Dancers unprotected from abuses in the Netherlands; Code of conduct urgently needed
The Dutch dance world needs clearer codes of conduct to protect people, and prevent transgressive behavior including sexual abuse. An extensive study into the dance sector resulted in a 332-page report presented in The Hague on Monday. The report, called “Schaduwdansen,” or “Shadow Dancing,” was presented by Marjan Olfers and Anton van Wijk from the research agency, Verinorm.
The researchers asked hundreds of dancers fill out a questionnaire and conducted 167 interviews. A population study showed that 39 percent of dancers were confronted with at least one form of transgressive behavior in the past year. Sexual misconduct was involved in 11 percent of the cases. Trainers or teachers, who are in a position of power, are mainly mentioned as perpetrators. "Dancers tolerate a great deal to keep expressing their passion, and often too much," the report stated.
About two-thirds of the respondents said that measures are needed to make the sector safer. The researchers come up with some recommendations. "Have an eye and an ear for victims," is one of them. Dancing should also be made more professional, a recognizable structure should be created, clear codes of conduct are needed and the “culture of silence” should be broken.
Reports about abuse led to the independent investigation, which was started in 2021 on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). It followed allegations from whistleblower Kim Koumans. The professional dancer and choreographer went public with her own experiences about transgressive behavior, including sexual abuse. Koumans urged other dancers to share their experiences, and called on politicians to investigate. Last year she filed a police report against a dance teacher from Nood-Brabant who allegedly abused her.
Some figures and conclusions from the extensive report leaked out more than a week ago, even before the dancers involved had been informed of them. Written questions from parliamentarians in the Tweede Kamer stated they shared Koumans’ “disbelief and indignation” regarding the leak, and demanded answers from Minister Conny Helder and the researchers.
Olfers and Van Wijk, who previously examined abuses in both gymnastics and the highest levels of sports in the Netherlands, said their dance study took longer than expected. They said it was a "difficult job" and a "complicated trajectory" because of the "closed culture" in the "fragmented dance landscape" that encompasses so many different styles. About 1.5 million residents of the Netherlands are active in the dance world.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times