United Kingdom

English National Ballet principal dancer, 49, faces jail for sexual abuse of girls

A former English National Ballet principal dancer faces a lengthy jail term after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting young female students.

'Internationally renowned' ballet dancer Yat-Sen Chang, 49, used his 'fame and respectability' to groom and sexually assault four 'starstruck' girls aged between 16 and 18. 

Chang would 'switch into a creepy mode' and offer the girls sports massages, during which he touched them inappropriately.

He was convicted of 12 counts of sexual assault and one count of assault by penetration at Isleworth Crown Court.

The offences took place at the English National Ballet and Young Dancers Academy in London between December 2009 and March 2016.

A fifth girl has since made similar allegations against Chang. He has not yet been charged over her claim.

Chang is pictured (centre) performing The Snow Queen at the English National Ballet in London in 2010. He joined in 1993 after moving to the UK from Cuba, where he was born

'Internationally renowned' ballet dancer Yat-Sen Chang, 49, (pictured outside court last month) used his 'fame and respectability' to groom and sexually assault four 'starstruck' girls aged between 16 and 18 

Judge Edward Connell told Chang his offending 'escalated in seriousness' and warned him he faces a 'lengthy custodial sentence'.

Opening the trial last month, prosecutor Joel Smith said the 'internationally renowned' ballet dancer was 'both famous and revered' by young dancers and students of ballet.

Mr Smith told jurors Chang 'used his position' to commit sexual offences against young students in his care, adding: 'Children, whom he had been trusted to teach.

'For his part, he trusted that his fame and his position would protect him from complaint, or from consequences of his actions.

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

Cuba-born Chang, who lives in the German port city of Kiel, was on trial for 14 offences in total. 

He was cleared of one charge of assault by penetration relating to his fourth victim after the jury deliberated for 13 hours and one minute. 

Wearing a dark jacket, a smart blue suit and a scarf, with his flat cap in his hand, Chang looked ahead showing no emotion as the verdicts were announced.

During the trial Chang said he had 'no idea' why the allegations were made against him, and said he had not touched any of the complainants in an inappropriate or sexual way. 

He told jurors the girls were lying and offered little by way of explanation.

'I am a kind man,' he said.

Asked why his victims would make up the allegations Chang replied: 'I don't know.'

His long-term girlfriend Emma Lucibello looked on from the public gallery wearing a face mask as he was convicted.

According to a profile on the German Theatre Kiel website, the Cuban dancer joined the English National Ballet in 1993 and was a principal dancer until 2011, where he performed in productions which included The Nutcracker, Coppelia and Sleeping Beauty.

After his conviction, Nahid Mannan, from the CPS, said: 'Yat-Sen Chang used his position as a famed and trusted ballet teacher to groom and sexually assault teenage dancers under his training.

'At 20 years their senior, Chang would have been well aware that his conduct was grossly inappropriate and predatory. 

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

'During the trial Chang claimed that although he had advised students to get massages or do stretches to help with tight calves, he had never offered to personally massage them. 

'In fact, he said he had only touched students to correct their posture during lessons.

'However, the strong prosecution case which included evidence provided by the victims in pre-recorded video interviews, meant that the jury were able to convict Chang for his crimes.

'I would like to highlight the courage of the young victims in this case without whose testimony this result may not have been possible. 

'Sexual crimes are some of the most serious and complex cases to prosecute - the CPS will always aim to bring these cases to court where there is the evidence to do so.' 

It has been revealed a fifth girl has come forward with similar allegations against Chang. He has not yet been charged over the claim.

Chang is pictured (centre) performing The Snow Queen at the English National Ballet in London in 2010. He joined in 1993 after moving to the UK from Cuba, where he was born

Judge Connell ordered pre-sentence reports to be prepared to assess Chang's potential dangerousness and asked for the CPS to made an urgent decision regarding any possible new charges. 

Mr Smith, prosecuting, earlier told the court Chang 'used his position to commit sexual offences against young students in his care.

'Children whom he had been trusted to teach. For his part, he trusted his fame and his respectability would protect him from complaint.'

Mr Smith said the girls were 'impressed' by Chang's status within the ballet world.

His first victim, then 18, believed 'everyone was in awe of him' as he played the part of the prince in that year's production of the Nutcracker.

She had been abroad to train at the suggestion of Chang and on one occasion she complained of a tight muscle and Chang offered to take her to the pilates room.

Mr Smith said the girl thought she was going to be shown an exercise, but Chang started breathing in a 'creepy way' and he then sexually assaulted her.

Chang looked 'pleased with himself' after the assault.

On another occasion, he stripped off his clothes in front of her. He later tried to get in the shower with her in the girls' changing room.

Isleworth Crown Court heard Chang (pictured at an earlier hearing) would 'switch into a creepy mode' and offer the girls sports massages, during which he touched them inappropriately

She said: 'I was showering and I heard someone come into the changing room.

'He kind of appeared in front of me on the other side of the shower and opened the door, made like he wanted to get into the shower.

'I said no, pushed him away. We kind of tussled for a little bit, and he kind of left, gave up, turned around and went out of the changing room,' she said.

The dancer said the incident left her 'feeling embarrassed' and 'exposed' as she tried to stop Chang from forcing his way into the shower.

Chang went on to teach full-time at the Young Dancers Academy in London when he abused the three other girls who were aged between 16 and 17.

His second victim was taking expensive private lessons with Chang who similarly complained of tight calves.

Chang offered to massage her despite ballet tutors later telling police it is not standard practice for a tutor to massage his or her students.

He sexually assaulted her over her leotard and did the same a few weeks' later and warned her not to tell her mother about the massage.

In her police interview she said: 'He would massage my hips and then get closer and pass over my vagina.

'I felt really uncomfortable, I would move my hands across my stomach or cross my arms. He would ask me if I felt uncomfortable and move onto another area.

'The first time we were in the smaller studio, I turned the light off, he asked me to get undressed. I was in my leotard and jogging bottoms.

'He told me to lay down on my back and massaged my calves with baby oil. He would pull my leotard up to my bum to massage it and my hips.

'He held the bottom of my leotard up and massaged my vagina and the front of my hips.

'When he's doing it he says: "I'm sorry if I'm making you uncomfortable."

'I never had the courage to say: "You're making me uncomfortable."

'He told me I'm a beautiful girl, sexy, I should be more comfortable in my body, and he would tell me at the start of lessons: 'You look beautiful today.'

'Teachers would tell me to portray a certain role: "You need to get into the mindset and feel sexy", but I have never had a teacher tell me I'm sexy.

'He would look at my face and giggle.' 

Chang's third victim was the first to make a formal complaint to the school. Chang was suspended on April 13, 2016.

The girl told police that she had 'completely trusted' Chang and he offered to give her a massage. He turned the lights off in the dance studio when he massaged her.

Chang lay on top of her and giggled and started kissing her neck before the girl managed to get away. 

The final victim said she was sexually assaulted when Chang offered to give her a massage.

She said that Chang had told her to 'shhhh' and she 'froze like a log' before the dancer abused her and laughed. 

Chang and Ms Lucibello now live and work in Germany at the Theaterkiel in Kiel.

He joined the English Nation Ballet in 1993 after moving to the UK from Cuba, where he was born.

He left the position as principal dancer in 2011.

Detective Constable Helen Larson, of the West Area Child Abuse Unit, said: 'Chang is a dangerous and predatory individual who targeted these young victims. He abused his position of trust and power to prey on them when they were most vulnerable.

'The victims showed extreme bravery and courage in reporting the incident and helping us to bring Chang to justice. 

'I am sure that this will prevent further offences from taking place.

'It remains a top priority for the Met to tackle and prevent instances of sexual assault, putting offenders behind bars and bringing justice to the victims. 

'I encourage anyone who has been a victim or witnessed a sexual assault to contact police. 

'We have specially trained officers who will give advice and take all allegations seriously. You will be supported.'

Chang was remanded in custody ahead of sentence on June 18. 

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