WATCH: Former Winnipeg ballet instructor Bruce Monk, accused of taking nude photos of underage students, is working with Ballet Victoria. Tess van Straaten reports.
The man credited as the choreographer and lighting designer for Ballet Victoria’s latest hit, Dracula, is facing a storm of controversy.
Bruce Monk was a well-respected instructor at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and a renowned photographer. But he was fired from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2015 after several former students came forward saying he took nude photos of them when they were underage.
A proposed $185 million class-action lawsuit alleges the young dancers were coerced into taking their clothes off and posing for photos between 1987 and 2015. The suit claims Monk then sold their images online without their knowledge or consent.
Former students say they were shocked to see Monk’s photo on Ballet Victoria’s Facebook page.
Sarah Doucet, who launched the class action, contacted Ballet Victoria earlier this year to alert its board about Monk after seeing a photo of him rehearsing with a female company member.
“My first thought was, did anyone ask her if she was okay working in such close proximity to Monk given the allegations?” Doucet said in a statement.
Ballet Victoria declined an on-camera interview but its executive director, Paul Destrooper, says there haven’t been any issues in Victoria
“There’s never been any concerns or any issues with any of the dancers and they’re all adults,” Destrooper says.
Destrooper is a close friend of Monk’s, who was his former teacher in Winnipeg. He says he’s aware of the allegations but is standing behind Monk, even though he knows the ballet could face a backlash.
“I’m standing up for someone no one will stand up for and I’m not standing up I’m actually stating facts,” says Destrooper.
Ballet Victoria says Monk isn’t an employee but regularly volunteers and sometimes does contract work.
Civil suits, including the class action, are pending but none of the allegations have been proven in court.
Winnipeg Police investigated the allegations in 2015 when the story first broke but charges were never laid. The crown said a conviction was unlikely.
Monk and his lawyer declined to comment.