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Ballet dancer who used ‘fame and prestige’ to sexually assault students jailed

·3 min read

A former English National Ballet dancer who used his “fame and prestige” to sexually assault four young female students has been jailed for nine years.

Yat-Sen Chang, 50, inappropriately touched the teenagers during massages at two London dance schools between 2009 and 2016.

The Cuban joined the English National Ballet in 1993 and was a principal dancer at the company until 2011, performing in productions including The Nutcracker, Coppelia and Sleeping Beauty.

Chang targeted his victims, who were aged between 16 and 19 at the time, at the English National Ballet and Young Dancers Academy, where a dance studio was named after him.

He was jailed for a total of nine years at Isleworth Crown Court on Wednesday after being found guilty of 12 counts of sexual assault and one count of assault by penetration following a trial earlier this year.

Judge Edward Connell told Chang: “You took advantage of your fame and position of trust” to engage in “grooming-type behaviour” and carry out the attacks “for your own sexual gratification”.

“Over a period of years you used your fame and prestige in the ballet world to abuse young women who were your students

“You became emboldened when the young women did not report your conduct.

“Your offending has had a profound impact on all your victims and you have demonstrated no remorse for your appalling behaviour.”

During the trial, prosecutor Joel Smith said the “internationally renowned” ballet dancer was “both famous and revered” by young dancers and students of ballet.

He told jurors Chang “used his position” to commit sexual offences against young students in his care.

“For his part, he trusted that his fame and his position would protect him from complaint, or from consequences of his actions,” Mr Smith said.

“The story of this case is sadly often heard – it is a man with power and prestige using them to abuse younger women.

“Yet he used his power and influence to abuse and sexually intimidate his young victims.”

In a victim impact statement read out in court, one woman, who has left the ballet world, told how she was left feeling “vulnerable and numb” by what happened to her.

Another said she had thought Chang had been “nice” to her and helped her dancing improve but as she got older “became increasingly disgusted at what happened and angry” at herself for not having realised it sooner.

“He did ruin most of my late teenage years. I hope he will face what he has done with regret and pain,” she said.

“I still feel haunted, violated, shamed and humiliated.”

Giving evidence Chang, who was then living and working as a ballet dancer in the German port city of Kiel, described himself as “a hero in the ballet world” and “a star”.

He said he had “no idea” why the allegations were made against him and denied touching any of the complainants in an inappropriate or sexual way.

His barrister, Kathryn Hirst, said “he maintains that he is not guilty in these matters” but “accepts the jurors’ verdicts”.

She said Chang, from a family with a “passion for dance”, began his ballet career as a very young child in Cuba with his international career reaching a peak as a principal dancer.

“He will never be able to return to the peak of fitness after a period of imprisonment,” she said.

“More importantly, he understands he is no longer employable and for any company considering employing him, they would have to think seriously about their reputation.”

Chang, who has a long-term partner and an adult daughter, was found not guilty of one count of assault by penetration.

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