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"moral harrassment" at the Paris Opera

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To clarify...The European State Schools of Ballet. I did not mean the public or private education system. :( We are discussing ballet schooling not academic education. Perhaps it is incorrect to call Paris Opera School, Stuttgart School, Royal Ballet School, Vaganova Academy....etc. European State Schools, but that is how many Europeans in ballet refer to them. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

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Well, I for one, read the articles in Libe and I was totally shocked!! :o

You will say 'well, so what?' I will reply that it is exceptional for me to be appaled by such situation, because I'm FOR discipline... And plenty of it. I believe the more you let those kids do whatever they want, the more they'll walk all over you. Kids being what they are, they actually LIKE discipline, and they function better with it.

So, am I contradicting myself? No, because I think a truly harsh, focused ballet class is necessary to progress, and a very demanding schedule, very demanding teachers are what will be required to make it to the top.

BUT (and that's an enormous one) I think the article mostly focuses on what's happening AFTER class (and that's what shocked me most)... We will all agree that constructive criticism, corrections, whatever you want to call it, is not meant to be a personal criticism, that once you pass the door of the studio, it's finished, you close the topic and go away (or rather, ideally, you go to your room and think again about your mistakes, and remember to correct them in your next class :P ) but what I want to say is that, the best thing a teacher can do is give plenty of corrections, but still leads the child with an arm around their shoulders (if you see the image I'm trying to convey here)...

At POB, it's not the case (or at least, that's what the article wanted to highlight... And OF COURSE, you have to take it with a pinch of salt, because you'll always have one or two who are just bitter and who will NEVER be satisfied, no matter what atmosphere there is) Indeed teenagers are not always satisfied with... well, not with much in fact! But the school is for ALL kids, age 8 onwards, and that's an important point. At some stage in the article, it is mentioned that kids are not allowed to go outside of the building, speak to the person in charge of the dormitory, are forced to finish their plates, are not allowed to go on the internet... Well, all this to me is like putting them in a cage with a bit of bread and a glass of water (and NO noise allowed!) That's more than cruel, isn't it??

I agree that some discipline is required, but if kids have no opportunities to report their frustrations, cannot talk to anyone, are not allowed to cry (!!) or are not allowed to 'let go' a bit, what are they going to become? Great dancers... That's for sure, but at what price? :(

Actually, I had to edit my post, because in my last sentence, I said 'great dancers'... Well, my mistake, you CAN'T be a great dancer if you're unhappy, you'll just be a dancing machine. Technically impecable, but artistically lifeless. :eek:

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Some other articles about that topic in "Le Monde":


"Un rapport dénonce les pratiques en cours à l'école de l'Opéra de Paris", by Dominique Le Guilledoux


"Pas trop d'hypocrisie", by Alain Lompech (Lompech is one of the classical music critics of "Le Monde", but in recent months he's also been writing a weekly chronicle about all sorts of things).

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do you recall by any chance the precise year, or television programme, on which they broadcast a very recent (1999 ? 2000?) documentary on the Opera School where one of the girls says "ici on n'a pas d'amis, que des copines, parce qu'on est tous des rivales", and another says "we're not allowed to help each other..." etc.

I'd really like to find a copy of that tape, because I think it's terribly relevant to the current hullaballoo, and I never managed to see the programme when it first came out. I got the quotes from the press.

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Sorry, I don't remember the year... But if we're talking about the same program, it was in "Des Racines et des Ailes" on France3, I think.

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Guest Gigi1

This is a little off the topic but, I noticed that someone mentioned the 'conservatoire'

what is this?

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Welcome to Ballet Alert, Gigi!

The Conservatoire is part of the education system of France, the one we are referring to (technically the Conservatoire national supérieure de musique et de danse de Paris) teaches music and dance, and is quite competitive - producing both excellent ballet and modern dancers (former ballet students include both Elisabeth Platel and Isabel Guerin)

The web site is in both English and French - have a look!

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Well, unfortunately the English part of their site still is "under construction". However, perhaps you can have a look at their site in French and use a translation tool like Babelfish.

Actually there are tenths of "Conservatoires" in France, they are public schools of music, ballet and sometimes theater, most of them are funded by the cities (conservatoires municipaux) and some also by the regions and the state. The better known ones are the CNSMDP (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris), created in 1795, and the CNSMDL (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Lyon) created in 1980.

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this is out of sequence, but earlier on, i mentioned the fact that the RBS had had a similar report done, several years ago. here is my post (from another board, now defunct) about that, in case anyone is interested here. i don't know if the link to the full report still works.:


Inspectors' of the english Office for Standards in Education, into The Royal Ballet School, november 1999. (here is the site of the Office for Standards in Education: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/ )

10 inspectors spent 4 days in the school (lower & upper), visiting "115

lessons and 28 ballet or dance classes and attended rehearsals. They examined pupils' written work, spoke to both staff and pupils, and scrutinised the school's policies and documents. A questionnaire was sent to all parents and the results analysed. In addition, a meeting attended by 25 parents was held at the school."

the specialist ballet input was provided by the director of the finnish ballet - sorry i don't know who that is/was at the time of the report.

interestingly, individuals are never named, presumably to re-inforce the aim of objective assessment.

here are some extracts (which will, of course, be immediately recogniseable to anyone who has been there! )


This inspection was carried out in order to advise the Secretary of State for Education and Employment of the school's

suitability for registration under the Education Act 1996 and to report to the Government on those schools in receipt of

significant public funding.


The Royal Ballet School successfully combines a uniquely high standard of ballet training with good standards of all-round

education. ..........

The school is well led and soundly managed, but aspects of management are in need of improvement. For example, ............

High standards are attained in all forms of dance, especially classical ballet. Pupils make good progress in dance throughout the school and excellent progress in the Upper School. Pupils' self-discipline in ballet lessons and their attitude to learning are of the highest order. They are eager to learn and work hard to perfect their skills. - - -

In 1998, 34 pupils in Year 10 and Year 11 were entered for the Elementary Royal Academy of Dancing Examination. This was

the first time that the school had entered pupils for this examination; there was a 100 per cent pass rate, just over half the pupils

gaining the top grade of honours. - - -

......annual balletic assessment. This end-of-year assessment combines

two sets of marks: 60 per cent is given for appraisal based on attendance, progress and attitude throughout the year, given by

the appropriate teacher; and the remaining marks are for performance in an assessment class in the presence of an assessing

panel. - - -

The school has recently upgraded some of the girls' boarding accommodation to a good standard, but some issues remain, including some overcrowding. The maintenance system needs to respond more rapidly to reports of breakage or breakdown. Management

needs to be sharpened in this area.

Pupils' comments on their boarding experiences in Years 7-9 were not positive; there was some justified disappointment with

the quality of boarding experience..........

The school is expensive to run; the cost per pupil, at almost £17,000, is substantial. This is due to the high levels of staffing, the costs of repairs in old buildings and the split-site accommodation. The condition and use of the libraries on both sites are unsatisfactory, although steps are being taken at White Lodge to address the issue.

- - -The behaviour of pupils of all ages is exemplary, both in lessons and around the school. They are unfailingly courteous and behave with great consideration for others. Overall, behaviour is such that teachers and pupils can devote their full attention and all the available time to advancing learning. ........

Pupils relate very well to each other and willingly work together. They listen to each other and show respect for their fellow pupils' views and concern for their feelings. They spontaneously applaud others' success and react with understanding when others make mistakes. Pupils of all ages relate very well to their teachers and most other adults in the school, in a respectful but, in most cases, very easy and friendly way.  

Pupils display a very good sense of responsibility for themselves, in their appearance, their work and their use of time. Their self-esteem is high.  

- - -

The changing rooms, showers and toilets at the east end of the building are in a very poor condition and need urgent

maintenance. - - -

Specific problems include: the shortage of pinboard for boys' use; a lack of soap and toilet rolls in the toilets; no closer on the fire door in

Dormitory 1; poor maintenance in Dormitory 3; overcrowding in rooms 4 and 5; windows which open too far in Dormitories 5, 6, 9 and 10. The toilet and bathroom to the rear of room 6 has a broken shower curtain allowing spillage onto an adjacent electrical heater. The school has plans to carry out repairs to boys' dormitories in its summer work programme for 2000.  

The school has recently upgraded some of the girls' boarding accommodation to a good standard, but some issues remain. The

Crescent is cramped, with beds too close together; some mattresses are in need of replacement; there are no fire exit signs in the Attic dormitory; there is a general lack of wardrobe space; windows lack restraints; towels are hung too close together; telephones lack privacy and there is no safety net at the top of the stairwell in Tito building; the sickbay is inadequate in size - - -

The condition and use of the libraries on both sites are unsatisfactory, although steps have been taken at White Lodge to address problems. Access to the Upper School library, which is kept locked, is limited. Most students are not aware that any member of staff has specific responsibility for the library. There is no obvious register of books and no signing out procedure. The room is poorly lit and has no computer facility, although several computers are inappropriately placed in a nearby corridor. - - -

The school is expensive to run; the cost per pupil, at almost £17,000, is substantial. This is due to the high levels of staffing, the

costs of maintenance and repairs on old buildings and the split-site accommodation.  - - -- - - etcetera

to read the full report, click on


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estelle, i am wondering about the phrase "moral harrassment".

is the french equivalent a term with a specific meaning? or is it a literal translation? i have just been thinking that it doesn't convey to me, what i would expect from the words... and wondering why. thanks for helping me understand.


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In French, it is "harcèlement moral". It is a rather recent term, I think, and it's a bit like "sexual harrassment" (harcèlement sexuel), it refers to people who are badly treated at work by their colleagues or superiors (insulted, criticized all the time with no reason, etc.), sometimes in order to force them to resign. A book about it was very popular one or two years ago. The title of the first article in Libération "L'Opéra de Paris épinglé pour harcèlement moral" (The Paris Opera criticized for moral harrassment), and it focused mostly to what was written about the working conditions in some technical teams (costumes, wigs and make up), where an unusually high number of employees had resigned, had left earlier than planned for retirement or had been away for sickness, the term "harcèlement moral" wasn't about the POB school.

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What I meant is, if the English can set up a decent boarding program, can the French? Or are the cultures and school systems too different? I'm not trying to be funny either. I legitimately have no idea whether an english model could be effectively be used in France.

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LMTech, I think I can compare the French and British schools a little bit.

Unfortunately there is no real, big difference apart from the moral treatment in UK to be more subtle !

(the treatment from students to foreign children being worst !)

Those official reports in UK are -to my opinion- worthless.

Although I have to admit to be very impressed by it at the beginning ! Reality proofed something totally different !.

(I don't care much about a bulb missing and a toilet that can't be locked !)

Those official inspections are announced in advance, so the students are perfectly briefed and even getting Pilates-lessons...first time in 6 months !

It's not the system you can blame for everything, but -most important- the individual input of the teachers and the support they get from the management.

If only 2 in a lot of 8 are working with the "whole" class, one can start asking questions ! If you're paying 15.000 GBP a year for that and have to be appeased with a brilliant official report, while your child stays a whole year in a leaking dorm....I don't think the UK-schools are better or worser than the French ones. (I'm not talking White Lodge now)

Practical, boarding in UK is in terms of 6 weeks, with 1 free weekend in the middle, where in France (apart from some exceptions) it's a weekly boarding.

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viviane - i get the feeling you are basing your comments on some personal experience which we are not privy to? might it be possible for you to state facts or situations you are aware of, rather than innuendo? perhaps you have been a student at one or other place? readers here are usually very grateful for genuine personal insights...and you sound quite cynical, as a result of experience....

having lived at white lodge over one summer, visited the upper school many times, and known a fair number of people who attended both, i felt (when i read the RBS report) that it was a reasonable reflection of reality. it sounds as though you feel differently. i would be curious to hear more?

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on second thought, viviane, my queries would probably lead this POB school discussion off-topic... however, i would certainly be interested to read your thoughts, perhaps in a new thread, or even in an email?

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Claude Bessy has announced that she is suing Le Monde for libel. As the rest of the press, as well as the Observer, the Guardian, national television and so forth, have all raised the issue, Le Monde may have been singled out for attention because it is the newspaper of record.

So far as I can see, Le Monde appears to have done little more than relate an outline of the Socialconseil Audit.

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I know virtually nothing about French law, but in English and American law, it is axiomatic that "the truth is proof absolute against a charge of libel, civil or criminal". If all that was done was reportage of an official document from government or a quasi-governmental institution, then they're in the clear, but if they indulged in any interpretation or editorializing, then they could have trouble. I don't know if there's any legal precedent like Times v. Sullivan in France.

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What was that case ?

In France, when a Court considers a case, they judge - and this is NOT a joke, that is how it stands on the statute book - on what they consider to be "intime conviction", in other words, what they FEEL in their heart and soul.

As a person trained in quite another legal system, I would hesitate to call that a standard of proof. In other words, the issue of evidence, in French law, is secondary, to say the least.

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Times v. Sullivan is a U.S. precedent-setting case which found, among many other things, that a journal is not responsible for civil or criminal liabilities if there is no "malice" present in the management or editorial of the said organ toward the party claiming injury, and also that the material published be the truth. This, mind, is a gross oversimplification of the issue, but the one the papers like to trumpet about to the point where at least I am getting pretty fed up with them.

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