovered very unpleasant incidents, which are completely intolerable and which we regret greatly: Some individuals have behaved very badly,” the academy said in a statement. “The students who were subject to physical or emotional abuse have our deepest sympathy,” it added.
Students said that Bella Ratchinskaia, a teacher at the school, at times went beyond the limits of normal practice during ballet classes, roughly forcing their limbs into position or scratching them as she adjusted their bodies, sometimes drawing blood. André Comploi, a spokesman for the State Opera, said that Ms. Ratchinskaia, who previously worked at La Scala in Milan, was dismissed in February.
Ms. Ratchinskaia did not reply to a request for comment but said in a statement provided by the academy: “Contact is a part of the training in this profession — it is necessary to touch to make corrections in ballet classes, and this is done all over the world. To the students who I have hurt, I apologize sincerely. I never injured anyone deliberately, and it was never done maliciously.”
Read the full article in The New York Times.