Strictly judge Motsi Mabuse has opened up about the emotional and physical abuse she received from dance teachers as a child in South Africa.
According to the South African-German dancer who appeared on Let’s Dance, the experiences have led her to take measures at her own dance school to prevent pupils from suffering similar mistreatment.
‘Some of them [my dance teachers] were good and inspirational but some of the relationships were abusive,’ the 41-year-old former professional dancer told Cheltenham Literature Festival.
‘And, you know, when you speak about abuse, sometimes people tend to be like, ‘Yeah, where did he hit you? How did he hit you? Show me pictures.’
‘But stuff like manipulation and emotional abuse, those are kind of things you can’t see.
‘It’s in your head, like it happens to you.
‘When a teacher says to you, ‘you’re dancing like my dog’ or something, and they repeat it quite often, there’s no way of showing to people this has happened to me as a little girl.
‘Some were physically abusive as well.’
The mother-of-one, who has previously described the racial abuse she encountered as a young dancer in South Africa, added that she often felt that there was no one to ‘defend’ her, despite her mother often being present.
She said: ‘There were some cases where my mum was there and I think she herself was shocked at what just happened there. But nobody thought to remove the kids from this – everyone thought this is how we discipline kids and it’s not.
‘So as a young child, nobody’s defending you and that is what you take with you.’
Miss Mabuse, who became a judge on Strictly Come Dancing in 2019 – said things got better when she moved to Germany aged 18 and established a ‘different relationship’ with her teachers, who she said spent time ‘building me up and trying really hard to repair all of that which was broken’.
She also revealed that she has employed a therapist at her dance school in Germany to maintain her pupils’ mental well-being.
She said: ‘Happy, healthy sports people is what we should be aiming for. For me, it’s really not something great when I see somebody being eight-time world champion or whatever, but them not being a happy person or a healthy person.
‘I don’t think it’s worth the trophy, really, because how many times have we seen athletes just crash down and come back and then they tell their stories. It’s not worth it.’