Paris Opera dancers complain about bullying, sexual harassment

Paris Opera's director Stephane Lissner (left) poses dance director Aurelie Dupont during a press conference at the Palais Garnier theatre in Paris.
Paris Opera's director Stephane Lissner (left) poses dance director Aurelie Dupont during a press conference at the Palais Garnier theatre in Paris.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - A survey of ballet dancers at the prestigious Paris Opera has revealed widespread complaints of bullying and sexual harassment, as well as concerns over the leadership of dance director Aurelie Dupont.

In the anonymous survey seen by AFP, 90 per cent said they did not believe the company was being well managed and 77 per cent said they had suffered bullying or witnessed a colleague being bullied.

Some 26 per cent of the 132 dancers questioned said they had been sexually harassed at work or witnessed a colleague suffering sexual harassment.

Paris Opera chief Stephane Lissner expressed surprise that the unprecedented survey, carried out by an internal body that represents the dancers, had been leaked to the press.

He said there was "zero tolerance" for sexual harassment and urged dancers who made the allegations to come forward, while promising a dialogue with staff "to consider this calmly and understand what the dancers are trying to say".

He added that the ballet company had "total confidence in Aurelie Dupont", describing the 45-year-old as "an excellent director of dance".

Dupont, a former star ballerina at the Opera, took over as dance director in 2016 after the shock resignation of Benjamin Millepied, husband of Hollywood actress Natalie Portman.

Around a hundred dancers signed a joint statement expressing dismay that their survey had been leaked.

"The divulging of this survey was done without the consent of the dancers," they said.

"At no moment did the performers who were being questioned have any idea that this document would be used for purposes contrary to their interests."

Yet some dancers confirmed the complaints about Dupont.

"The current director seems totally incompetent when it comes to management, and has no desire to acquire such skills," one dancer said on condition of anonymity.

Others spoke of a lack of support and career development and said the Opera's management appeared to have little interest in dialogue with their staff.

"We're human beings, not pawns they can move around as they see fit," one complained.