The Belgian artist, dance choreographer and director Jan Fabre has been convicted by a Belgian court of bullying and violence towards five women along with an indecent assault on one of the individuals.
The court in Antwerp subsequently handed down an 18-month suspended sentence and also ordered Fabre to pay each woman symbolic compensation of €1, according to the Flemish newspaper De Morgen. He was acquitted for offences against another woman.
Fabre faced charges of sexual harassment and indecent assault following a three-year investigation by the Auditorat du travail d’Anvers, a tribunal specialising in labour disputes. Fabre denied any wrongdoing.
“We are very pleased with this verdict,” said An-Sofie Raes, who represented the women in court. “The court acknowledges that there was a pattern. It is an important recognition and a milestone—not only for the civil parties, but also for other victims who may wonder whether such behaviour is permissible,” she told De Morgen.
Manon Gutwirth, one of Fabre’s lawyers, says that “the court has not convicted Jan Fabre for the facts regarding six of the eleven civil parties. He was found guilty of one offence of assault, concerning a French kiss, which the artist has always maintained was mutual. The judge ruled otherwise.” She argues: “The caricature sketched of Jan Fabre, including the accusation ‘no sex no solo’ [asking the dancers for sex in exchange for a larger role] is invalidated by the verdict.”
In September 2018, the Flemish Ministry of Culture launched an investigation into Fabre’s dance company Troubleyn after several former performers accused the artist of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Twenty former dancers, 12 of them anonymous, alleged in a letter to the Dutch magazine rekto: verso that they were humiliated and intimidated whilst working for the company.
The letter says: “Through sharing and reflecting on our collected experiences and testimonies—one of which dates back 20 years—we have come to understand that Troubleyn company members have been navigating unprofessional and inappropriate relationship practices in the workplace for decades.”
A response from the Troubleyn company posted on rekto: verso and dated September 2018 says: “We deplore this attack via the media, as this constitutes an unfair public trial.”