This is the final thing I will ever ask of you: if you are aware of any bullying or harmful behaviour that has happened at British vocational ballet schools, please get in touch with ITV news.
Silence is no longer an option for any of us.
This is an opportunity which may not come along again in a while. Liam Scarlett’s sacking from the Royal Opera House, and the shutting down of Ballet West are indications that there is something very wrong in British ballet training. One of those stories has been met with an almost blanket silence from the press, and the other has been reported widely. This is how institutions protect themselves. There is no coincidence that the under-reported story involves an organisation with ‘Royal’ in its title.
ITV are now investigating ballet training more widely. I trust these journalists. They are investigating for the right reasons. They have integrity and sensitivity, and express great care. If you wish to connect with them anonymously, they will respect this. If you wish to tell your story, but not have it documented on television, they will honour this also.
Bullying and cruelty are too commonplace in ballet training. I have heard many stories over the last three years that are shocking, I consider what happened to my son almost minor in comparison to some of the things I have heard. The problem is that for pupils, parents and teachers the behaviour has become normalized. It’s so everyday, that those involved no longer see anything wrong with it. “What do you expect? It’s ballet!” This was the phrase that I heard most often when discussing the treatment of my son.
Children’s vulnerabilities being exploited, systemic bullying, psychological and physical abuse are not okay. We need to stop it, and we might not have this chance again for a while.
So, I would urge you to speak out. If you are a parent and you have had a gut feeling that something is wrong, or if you are a current or former student with a story to tell, please send an email. If you have had an long-term injury caused by inept ballet teaching, please let it be known. If you are a member of staff at a ballet school, and you have been silent for too long while watching the destruction that ballet staff almost seem to enjoy inflicting on children, please speak out. If you are a governor, or friend of a ballet school and you are aware of a cover-up, please tell the story.
I can’t promise you that speaking out will be easy. There might not be a cathartic release of emotions. You might feel wretched and regretful, or you might have to confront feelings you had thought were long buried. But children are being harmed at the hands of adults and it has to stop.
Not speaking out is no longer an option. This story will be told eventually, and people will one day ask what you did to help. Remaining silent will mean you have been complicit with cruelty and abuse.
And we need to make this a safer ballet environment for future generations. The cycle of abuse has to stop.
Please get in touch.