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Top Swiss ballet school fires director, halts classes

Switzerland’s prestigious Rudra Bejart ballet school has fired its director and stage manager and suspended all classes for a year, after accusations of psychological abuse and over-training, according to a media report yesterday. The Bejart Ballet Lausanne Foundation, which runs the world-renowned school, announced the termination of long-time director Michel Gascard and stage manager Valerie Lacaze, his wife, on Friday, citing “serious shortcomings” in management. While it gave no details, Swiss public broadcaster RTS indicated on its website yesterday that they revolved around “abuse of power, nepotism and serious paedological dysfunction”.

The foundation said that classes were being halted after it “learned about troubling information involving the management” of the school, “requiring it to react immediately. “An audit conducted in February had, according to the statement, revealed “serious shortcomings by the management team”, and the board had decided to terminate their contracts.  The school was fraught with psychological abuse and tyrannical over-training, according to a number of students who spoke with RTS anonymously.

One student described how she had found herself surrounded by teachers and other students who “humiliated and belittled” her, the president of the foundation’s board, Solange Peters, told RTS. One teacher cited in the report had reportedly compared the scene to a “lynching”. Classes have been cancelled for the next artistic season at the school, which was founded in 1992 by legendary French ballet choreographer Maurice Bejart and counts around 40 students aged 16 to 20 from all over the world.

The “board is aware of the consequences of such a decision,” the foundation said in its statement. “Nevertheless, it is taking responsible steps to ensure that the school reopens its doors in the best possible conditions,” it said. “The board will be working over the next few months to rebuild the school’s management team, to create a teaching environment that respects the pedagogical values that guide its mission, and to strengthen its ties with the Bejart Ballet Lausanne.”— AFP


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