MARTINEZ — A second woman testified Tuesday about being touched inappropriately by a prominent ballet teacher accused of raping and molesting young students studying with him.
Her testimony followed that a day earlier of a woman who told the courtroom that Viktor Kabaniaev first raped her when she was 12 and continued to have s*x with her at least 30 more times while she studied under him. He was almost 40 at the time.
The second woman testified Tuesday that when she was in Kabanieav’s San Bruno apartment he touched her all over, including her breasts and the area around her vagina. She was 14 at the time.
The woman said that she began studying with Kabaniaev in 2008. Her family hired him to choreograph a dance for her in an upcoming competition and she later joined an apprenticeship program he taught and ran for Diablo Ballet.
When Kabaniaev moved to a studio in Daly City, the Westlake School for the Performing Arts, she followed him, often getting rides with him from the East Bay, where they both lived at the time.
He later moved to an apartment in San Bruno and invited her over during a break in between their private lessons and an evening group class. He showed her his new mattress and encouraged her to try it out.
“He said something like, ‘You should come back sometime — we could do fun things on this bed,’ ” she testified, adding she couldn’t remember his exact wording.
“I felt uncomfortable,” she said. ” ‘ I’m still 13; why did you make that suggestion’ — I remember thinking that.”
When he asked later if she wanted a massage as they watched a choreography tape, she agreed. He had massaged her legs before — it wasn’t that unusual, as dancers are often sore, she testified.
“I’ve had massages before,” she said, noting that this did not feel like a massage, however. “It felt like he was lightly touching me … over my breasts … near my crotch.”
It lasted about 10 or 15 minutes and made her “extremely uncomfortable,” she said. “I didn’t know what to say. I felt frozen there.”
She didn’t tell anyone. She said she didn’t want her parents to worry, and since it didn’t happen again after that, she decided to not think about it.
Until she read articles about his arrest, she kept quiet. But she wanted investigators to know what happened to her.
“I just wanted to say the truth.”
She had continued dancing with him for about a year after that day at his apartment, and said the molestation wasn’t actually what prompted her to stop lessons. He and her mother had a falling out — she didn’t know what about– and she eventually moved on to a dance program across the country and abroad. While she had long been on track to become a professional ballet dancer, she ultimately enrolled in school to pursue a career in medicine.
Kabaniaev was arrested in January 2018 and has since pleaded not guilty to 14 felony counts, including committing forcible lewd acts upon a child and rape and oral copulation with a child, according to court documents.
The father of the first victim also testified Tuesday.
He said he had hired Kabaniaev when his daughter was 12 to give private lessons to supplement her ballet program. Kabaniaev was renowned in the Bay Area dance scene, having studied and danced at elite ballet programs in Russia before teaching in Contra Costa County.
His daughter was so passionate about ballet that he had converted a bedroom into a ballet studio at their East Bay home to host her private lessons. But when she progressed as a dancer and needed more space for leaping and floor work, they moved the lessons to a private studio in Walnut Creek.
Shortly after moving to that studio, the father and girl’s uncle stopped by the studio during a lesson she had with Kabaniaev. She “stumbled” out of the men’s bathroom, saying Kabaniaev was very sick and she was helping him, her father said.
According to the victim’s Monday testimony, Kabaniaev was not actually sick that day — he had actually been having s*x with her in the men’s bathroom, which he did almost every time they had a private lesson in the Walnut Creek studio. She was just 12.
Kabaniaev was close with the family, attending family dinners and eventually a trip to Tahoe with them — where, the victim had testified, Kabaniaev also raped her.
But the father did not know anything about the abuse until 2018, when the victim called to inform her parents of the investigation and reveal that Kabaniaev had “molested” her as a child, he testified.
“I felt like it would ruin my life to expose this,” the woman, now 31 and no longer living in the Bay Area, said Monday about why she had never told anyone about the abuse. “I still hoped to be a professional dancer. … I didn’t want a scandal.” She also didn’t want her parents to be devastated by the news.
Kabaniaev’s defense attorney, Kenneth Wine, asked the woman’s father what he told police and whether he had been instructed to change his story to align with his daughter’s, which he denied.
Wine had pressed the alleged victim during cross-examination about whether she was “in love” with the much older Kabaniaev and whether she “seduced” him when she was young.
“I was not having consensual s*x with him,” she said firmly. “Because I was 12.” If she ever did tell him she loved him, it was in response to him saying that, she said, calling herself a “people pleaser.”
Asked how he felt upon learning what Kabaniaev allegedly did to his daughter, he compared his reaction to that of the Hulk — a comic book character who transforms into a massive green superhero when angry or distressed.
“I felt rage,” he said during his emotional testimony Tuesday. “I feel as a father, I’m supposed to protect my children.”