An ex-principal ballet dancer for the English National Ballet was sentenced to nine years in prison for more than a dozen counts of assault and rape against his students.
Yat-Sen Chang, 49, was convicted by a London court in May with 13 counts, including one student who said the dance instructor had forced her into sex, according to The Guardian.
Chang began his sentence on Wednesday, one day after World Ballet Day, which is celebrated annually.
During the hearing, Judge Edward Connell told the court that the “internationally renowned” dancer had used his “fame and prestige” to manipulate and abuse young women under his charge at the Young Dancers Academy in London and with the ENB, between December 2009 and March 2016.
His victims, aged 16 to 18 at the time, claimed Chang — himself a father of an adult daughter — had touched them inappropriately during post-practice massages.
“You became emboldened when the young women did not report your conduct,” Judge Connell told Chang on Wednesday. “Your offending has had a profound impact on all your victims and you have demonstrated no remorse for your appalling behavior.”
As one of Chang’s victims testified: “He did ruin most of my late teenage years. I hope he will face what he has done with regret and pain. I still feel haunted, violated, shamed and humiliated.”
She said she initially mischaracterized his demeanor as “nice,” but as she got older, she “became increasingly disgusted at what happened” with Chang, who told the court that he had “no idea” why the women had alleged assault.
His defense attorney Kathryn Hirst reiterated that the ballerino is “not guilty in these matters,” but has ultimately “accept[ed] the jurors’ verdicts.”
Cuban-born Chang began his illustrious dance career at the Cuban National Ballet School before working in France, and eventually, the UK where he was offered a contract to dance and run summer dance programs. His productions with the English conservatory have included Nutcracker, Coppélia and Sleeping Beauty, until he stepped down from his principal role in 2011, at which point his sole focus became running the school.
The ENB issued a statement following Chang’s sentencing on Wednesday to say they were “appalled” by the allegations. “English National Ballet was shocked and concerned to learn of the offenses of a former company dancer,” they said. “Our thoughts are with the victims who have shown bravery and strength in raising their voices.”