Europe

Top Vienna ballet academy 'encouraged pupils to smoke'

Vienna State Opera house
Image caption Vienna State Opera says it has already cut the number of performances for dancers, after their training burden was criticised

Children at Vienna State Opera's high-profile ballet academy were encouraged to smoke to control their weight, an investigation has found.

A special commission is investigating claims that the academy endangered pupils' wellbeing.

It claimed that the young dancers had been exposed to harsh routines of training, practising and performing.

Commission head Susanne Reindl-Krauskopf said students were addressed by their first names and clothes sizes.

"It is clear that children and adolescents are not sufficiently protected from discrimination, neglect and negative medical effects," the commission's report stated.

It also said the training burden was poorly controlled and "endangering their wellbeing".

In response, Vienna State Opera said it had already cut the number of students' performances and would study the report before giving a full response.

The academy, created in 1771, is one of Europe's most prestigious ballet schools. Many of its alumni dance for companies such as London's Royal ballet and New York's American Ballet Theatre.

The scandal hit the headlines in April when Austrian newspaper Falter published an investigation which alleged that some young dancers were physically hit and scratched, and others mocked for their physiques.

Austria's culture minister Alexander Schallenberg has called for urgent action to resolve the issues.

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