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Dancing star’s ‘awkward’ question to alleged sexual assault victim

A court has heard a former ballroom dance champion “tried to get into bed” with a woman without her consent and “awkwardly” questioned her skills as a dancer.

Trenton Shipley, 48, is facing seven charges relating to the alleged sexual touching and assault of a woman over the course of one evening in early 2021.

Both Mr Shipley and the alleged victim were invited to spend the night in a unit attached to a dance studio in the inner-Sydney suburb of Annandale.

It is alleged, between 10pm and 4am, Mr Shipley kissed the woman on the face and neck and touched her breasts and genitalia without her consent.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

On Wednesday, a contested hearing in Downing Centre Local Court heard from a witness who said that earlier in the night Mr Shipley had drunk straight vodka and slow danced with the alleged victim.

Camera IconFormer professional dancer Trenton Shipley allegedly sexually touched and kissed a woman without her consent in 2021. NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

In 2005, Mr Shipley made it to the finals of Dancing with the Stars as the partner of Seven News presenter Chris Bath.

He has also represented Australia at various international competitions for ballroom and Latin dancing.

The court heard that on the night in question, Mr Shipley had spent the evening socialising with the alleged victim and two other people at the studio, including the studio’s owner, Leeanne Bampton.

Fellow former professional dancer Christine Ravlich said she had spent several hours “drinking and chatting” with Mr Shipley, who she had known for several years through competitive dance circles.

“I was very happy to see Trent; we ended up just talking and going down to the local hotel for a few drinks,” she said.

Ms Ravlich said she recalled Mr Shipley was drinking vodka at the pub and suggested he buy a bottle to take back to the studio instead to save money.

She noted she rarely drinks herself and only consumed a small amount.

Dancing with the Stars. Chris Bath and Trenton Shipley.
Camera IconMr Shipley made it to the finals of Dancing with the Stars as the partner of Seven News presenter Chris Bath in 2005. Channel 7 Credit: News Limited

When they returned to the studio, the pair began socialising with the victim, and Mr Shipley continued drinking straight vodka because they “didn’t have anything to mix it with”.

Ms Ravlich said Mr Shipley appeared intoxicated and at times became difficult to understand.

“Trent wasn’t slurring words – it’s just that the dialogue was a little bit hard to understand where he was coming from,” she said.

“He didn’t seem to be completely himself. There was a lot of talk I didn’t understand.

“I remember one of the questions was ‘what do you want to do with your life?’ and the victim saying ‘I want to be a professional dancer’ and Trent saying ‘yeah, but what do you really want to do?’” Ms Ravlich said.

“I remember her being awkward after she said ‘dancer’, because I think she really wanted to be a dancer. I just remember it was a bit awkward.”

Afterwards, Ms Ravlich said she suggested Mr Shipley “show her a (dance) step or something”, referring to the alleged victim.

Camera IconA court heard Mr Shipley had awkwardly questioned whether his alleged victim could make it in the profession. NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

Ms Ravlich said she briefly left the pair together and when she returned, they were doing a slow dance, with their “bodies touching”, which she said was not the usual thing to do in a professional dance studio.

She said the victim didn’t appear to be enjoying the slow dance, although “not in a bad way”.

“I just remember saying that’s not ballroom dancing, that’s slow dancing, and they broke away,” she said.

Ms Ravlich described there being some “tension” in the studio and saying she told the alleged victim that if she wanted to eat some food, she could do so in a different room if she felt uncomfortable.

“I was referring to be being around someone who’s inebriated,” Ms Ravlich explained.

“She said, ‘No, no; I can handle it.’”

The owner of the dance studio Leeanne Bampton told the court on Tuesday that she had also noticed Mr Shipley acting unusual on the night and had taken him with her to walk her dogs some time after midnight.

When they returned to the studio, she says Mr Shipley tried to play music on his phone and she had to stop him from being too loud and waking the others.

Ms Bampton said she assisted Mr Shipley to get undressed and take a shower and then put him to sleep next to her on his bed, which is the last thing she recalled of the evening.

The next morning, the victim, who had been sleeping in a different room, claimed during the night a naked Mr Shipley had tried to get into bed with her.

Ms Ravlich said when she heard the allegation, she approached the victim to check on her.

“I said you did nothing wrong. If anything ever happens like that, you need to (say something) right away,” Ms Ravlich said.

“I remember her saying ‘it was too hard to move’, and then she started crying.”

According to court documents, police allege that at 4.10am, Mr Shipley touched the woman’s breasts and genitalia.

The case will return to court on 27 October.

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