Ballet Victoria cuts ties with choreographer after allegations he took nude photos of underage dancers

VANCOUVER—Ballet Victoria has cut ties with a choreographer after renewed media attention to allegations that he took nude photographs of underage dancers in the 1980s and 1990s.

Bruce Monk was fired by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2015 after Maclean’s reported that several women were co-operating with a Winnipeg police investigation into photos he took of them as teenage dancers.

The investigation concluded without charges and Monk declined comment on the allegations this week through his lawyer.

He is facing two lawsuits, one filed by a woman in Winnipeg alleging he took nude photos of her when she was 16, and a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in Toronto.

In a statement of defence in response to the Winnipeg suit, Monk denies taking any photographs of the woman when she was a minor and calls her allegations “false and meritless.”

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CBC reported on Monday that Monk has been doing volunteer and contract work with Ballet Victoria. Artistic director Paul Destrooper is quoted in the article as saying he believes Monk is innocent and nude photographs are not unusual in ballet.

On Wednesday, Ballet Victoria issued a statement saying Monk would no longer work with the company.

“Ballet Victoria cares for the physical and emotional health of all artists, staff and volunteers with great care and diligence,” it says. “To (ensure) the integrity of the company Bruce Monk will no longer be involved with Ballet Victoria.”

The statement says Destrooper worked with Monk at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for 11 years from 1990 until 2001 and was never aware of any inappropriate behaviour or allegations.

It says Monk came to the company as a guest choreographer in 2008. When criminal allegations were made, the working relationship was suspended, but it resumed when no charges were laid.

In late 2016, he began working on small contracts as a lighting and production designer and volunteered his services in the office and as a driver, the statement says.

Sarah Doucet, who filed the proposed class-action suit in Toronto, said she first became aware Monk was involved with Ballet Victoria in September 2015 when she saw a photo of him rehearsing with a woman on the company’s Facebook page. She said she contacted the company’s board.

When the company severed ties with Monk on Wednesday, Doucet said she felt relief.

“It’s unfortunate that it took public pressure for Ballet Victoria to finally do the right thing,” said Doucet.

Doucet alleges in her statement of claim that she was a student at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s dance school, aged about 16 or 17, when she approached Monk to take photos for her portfolio, as it was common knowledge that the instructor would take headshots of students.

She says he complained the straps of her bodysuit were ruining her neckline and alleges that he coerced her into removing the top half of the bodysuit, so her torso was naked. She was humiliated and overwhelmed by a deep sense of personal violation, the lawsuit alleges.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and the class action has not been certified. The Canadian Press was not able to determine if a statement of defence has been filed in the case.

Doucet’s lawyer, Margaret Waddell, said a court date is scheduled for the end of November to set a timetable for proceeding with the certification motion and she hopes to have it heard early in 2018.