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Netflix “Athlete A”.


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I watched this last night and found it very sad and sickening viewing. The gymnasts were let down by so many people in positions of authority who just buried their heads in the sand and allowed the abuse to continue. I also find it difficult however to understand why Maggie's (athlete A) parents allowed her to remain in such an environment once they became aware of the abuse. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I watched it with my daughter and agree it made sickening viewing. It appears from the testimonies that the parents were also groomed by this organisation in to thinking that their methods and policies were acceptable. Combine that with the parents desire to have an Olympic gymnast in the family and it makes for some very distorted thinking.  The sad thing is that its shocking but not shocking as more and more we see  parents prepared to put their children at risk and potentially sacrifice  their children for fame,exposure etc. Whilst parents are hungry for success via their children this will continue to happen. 

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Yes, it was shocking.  I remember seeing a documentary on Simone Biles a few years ago and thinking it was very odd that the Gymnastics USA  training camp was happening at the head coach's own facility (the Karolyi Ranch). 

 

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

 

There are lessons to be learnt here for the ballet world!   How many parents have been told not to enter the studio or talk to teachers?  Vocational schools in particular hold so much power. When parents do speak up, what happens?  Is there fear that there will be consequences for their child?  What recourse do parents have when they are not happy with these top schools - other than bowing out?  

 

One example: Expectations around maintaining a certain - very low - weight are just one issue that screams out for change.  An under-weight body (malnutrition) is repulsive to humans for a reason.  It tells us the person is unwell and in jeopardy.     Look at the body types that the AD's from companies and schools,  PdL and YAGP etc select! 

And, yes, this trend also limits the diversity of races.

Edited by DD Driver
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the book 'little girls in pretty  boxes' is a powerful  but sad read  about abuse in gymnastics and the  ice skating world  wrt weight/diet/physical and sexual abuse .......sadly dance is not immune to this abuse either x

 

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1 hour ago, Dancing unicorn said:

DD Driver - you’re absolutely right it goes on in vocational schools too!  

Sadly it does I know of one teacher at a vocational school who regularly points out about pupils who are larger 😢. Luckily the young people didn’t stand for it and told the teacher!!

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There has also been an ongoing investigation into British gymnastics recently. Sadly it seems like abuse was/is rife there too. 

 

I think we'd all be very naive to think that the ballet world was different. It's gone on for far too long but will it ever change? Who knows.....

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Surely the change has to come from the top. Dance schools exist to train dancers who will be employable: if companies demand a certain size and shape, dance schools will follow suit. Not that this is necessarily the right thing to do, but they’re a business at the end of the day.. 

 

On the plus side I was so heartened at my last visit to watch the BRB: there was a much wider range of body shapes than I’d noticed before. All stunningly beautiful!

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4 hours ago, Whiteduvet said:

Surely the change has to come from the top. Dance schools exist to train dancers who will be employable: if companies demand a certain size and shape, dance schools will follow suit.

 

Yes - I try to do little things anyway.  On social media I make sure that I give a like to pictures and stories about dancers that are different from the norm.  I don't give likes to the glorification of emaciated dancers.  I draw my daughter's attention to these issues and ignore the eye rolls I get back.  I even got up the courage once to email my DD's ballet school expressing concern about an underweight dancer they highlighted frequently on their media as a success story.  I carefully and politely mentioned their duty of care  (and mine as a fellow school parent) to that dancer and the younger ones.  I was put back in my box but I'm glad I made an effort to speak up. 

 

Maybe the drip drip drip of polite questions/concern from a number of parents or ticket-holders can build awareness.

 

I imagine that parents of children in vocational schools - with government funding -  may feel on the back foot when advocating for their child (on weight or other situations). It must seem a very powerless position.  

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Yes the balance of power there is very one sided and parents must be hugely conflicted. 
 

Well done for standing up for health and the right approach. My 9 year old is already commenting on how she’ll need a ‘ballet body’ if she’s to succeed, and it’s so hard: all I can do is keep stressing the need to be healthy and able to enjoy dancing as a result (dancing when malnourished and underweight can’t be pleasurable). 

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14 hours ago, drdance said:

There has also been an ongoing investigation into British gymnastics recently. Sadly it seems like abuse was/is rife there too. 

 

I think we'd all be very naive to think that the ballet world was different. It's gone on for far too long but will it ever change? Who knows.....

I suspect that every sport/activity has skeletons in its cupboard, especially those where weight has an impact on performance and especially where there is a high percentage of female participants. Misogyny runs deep in society unfortunately.

Of course it isn't only in physical pursuits  that abuse can occur - there have been big issues in some music schools for example - but there is a particular kind of abuse that is more specific to activities where physique is important.

I think awareness is increasing and people are starting to stand up and say "no, this is not ok" but the balance of power is still very much in favour of the potential abusers, and is likely to remain so whilst competition for limited places is so high .

Ironically, whilst I have Safeguarding training through my work,  far more of my knowledge on the subject comes from the education I have had as a volunteer sports coach in an organisation that has been seriously criticised by some of its elite athletes in recent years. Whether the training that I, and people like me, receive, is indicative of a paradigm shift in attitude throughout the organisation or of a chasm between the grassroots and elite programmes I am not sure. Either way, hopefully it means that youngsters coming up through the system will have a better experience and be less vulnerable if they do progress to elite training.

Of course it is a very complex problem. Not all abusers are male. Not all victims are female. But  girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to this kind of abuse for all kinds of reasons so I view this as very much a feminist issue. Unfortunately I don't know what the answer is- its highly complex - but I am certain that talking about it is very important and applaud the makers of Athlete A for bringing this issue to more people's attention.

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On 10/07/2020 at 01:34, DD Driver said:

 

Yes - I try to do little things anyway.  On social media I make sure that I give a like to pictures and stories about dancers that are different from the norm.  I don't give likes to the glorification of emaciated dancers.  I draw my daughter's attention to these issues and ignore the eye rolls I get back.  I even got up the courage once to email my DD's ballet school expressing concern about an underweight dancer they highlighted frequently on their media as a success story.  I carefully and politely mentioned their duty of care  (and mine as a fellow school parent) to that dancer and the younger ones.  I was put back in my box but I'm glad I made an effort to speak up. 

 

Maybe the drip drip drip of polite questions/concern from a number of parents or ticket-holders can build awareness.

 

I imagine that parents of children in vocational schools - with government funding -  may feel on the back foot when advocating for their child (on weight or other situations). It must seem a very powerless position.  

 

This is a great thing to do and it looks like you're empowering your daughter and showing her by your example that it's good to speak up when things aren't right and that she has a right to be heard.  

 

I think it must be incredibly difficult for these young children in both dance and gymnastics who want to please their teachers and depend on them for exposure and career support and worry if they can't.  It can lead to excessive pressure on them and leave them open to exploitation both in terms of their weight but also other forms of abuse.  

 

I am a middle aged amateur dancer who has no aspirations to any form of professional career and on the one occasion I felt a Latin dance teacher was being inappropriate I told him to piss off and never went back.  Young dance students don't have the same luxury and it can lead to a very unhealthy dynamic.  I've at least one friend whose daughter gave up ballet because the teachers wanted to control too many aspects of their lives.  

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I think it is only a matter of time before the cover is blown on abusive dance teachers as well. I have first hand experience of both abuse at vocational schools and also part-time dance schools. Listening to the statements from gymnasts it was so similar to experiences I myself have had as a young pupil many years ago at a top vocational school, but also some of my pupils at my own dance school that have disclosed some of their own experiences at their previous dance schools. I implore young dancers and parents to come forwards you have a voice and it needs to be heard! The teachers/abusers think they are untouchable but it will catch them out in the end. 

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Hi Everyone,

 

Since the release of the horrific stories in Athlete A can I encourage you to speak out for anyone who has experienced the same in dancing or witnessed it.
 

I have a top UK journalist who wants to blow the lid off abuse in dance. Maybe now gymnasts have come forward we can do the same for the dance world too?  
 

If you wish to do this please email me and I can give you contact details.  The journalist in question has been instrumental in top British gymnasts coming forward. Everything shared is strictly confidential given the sensitivities of involving minors in some cases, but the journalist is really keen on investigating and would be happy to be pointed in the right direction. 
 

Let’s do this and put an end to future physical and emotional suffering and broken dreams. 
 

I hope you will feel confident enough to come forward.  Please send me a message and I can give you contact details in confidence. You can choose to remain anonymous.

 

Who knows we may even get dance regulated at last too!! 
 

I am a parent too. 

x

 

#westandtogether

#gymnastalliance



 


 

 

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3 hours ago, pointetheway said:

Hi Everyone,

 

Since the release of the horrific stories in Athlete A can I encourage you to speak out for anyone who has experienced the same in dancing or witnessed it.
 

I have a top UK journalist who wants to blow the lid off abuse in dance. Maybe now gymnasts have come forward we can do the same for the dance world too?  
 

If you wish to do this please email me and I can give you contact details.  The journalist in question has been instrumental in top British gymnasts coming forward. Everything shared is strictly confidential given the sensitivities of involving minors in some cases, but the journalist is really keen on investigating and would be happy to be pointed in the right direction. 
 

Let’s do this and put an end to future physical and emotional suffering and broken dreams. 
 

I hope you will feel confident enough to come forward.  Please send me a message and I can give you contact details in confidence. You can choose to remain anonymous.

 

Who knows we may even get dance regulated at last too!! 
 

I am a parent too. 

x

 

#westandtogether

#gymnastalliance



 


 

 

 

I think this is great - but it would HAVE to be anonymous, for the protection of the children and families involved. I do hope anyone with stories to tell will come forward because this has been going on for too long. While vocational schools and dance companies will no doubt be the high profile cases involved, I personally believe that the emotional and indirect physical abuse going on in part-time dance schools, especially competitive schools with very dangerous practices such as children wearing ankle weights, extreme stretching etc is WAY more widespread and needs calling out. 

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 People should discuss the points raised in Pointetheway's post privately rather than in public due to the sensitive nature of the subject and the possibility of people being identified.

 

Please note that the forum takes no responsibility for any communication or actions taken privately offline.

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I want to reassure that confidentiality and protection of children’s identities will always be a priority. 
 

I would only seek to be a conduit passing on the contact details Of the journalist I have to anyone who requires the details. 
 

The journalist is looking for information to assist with investigations, for example I have suggested looking at information requests to local authorities to see how many complaints get passed to them.  The number of complaints raised versus upheld at vocational schools.  
 

If anyone wants to tell their story (some have agreed to speak to the journalist about own experiences) then that is ok too.  
 

Just look at the momentum we have now. 
 

It’s time we didn’t accept the abusive culture as a norm for dancers and elite athletes.  
 

I think this could be our best shot.

 

The journalist is Steve Scott at ITV.   He has again posted more stories today about more gymnasts coming forward.   
 

You can follow him on twitter or insta.  You can private message him on insta.  He will keep your confidence unless you say otherwise. 
 

if you want his direct email then you can contact me via private message on here.

 

Thank you


 

 

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As a parent of a DD who is dreaming of vocational school from year 7, how can we be sure our children are safe? Reading this and some previous threads on this Forum have made genuinely quite concerned about allowing her to even audition.  

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Hopefully change can be brought about to those schools that need it, if people are brave enough to speak out and if this situation is then highlighted

there will be a greater awareness of what is and what is not acceptable. Bring it on I say!

Change is definitely needed from what we have experienced.

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4 hours ago, Whiteduvet said:

As a parent of a DD who is dreaming of vocational school from year 7, how can we be sure our children are safe? Reading this and some previous threads on this Forum have made genuinely quite concerned about allowing her to even audition.  

 

Teach her that she has the right to control her own body and her own autonomy and show her that she has a right to say no to things that make her uncomfortable and a voice that should be heard.  Surround her with strong women to show her what she can become and give her a good example to learn from and give her male role models who can show her how decent men behave. 

 

Check the schools she's going to and ensure they have good policies for raising issues of concern, and good safeguarding,  anti bullying and anti discrimination policies which are enforced. Watch how the teachers interact with the students and how the students behave.  Establish a rapport with other parents of students so you can check in with each other about things that concern you.  Check in with her and ensure she's still comfortable raising her concerns with you and give her a good sounding board as she grows.  

 

I don't think you can do anything to stop people behaving inappropriately but all you can do is give her the tools to deal with it and ensure the school is aware that you're a concerned, engaged parent.   

 

 

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4 hours ago, Tango Dancer said:

Check the schools she's going to and ensure they have good policies for raising issues of concern, and good safeguarding,  anti bullying and anti discrimination policies which are enforced. Watch how the teachers interact with the students and how the students behave.  Establish a rapport with other parents of students so you can check in with each other about things that concern you.  Check in with her and ensure she's still comfortable raising her concerns with you and give her a good sounding board as she grows.  

 

Yes, Tango Dancer - this is key!

If more parents ask these questions when their children are auditioning or offered a position, then the schools will see that the potential issues are well known and that they need clear policies and procedures.  That is the moment when questions are expected and the school is not feeling on the back foot or defensive. Also,contact with other parents is a great resource and  protection for students.    

 

I once heard an AD say that he values all sorts of body types but the audience has expectations!  This means that we - as the audience (hopefully soon) - need to be vocal about what we want e.g. If you see an emaciated dancer then you should consider communicating your concerns  to the organisation. 

Edited by DD Driver
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5 hours ago, DD Driver said:

 

 

I once heard an AD say that he values all sorts of body types but the audience has expectations!  This means that we - as the audience (hopefully soon) - need to be vocal about what we want e.g. If you see an emaciated dancer then you should consider communicating your concerns  to the organisation. 

 

Definitely.  I don't like seeing dancers that look too emaciated.  I understand most dancers won't carry excess weight because they burn it off so quickly, but it puts me off if the female dancers in particular look too thin and bony as I want to take them home and feed them roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. 

 

I saw Nutcracker done by one of the Russian companies for example and the women looked so undeveloped that it made me feel uncomfortable watching the pas de deux.  I've not been back to that company due to Covid but if they come again I will definitely now consider communicating my concerns.  

 

I think most of the dancers in the RB and BRB look more healthy.  I mean they're slender and light but they generally look nourished and cared for.   

 

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14 hours ago, Tango Dancer said:

 

Teach her that she has the right to control her own body and her own autonomy and show her that she has a right to say no to things that make her uncomfortable and a voice that should be heard.  Surround her with strong women to show her what she can become and give her a good example to learn from and give her male role models who can show her how decent men behave. 

 

Check the schools she's going to and ensure they have good policies for raising issues of concern, and good safeguarding,  anti bullying and anti discrimination policies which are enforced. Watch how the teachers interact with the students and how the students behave.  Establish a rapport with other parents of students so you can check in with each other about things that concern you.  Check in with her and ensure she's still comfortable raising her concerns with you and give her a good sounding board as she grows.  

 

I don't think you can do anything to stop people behaving inappropriately but all you can do is give her the tools to deal with it and ensure the school is aware that you're a concerned, engaged parent.   

 

 

Thank you. This is very helpful and reassuring. 

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And with regard to weight, the Paris Opera Ballet School has accepted heights and weights for auditionees on its website. Presumably these limits remain throughout the school. There are lower limits which offers some reassurance but I strongly feel adolescent girls should never be tracking their weight: it can lead to hugely disordered thinking. Things like energy levels and other markers of health (hair, eyes, healthy menstrual cycle etc) should be used instead. 

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Hi Everyone

 

Firstly thank you to the very courageous individuals who have already contacted me for details of the journalist. He is very interested in hearing stories about abuse in dancing (he brought forward the gymnast stories in the UK off the back of Netflix Athlete A). 
 

He now has another journalist helping him with responses so when you get in touch please contact both.

 

private message me and I will send you the email addresses. 
 

The response is very encouraging so far but we still need more to come forward.  The scale of the gymnasts stories in the news has resulted in an independent review and a dedicated help line and support for victims (set up last Monday).  It would be great to get the same attention and support for victims in dance.  These journalist would like to help.
 

please do not discuss any individual circumstances of abuse publicly on here (to protect individuals and their families and in particular children). Contact me in confidence by direct message, I don’t need to know who you are or why you are getting in touch, I will just provide you with their contact details.   Let’s get everyone the support they deserve and change the future for the better! 
 


 


 

 

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For anyone worried about confidentiality the journalists can provide guarantees.  Though it’s always good to have people willing to add their name to a story, this isn’t necessary, they can also offer lifetime guaranteed anonymity. They often do in cases of abuse to protect individuals and their family.
 

please do not be put off if you have tried complaining to organisations and authorities in the past.  Often the media are able to help achieve justice where none was given before.  It is their involvement that lead to gymnasts being heard now.  You can be heard too. let’s right those wrongs and get everyone the help they deserve. 
 

Xxx


 

 

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