Theatrical creator Jan Fabre, sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexual abuse

The visual artist and choreographer Jan Fabre (Antwerp, Belgium, 63 years old), accused of harassment and “indecent assault” by some dancers within his company, has been sentenced this Friday to 18 months in prison by a court in Antwerp. The sentence is accompanied by a stay of execution for a period of five years, during which Fabre will be deprived of his civic rights, according to a copy of the verdict sent to the press. Fabre, 63, was tried for “violence, harassment or sexual harassment at work” against 12 former employees of his company Troubleyn. He also had to answer for an “indecent assault” against one of them. The artist is one of the stars with whom the Central Theater of Seville celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year, an appointment that features exclusively in the program with Seville (A small tribute to the Central Theater), Fabre piece whose premiere is scheduled for May 13. For the time being, neither the theater nor the Junta de Andalucía have commented on the sentence.

During the trial, at the end of March, a sentence of three years in prison had been requested, but the court considered that part of the facts were prescribed and dismissed the charges of six of the twelve complainants. His case was one of the first Me Too in the performing arts and has had direct consequences on his career. For example, in 2019 the Teatro Lliure decided not to stage the marathon and transgressive show Mount Olympus. The institution justified the measure “in accordance with the programmatic lines included in the project of the new direction, expressed in the will of a theater in which the redistribution of resources and the conception of a change in the social model can be carried out in the most ethical way. artistically and humanly.

Fabre, who had not attended the trial, was also not present when the verdict was announced. “We are satisfied with this ruling,” reacted An-Sofie Raes, one of the lawyers representing the civil parties, quoted by the Flemish newspaper of standard.

Scene from ‘Prometheus-landscape II’, a work by Jan Fabre.

On March 25, the first day of the trial, Fabre had been portrayed, in the testimonies of several dancers, as a tyrannical man during rehearsals, who regularly humiliated his collaborators and even sexually blackmailed some of them. Several alleged victims have recounted erotic photo sessions directed by the choreographer, under the “false pretext” of their publication in an art magazine. Some of those sessions ended in sexual intercourse.

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His lawyer Eline Tritsmans admitted Jan Fabre’s “strong character”, and the fact that working with him “is giving 100%” in grueling performances where “the real tiredness, the real emotions” emerge.

The radicalism that Fabre practices on all fronts has made him one of the figures that have most influenced the performing arts in the last 30 years, but it also places him at the center of an already unstoppable debate in theater and that not only focuses on sexual abuse —the Belgian is being investigated by the courts—, but also has to do with the traditional vision of the director as a genius who should be allowed everything in the name of “beauty”. “Some might argue that this is part of an artistic strategy, that in order to achieve the desired results, Fabre feels that he needs to push his artists beyond his limits (…). What are we justifying in the name of art?” asked the signatories of the complaint letter against the artist in September 2018.

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Theatrical creator Jan Fabre, sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexual abuse