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  • The school was founded in 1771 and is one of Europe's most prestigious, attracting applicants from across the world.

    The school was founded in 1771 and is one of Europe's most prestigious, attracting applicants from across the world. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 December 2019 (8 hours 38 minutes ago)

The scandal first erupted in April after a media report accused the academy of inflicting physical and mental abuse on its young dancers

The prestigious ballet academy in Vienna, Austria, employs "19th-century" methods on its students, hitting and scratching them, pulling their hair, humiliating them over their physiques, and encouraging them to smoke to stay slim, a state commission investigating abuse allegations said Tuesday.

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The scandal first erupted in April after a media report accused the academy of Vienna's renowned national Opera of inflicting physical and mental abuse as well as sexual assault on its young dancers.

Composed of three members, the government-backed commission investigating the case held 16 hearings and interviewed 24 people. The result of the probing confirmed severe mistreatments, and added that the children received insufficient medical care as their welfare was generally "disregarded."

The head of the investigation Susanne Reindl-Krauskopf said the students were pushed to smoke to stay slim and addressed with their first names and clothes sizes.

"It is clear that children and adolescents are not sufficiently protected from discrimination, neglect, and negative medical effects," the report said, adding that the number of training sessions for the students was insufficiently controlled, "endangering their wellbeing."

Reindl-Krauskopf said the Vienna State Opera Director Dominique Meyer failed to fully carry out his supervisory responsibilities.

The French man, who will leave to become the director of Italy's Scala next year after 10 years in Vienna, had called for a "full investigation" when the scandal broke.

Reacting to Tuesday's findings, Vienna's State Opera said it had already decreased the number of students' performances, adding it would study the report in detail before giving a further reply.

The academy has also introduced a course to teach students about nutrition and body image and hired psychologists to support them since the allegations emerged. The commission, however, brushed off these measures as insufficient.

The renowned Vienna academy was founded in 1771 and is one of Europe's most prestigious ballet schools attracting applicants from across the world. It has formed alumni who dance for some of the world's most famous companies, including London's Royal Ballet, St Petersburg's Mariinsky and New York's American Ballet Theatre.

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