Former Dance Instructor Accused of Sexual Assault in Lawsuit
Two professional dancers filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing a former dance teacher of sexually assaulting and abusing them, and accusing his wife – an internet famous ballerina who danced with the Boston Ballet – of participating in some of the abuse. .
The former teacher – who is known by several names, but goes by the name Mitchell Taylor Button in the costume – is married to Dusty Button, who was the principal dancer of the Boston Ballet and who has amassed more than 300,000 Instagram followers and several sponsorships. ‘companies. with viral photos and videos of her dancing.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada, claims that “the Buttons are abusing their positions of power and prestige in the dance community to gain the loyalty and trust of young dancers” and said that the couple “would exploit these relationships to coerce sex acts through force and fraud.” Mr. Button is a defendant in the lawsuit; Ms Button is not, but is described as a “non-party co-conspirator”. A lawyer for the couple said they denied the charges.
The lawsuit claims that one of the plaintiffs, Sage Humphries, now a dancer with the Boston Ballet, met the Buttons in 2016 while she was on the company’s apprenticeship program and the couple sexually and verbally assaulted her , forced her to live with them and isolated her from her family.
“They had control of my phone and my Instagram passwords, my email,” Ms. Humphries, now 23, said in an interview. “They had total control over me. If I wanted to do something, I had to ask them first.
A second plaintiff in the lawsuit, Gina Menichino, alleges that several years earlier, Mr. Button sexually assaulted her when she was 13 and was his 25-year-old dance teacher in Florida.
The lawsuit says Mr. Button used several names, including Mitchell Moore, Taylor Moore and Mitchell Button.
A statement sent through an attorney speaking on behalf of the couple, Ken Swartz, said: “Taylor and Dusty Button categorically deny these baseless allegations and they are anxiously awaiting the opportunity through legal proceedings. court to refute all false and fraudulent allegations made by the plaintiffs. “
According to the lawsuit, Ms Menichino, now 25, said she met Mr Button when she was a student at Centerstage Dance Academy in Tampa, Fla., Where she knew him as Taylor Moore. Twice in 2010, the costume says that she and Mr. Button were sharing a blanket while watching a movie with other dancers in the studio when Mr. Button sexually assaulted her.
Mr Button regularly texted, photos and sexually explicit videos to Ms Menichino, according to the lawsuit, and asked for the same. Ms. Menichino aspired to be a professional dancer, he said, and Mr. Button would reward her “compliance” with special dance opportunities, such as teaching attending a dance convention.
“The whole game was about keeping him happy,” she said in an interview. “Don’t make him angry, or I was not worthy and I would lose my dancing career.”
Ms Menichino, now a dancer, teacher and choreographer, said in an interview that she reported her experiences to the police in 2018, but they told her they had not found sufficient evidence to hire criminal proceedings. According to police records provided by plaintiffs’ attorney, another dancer from the same Tampa studio reported to police in 2012 that Mr. Button sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions, some at her home; that case also did not result in criminal charges, in part due to a lack of physical evidence to support it, records show.
Ms Menichino’s mother said in an interview that her daughter told her there had been “inappropriate interactions” between her and Mr Button after he left the studio job.
In Ms Humphries’ case, her mother and father said in an interview that they sensed something was wrong with their daughter’s life situation and traveled to Boston to “rescue” her.
Ms Humphries said in an interview that she was impressed with Ms Button, who was the principal dancer at the Boston Ballet, and started spending a lot of time with her and her husband in 2017. But their demeanor towards her is became more and more controlling. , says the trial.
According to the court record, the couple insisted that Ms Humphries regularly sleep in their apartment and ultimately forced her to live there full time and paid for her meals and personal expenses; Mr Button told her that if he had access to her social media account, he could “make her famous as Dusty.”
“If ever Sage tried to distance himself or disobey the Buttons,” the lawsuit said, “they would threaten to revoke their financial support and sabotage his career.”
One evening, Mr. Button sexually assaulted Ms. Humphries in her apartment, according to the lawsuit, triggering a pattern of sexual abuse that sometimes included violent sex acts to which she had not consented. The record showed that Ms. Button had repeatedly held her down to immobilize her while Mr. Button had sex with her. And at one point, according to the lawsuit, the husband and wife had a physical altercation which ended with him “punching Dusty in the face” because he was angry that she had had it. sex with Mrs. Humphries.
In August 2017, Ms Humphries, then 19, received abuse protection orders against Ms Button and Mr Button, according to the lawsuit.
The Boston Ballet said in a statement Thursday that Ms Button’s job was laid off in May 2017, but declined to say why.
“The Boston Ballet supports Sage Humphries who courageously comes forward, shares his experience to protect others and seeks accountability and justice,” the company said in a statement.
Sigrid McCawley, a lawyer representing the two plaintiffs, said there is a predatory trend in the dance world due to entrenched power dynamics and the dancers’ desire to gain approval from figures in the dance. ‘authority.
“Preparing in this environment is especially easy for an abuser,” she said, “because they have full access to very young victims for extended periods of time. “
Kitty Bennett contributed reporting.
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