Dancer tells ITV News she's too scared to go public with claims of abuse by ballet’s Yat-Sen Chang

Yat-Sen Chang has just been sentenced to nine years for sexual abuse. An ITV News investigation can now reveal fresh allegations as another professional dancer spoke out, Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith reports

Yat-Sen Chang was one of the most famous names in ballet.

He is a multi-award winning, former principal dancer with the English National Ballet, and revered by some for his artistic genius.

We now know he is also a sexual predator.

Chang has been convicted of abusing teenage students who trusted him - the youngest was just 16.

And today the 50-year-old dancer has been sentenced to nine years in prison for a total of 12 counts of sexual assault, and one count of assault by penetration.

'Sarah' tells ITV News she does not "think as it stands, ballet is a safe place for young women"

But an ITV News investigation can reveal further allegations of sexual misconduct by Yat-Sen Chang.

One professional dancer has spoken to us anonymously, still too scared to go public with her claims against one of ballet’s most powerful men.

“I was sexually assaulted by Yat-Sen Chang on several occasions while he was my ballet coach,” says 'Sarah' (not her real name).

“He had been recommended by so many people I trusted and he was so respected in the ballet world, and he gained my trust within the first few months.

“But then he abused my trust to lure me to a location under false pretences, he isolated me and then he assaulted me, he sexually assaulted me.

“It was like a complete change of character - as if he had ripped off a mask.

“I just felt paralysed by shock, and didn't know how to deal with the situation without jeopardising my future ballet career. I’ve worked hard to get this far and he was so highly recommended, respected by everyone in dance.

“I tried to shut it out of my mind and carry on with my training, but he isolated me and sexually assaulted me on three further occasions under the pretence of helping me with an injury.”

Sarah was not one of the four women involved in the trial against Yat-Sen Chang. She has contacted Crimestoppers anonymously but is wary of what could happen if she waives her anonymity.

“I have been afraid to speak out because of repercussions I would face in the dance world - people have been ostracised and blacklisted for putting their heads above the parapet in the past.

“The dance world is very small - standing up against a principal dancer in court would mean the end of my career.”

Her concerns about this wider culture in ballet that protects powerful men are not without merit.

Even after his conviction, a Facebook page appeared called ‘Justice for Yat-Sen Chang.’ It included public messages of support for the dancer who had just been tried and found guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault in a court of law.

Those speaking up for Yat-Sen Chang included prominent figures in ballet, such as Yonah Acosta, winner of multiple dance awards.

In a video published after the conviction and still online now, Yonah Acosta said: “I don’t believe anything about what they are saying in the news because I’ve known [Yat-Sen Chang] for many years.

“I know what type of man, teacher, ballerina he is. He’s a serious, responsible person, who loves what he does. He’s a very professional sort of person.

“With regards to the news, I don’t see the sense of accusations, I don’t think he’s done any such thing. He has a daughter the same age as the woman who is accusing him. I think a gross injustice is being committed.”

Another speaking on the Justice for Yat-Sen Chang page is Laurretta Summerscales, who was also a principal dancer for English National Ballet and is now a principal dancer for the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich.

She recalls a situation where she met Yat-Sen Chang.

Yat-Sen Chang outside court. Credit: ITV News

“He said to me how beautiful I was, he said that I was so beautiful.

“But he also proceeded to say, ‘No you are way too young for me.’ And I found that very interesting because he was so open with the fact that he thought I was beautiful, which was a huge compliment. But he also made it very clear that was a step he was never going to make me feel uncomfortable.

“During the two years that I worked with him he never made me feel uncomfortable. There were other people who did make me feel uncomfortable, but never Yat-Sen Chang.

"He was a very good coach… there were never any awkward moments or uncomfortable situations. For me he was always very professional.”

ITV News has contacted the dancers, who both now perform at the Bavarian State Ballet. In a statement on behalf of the pair, a spokesperson said: “The video statements of both Yonah Acosta and Laurretta Summerscales were solely about the personal work experiences that they had with the dancer Yat-Sen Chang many years ago.

“The statements shared on social media were not intended as a comment on the allegations or the court ruling this year.

“They refer solely to the personal professional collaboration. Neither dancer was involved in the matter at any time and therefore cannot and will not comment further.”

But Sarah says this is the kind of reaction from senior ballet figures that leaves women afraid to speak up about abuse allegations in dance.

“I felt a bit braver when I heard the news of Chang's conviction, and thought that maybe, just maybe, the ballet world would turn away from him,” she told me.

“Then I saw all these other dancers, prominent figures, speaking out in his support.

“My blood runs cold to see former principal dancers speaking up for him."

She adds: “There is no way I could come forward in circumstances like this - this is why women in ballet like me are still intimidated into staying quiet.”

Yat-Sen Chang performing on stage. Credit: ITV News

The trouble, Sarah says, is that ballet still hasn’t caught up with the #MeToo movement.

“At the end of the day, you're just a dancer, you're replaceable,” she says. “Particularly for women, hundreds will audition for one job. So you know that if you step out of line, if you are seen to cause trouble, you'll just lose your place.

“And there are always people outside the door, waiting to take your place. You have to accept it, because it’s made clear that you’re lucky to be here."

I ask if ballet is a safe place for dancers as it is now?

“No,” says Sarah.

“I’m a professional ballet dancer, performing in numerous companies, and on the basis of what I've experienced, I don't think as it stands, ballet is a safe place for young women.

“It shouldn’t be that way because it can be incredible. Performing professionally, can be an amazing experience. But I do really feel that I couldn't, in all honesty, send young dancers into the profession.

“You make a lot of sacrifices [to become a ballet dancer] and it costs your family a lot of money to train, so by the time you get to 16 you know you don’t want to let anyone down. You know you have to stay in the favour of whoever is running the school because they can influence your career.

“It’s ideal conditions for sexual predators - there are boundaries missing in ballet that are in place elsewhere. Teachers or directors correct you physically, which is normal. You often have to change in front of people. There are just so many situations where if someone was a predator you would be vulnerable.

“I have witnessed grooming of younger dancers who were flattered by the attentions of people who are famous in the industry.

“Dancers have nowhere to turn to when that happens. No one will believe you.”

Anyone with a story to share from the dance world can email us at ballet@itv.com