To colleagues, family and friends, Guoping Wang is a dedicated family man, hard worker and accomplished ballet dancer and instructor.
He is helpful, humble and soft spoken, the type of father who cooked breakfast for his family every morning and would run to and from his work duties to ensure his kids got to piano lessons or math club on time.
This is how he is described in seven character letters submitted to the court last week. The former Jacobs School of Music lecturer, who, through his lawyer, declined to be interviewed for this article, was sentenced to two years of probation Wednesday after a student reported in spring 2016 that he had sexually assaulted her.
As the Indiana Daily Student previously reported, this allegation was one of multiple against Wang that the University found while investigating. The details of these allegations are contained in a 13-page memorandum which has not been made available to the public. The complainant in this particular case requested police involvement, according to court documents.
Those who have worked with Wang said they never thought he was capable of such a thing. When he was arrested last spring, he was charged with criminal confinement and sexual battery. At the Wednesday hearing, he pleaded guilty to the criminal confinement charge with the battery charge being dropped.
“These charges are so far out of character I simply cannot believe it to be true,” wrote Sara Knight, a character witness who met Wang at a ballet camp in Cincinnati. “I have never witnessed him to be inappropriate. Ever.”
Wang grew up in China and had a poor upbringing. In court documents, his wife said they met as students at the Shanghai Dance Academy before marrying and moving to America.
The brochure for the 2016 Spring Ballet says he worked with the Shanghai Ballet Company for 11 years before coming to IU, where he attended the Jacobs School of Music for graduate studies. After graduation, he worked with multiple prestigious ballet companies, including the Ballet Chicago Company, Colorado Ballet, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
According to several of the character letters, he chose to teach dance at IU and in several other programs after retiring from professional performance.
At one point, Wang’s family lived outside Chicago while he worked in Bloomington and drove back and forth between the two cities every weekend. Three people who knew him during his time in Chicago mentioned this in their letters, saying it was both a testament to his passion for ballet and his devotion to his family.
Ballet instructors in New York, Ohio and Maine said they had observed him teach students without incident, and some said they invited him to teach their own. They added that he was a soft spoken person who may have had trouble sometimes communicating in English but got his point across nonetheless. When Judge Marc Kellams asked Wang about his English skills Wednesday, he described them as "not so good."
“Most ballets use French,” Wang said.
All of Wang's former colleagues said he got stellar reviews from students. Jacques Cesbron, who has been a ballet instructor at IU, said he was impressed by Wang’s teaching style and his ability to combine his American and Chinese training.
Other colleagues say he offered to substitute other instructors’ classes. He took on side jobs at other ballet schools to share his expertise and help support his family.
He taught ballet at IU for over a decade before the University fired him after investigating multiple reports of unwanted advances toward students and staff, according to court documents.
Wang, who has worked with ballet companies on at least four continents, testified under oath Wednesday that he had taken a job working at Menards. His wife, who said she had been a homemaker for 20 years, has also taken a job to support the family.
The testaments to Wang’s character became a key part of Wednesday’s hearing. Kellams said he read the letters, which spoke of a loving father and accomplished ballet master.
“Mr. Wang is more than this bad act,” Wang’s lawyer Katherine Liell said.
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