An aspiring ballet star is accusing the Royal Winnipeg Ballet of unfairly kicking him out of its school after he began acting in pornographic videos.

Replay: Live chat


CBC News reporter Ryan Hicks hosted an online chat with Jeppe Hansen on Monday between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. CT. Watch a replay of the conversation here.

Jeppe Hansen, 22, had danced on stages around the world and studied in Montreal, New York City and his native Denmark before joining the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in September 2012.

Hansen beat out many others for a spot and a scholarship in the prestigious dance school's professional division.

"My identity is built on being a ballet dancer," he told CBC News.

"For me to come there was a big opportunity for me."

But earlier this year, Hansen appeared in his first pornographic video — a side project and an opportunity, he said, to express himself in a new way — and RWB officials found out.

"They told me … they didn't have any space for me because I did porn," he said.

According to Hansen, school administrators asked him to sign a letter stating that he voluntarily withdrew from the program.

Hansen said he never wanted to leave the RWB, but he felt that officials had already made up their minds on the matter.

He accused the ballet company of unfairly trying to define what constitutes art.

"You cannot be in a company or with the school or whatever because you've decided to take a different standpoint artistically — not because you physically can't do it, or because you're not good enough," Hansen said.

"Being told because you're doing something else that's interrupting with what we think you can do is really difficult because they know it's your passion, they know that that's what you live off. They know my entire identity's built on it. So it was really difficult to be told that and to be told, 'You know what? There's no space for you here.'"

Hansen said he left the school in late March. In April, he left Winnipeg and moved to New York City to pursue adult entertainment full-time under the screen name Jett Black.

Royal Winnipeg Ballet officials told CBC News they cannot comment on personnel issues due to privacy concerns.

The school has a code of conduct for students and "the organization has policies and procedures in place for the benefit of all," a spokesperson said.

The only reference in the school's student information handbook to side projects, like the video Hansen was in, is on page 12. The section applies to outside performances related to dance:

"Please note that RWB School Professional Division students are not permitted to perform outside of the RWB School without permission from the RWB School Director. Any student wishing to participate in any additional dance program during RWB School breaks must also receive approval from the RWB School Director in advance. Requests for authorization must be submitted in writing."

Danced for Queen of Denmark

Hansen started dancing at the age of two in a small village in central Denmark. From there he went to Copenhagen, where he danced in the Royal Danish Opera and The Ballet in Tivoli Gardens.

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Jeppe Hansen, far right, practises with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. He was enrolled in the school's professional division from September 2012 until this spring. (Facebook)

Danish Queen Margarethe II, an acclaimed set and costume designer, helped out with some of the productions that Hansen danced in.

Hansen said he even became part of an exclusive troupe that would dance at the queen's castle for her private parties.

"I appreciated working for her at the ballet and I would like to do that again," he said.

From there, Hansen attended dance schools and performed in Paris, New York City and Montreal.

While in Montreal, Hansen auditioned for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's professional division. He passed the rigorous two-stage audition process and the school accepted him in September 2012.

During his time at the RWB, Hansen won a prize for best choreography and performed in Sleeping Beauty in March.

Leaping into porn

Hansen said adult film producers had approached him during his time in Montreal, but he declined their offers.

But he had a change of heart earlier this year, as he grew frustrated by the constraints of ballet.

"It was more important for me to be me and to do the things I wanted to do for once, and not what everyone else wanted," Hansen said.

"Being a ballet dancer is restrictive. Everyone tells you what you have to do, how to look, what to weigh, how to perform [and] be the artist you are."

Hansen appeared in his first pornographic video in February with the website CockyBoys, under the performance name Jett Black.

In addition to sex-only videos, the website's owner, Emmy-award-winning producer Jake Jaxson, says he's trying to blur the lines between mainstream entertainment and adult entertainment with films that include a plot along with sex scenes.

"The films are meant to be entertaining and sexual at the same time," Jaxson said.

Jaxson said his films challenge what society considers to be mainstream and the kind of artists the public celebrates.

"I don't like movies that show young people's heads cut off or their arms ripped from their body. And everyone goes and watches that … and those performers are not looked at as being outside of the mainstream," Jaxson said.

"Personally, I find that not acceptable for me in my kind of entertainment, but I just choose not to pay for it."

Added Hansen, "To me no one can tell me what art is. Art is what you and I define art by."

'My dancing career is not over'

Hansen said he's currently enjoying pursuing adult entertainment full-time, but admits that he misses being a full-time dancer.

"It's such a big part of your life. I really do [miss dancing] and your body also misses it," he said.

Hansen said he hopes to return to professional dance one day, performing with a company that allows him to be the artist he wants to be.

"My dancing career is not over. And when they [officials at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet] told me that, I thought the same thing," he said.

"I'm taking a break from performing and I'll take this break until I find a place where I can fit in as a ballet dancer."

Ballet school's code of conduct

The following is the 2012-2013 code of conduct, published in the student handbook for the RWB's professional division:

With files from the CBC's Ryan Hicks