More than 60 former students from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet have joined a class-action lawsuit against the company and its former teacher and photographer Bruce Monk. Those involved are seeking $75 million in damages, for inappropriate photos that were taken of them as students by Monk. The lawsuit was reported by MacLean's, a Canadian news outlet.
Now adults, the women claim they were coerced by Monk into posing topless, and in some cases instructed to reveal more, during photography sessions. Some images were later found for sale online. More than 60 dancers were affected by this predatory behavior over a period of 31 years, from 1984 to 2015.
According to MacLean's, the abuse followed a systematic pattern: Dancers met with Monk for supposed headshots, which in ballet, often involve baring the shoulders. They were instructed to lower their leotard straps until their breasts or other body parts were exposed. The dancers were also told that the images would remain private. Monk has denied all allegations.
Though Monk was fired by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2015, the current lawsuit came about after an investigation, which wrapped up in 2016, produced no charges against Monk. The wronged dancers decided to take matters into their own hands.
Unfortunately, this is yet another instance of young dancers—minors—being grossly taken advantage of by those in positions of power. The #MeToo movement continues to reverberate throughout the dance world, as stories of sexual harassment and abuse, often involving children, surface. Youth Protection Advocates in Dance, an organization that provides resources for dancers and their families and offers a certification program for educators, keeps an ongoing ticker of the latest cases in the field.