Every year, one of the world’s leading dance competition companies sells the dream of Hollywood fame to 300,000 dance students it draws to packed hotel ballrooms across the US and Canada for weekend workshops and competitions. But behind the bright lights and pulsing music, some dancers say they were sexually assaulted, harassed, and manipulated by the company’s powerful founder and famous teachers and choreographers, per a joint investigation by the AP and the Toronto Star. The problems date back to the founding of Los Angeles-based Break The Floor Productions, whose alumni and faculty have danced on stage with Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, at the Oscars and Super Bowl, and been on Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.
But as the company—launched 22 years ago by charismatic dancer Gil Stroming—has grown into an industry powerhouse, its leaders perpetuated a culture of sex and silence, according to interviews with dozens of former and current staff and students. Allegations of sexual misconduct first hit the dance company in October, with the Star reporting a Toronto-born teen alleged a famous choreographer propositioned her for sex just hours after judging her at a 2012 Break the Floor convention. An ongoing investigation by the Star in partnership with the AP now has uncovered alleged sexual misconduct that stretches back to the dance company’s early years, and involves Stroming himself, who was allegedly involved in a series of inappropriate relationships with students. He announced that he had sold Break the Floor and stepped down as CEO in January. (Read the lengthy story, which delves into more specific allegations.)
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