Can a dance studio be a cult?
Posted by: txrdg ()
Date: November 21, 2004 04:46PM

I have allowed my daughter to dance, (30 + hours per week), at a studio that I am now seeing was controlled by a man that is ultimately in control of several young girls and women. We have left. My daughter is damaged. I think the studio was a cult that slowly... very slowly... drew us in. My daughter... now 16... does not really know who she is or where she belongs. I feel responsible. I didn't see it happen till it was too late. There is so much to say that really cannot be said in a typed paragraph. Is there help for her somewhere? Are there doctors that specialize in this? Any help is greatly appreciated. I really don't know where to begin.

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Can a dance studio be a cult?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: November 21, 2004 11:57PM

Yes, a situation of the type you describe (dance coach, dance studio) could become a venue in which a controlling relationship develops.

Aspiring artists and athletes can be vulnerable to exploitation. The social context in which artists and elite athletes seek training is a very special type of social context, one in which people push themselves past mental and physicial limits. Very intense driven people are attracted to these venues. This can make it difficult for families and students to recognize whether a teacher or coach is making demands that are no longer challenging but have crossed the line to become tyrannical/abusive.

Vulnerabilities of artists and athletes--some hunches

(This list is speculative, not discriptive. These are educated guesses. You have to figure out whether any of this matches with what you and your daughter have been through.)

Aspiring artists and athletes dedicate lots of time to developing their skill. This means they'll often socialize mostly with other artists or athletes. Unless care is taken to maintain a wide range of social outlets, an aspiring artist or athlete may risk losing opportunities to learn and practice ordinary, age appropriate social skills. And this can happen even when a coach is ethical and has not turned training into a cultic relationship.

These students (and sometimes their families) are often ambitious. Aspiring artists and athletes will be eager to work with a coach or instructor who has an excellent reputation and a good track record for graduating successful students. Enormous trust will be placed in this coach.

A coach who is famous but psychologicaly needy is in the tempting position of being able to hand-pick students (and by extension hand-pick families) who can be most easily dominated and manipulated.

A teacher like this may select an especialy malleable group of students as his inner circle, (and their families in turn may be targeted for much heavier financial burden). The teacher will inflict much heavier demands on the inner circle, convincing them that this brutal treatment is a sign that they're more talented and shame them with accusations of disloyalty or weakness if they dare to complain, express doubt or even develop athletic injuries or eating disorders due to over training. Some domineering coaches or teachers may try to shame you into not seeking appropriate medical care for such conditions and may pressure you to stick with the coaches pet remedies instead.

When giving lessons to the inner circle, the teacher may even speak contemptuously of the other 'inferior' students who are being given easier, less challenging lessons. (eg 'I gotta teach those wimps so I can make a living. You guys are different. Im busting my ass for you and you're too spoiled to appreciate it.') If a teacher does this, the inner circle students will be led to feel guilty that they're not measuring up to the bully-teacher's standards, and they'll rationalize their own suffering by convincing themselves they're special and that the students outside their group are inferior. They'll be less likely to confide in them. Friendships may be broken up.

Meanwhile students who are considered 'less special' may not be abused at all--and may actually get excellent instruction from the bully-teacher. They may refuse to believe troubling rumors about the teacher, even spring to his defense, not realizing that the inner circle is being subjected to far worse treatment than they've experienced.

*Being told you're special, then having that linked to abuse is one of the most effective manipulation methods there is. The abused students rationalize their misery by cherishing the belief they're special, 'strong enough to take it.' To question the motives of the teacher means questioning whether you're special. Thats painful as hell to give up.

Ethical dance instructors can have vast control over many aspects of one's life--how you carry your body, what you eat, when you eat, how often you must train. A set up like this can be very attractive to talented but domineering indivdiuals. Plus parents of students often do not know the difference between a gruelling but appropriate student-coach relationship and one that is dysfunctional and harmful to the student.

**Finally, adolescents are often ashamed to tell their parents that they're being harmed by an adult authority figure. They may believe the parents have authorized the teacher to treat them harshly. Its very easy to shame youngsters into silence. When we are teenagers we are eager to break away from home, find our independance, and to go to parents for help can feel like you're turning into a baby again.

Finally its all too common for abusive teachers to accuse students of being weak, of being 'quitters' if they try to challenge abusive treatment. Most youngsters cant bear any accusation of being weak so they'll clam up.

An abusive teacher may also select some pupils to be favorites and others to be scapegoats. Sometimes the role gets shifted around. But the favored students feel privliged, they may even join in bossing other students, and because the favorites feel priviliged and special, they'll keep quiet. They wont realize that they too are being abused, and may go to great lengths to defend the teacher.

So you may want to find out if this teacher played favorites and whether your daughter was a favored member of the group or a scapegoat, or experienced both kinds of treatment.

Some abusive teachers also exploit families by promising their students will have a distinguished career and milk the family for money to send the student to conventions, auditions, etc. To dare question such a teacher is to question ones most cherished hopes and ambitions.

It sounds like you both have been through a lot. Here, to get you started is general information on controlling/cultic relationships


Yes, a situation of the kind you describe can take on features of a cult. Its not the belief system that makes a cult, its the social behavior of the group, or the person orchestrating the relationship.

Key features (by no means an exhaustive list)

* Absence of informed consent. You go in wanting to learn to dance, and instead get slowly pulled into a scary relationship

* The person or group slowly takes over your life. Anxiety and fear replace energy and creativity. Your world shrinks, your perspective shrinks, your menu of permissible choices gets progressively narrower.

* You're gradually led to distrust your own instincts, distrust your own life experience and instead put your faith in a group or person that makings increasing demands.

* Excessive secrecy & contempt for the world outside the group or relationship.

Result, you end up losing many of the qualities you sought to develop when you originally got involved. Fear replaces pleasure. Anxiety hampers creativity. Fatigue replaces vitality.

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Can a dance studio be a cult?
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: November 23, 2004 01:26AM

There are two main things to watch out for.

1) Some dance/arts instructors are OBSESSIVE MANIACS, who's entire life is dedicated to their art/business. They try to draw kids into this world, as they BELIEVE that total obsession is what it takes to become a professional. (there is truth to that). Also, this gives them greater revenue having hard core students.

2) Sexual abuse: there is lots of sexual abuse going on in some of these places. Sometimes the older male instructor gets sexually involved with his students. I have seen this happen too many times.
So watch out for any sexual signals coming out of these places. Often, the teens will not tell the truth about it though, as getting involved with older men can seem very glamorous to them. Only later do they figure out what was done to them. That stuff happen all the time.

As far as being an obsessive maniac to become a professional...well, lets face it. To be a pro-dancer requires that kind of commitment. But that is a personal/family decision.

As far as recovery, i would suggest a GOOD, QUALIFIED, REPUTABLE, REFERRED, REGISTERED, Cognitive Behavioral therapist or counsellor. (I would stay away from the Freudian stuff).
Then they can find out what is going on, if anything.
Maybe she is depressed, or something of that nature.
First, figure out what the problem is, and then make a plan for getting better.
You have to get the facts first though.


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Can a dance studio be a cult?
Posted by: SarahL ()
Date: November 25, 2004 06:35AM

Might be worth finding out if he belongs to any official dance organization, such as the NDCA, National Dance Council of America Inc. If so, the organization may very well have a formal code of ethics and perhaps a system of reporting abuses.

For instance, this dance group lists the NDCA's ethical policy on their webpage:


Policy lays out in detail the need for appropriateness, fairness, truthful and professional conduct.

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Can a dance studio be a cult?
Posted by: Hope ()
Date: December 06, 2004 12:11PM

There was a dance studio advertising via a web page that it's owner used LEC technology as part of it's teaching. Grads can do whatever they want with the technology.

I think this is the school, but it was a while ago.

A search of Landmark education dance brought up some other hits on google.

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Can a dance studio be a cult?
Posted by: nativeflower ()
Date: January 09, 2005 10:37AM

to answer your question from a ex-cultee experience.....if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a is a duck

meaning the actions speak for itself.....a babysitter club book reading group could be a cult if ran like one

BUT dont blame yourself.....dont fall into motherguilt ( mother guilt is a whole seperate breed of is totaly irrotional blame mothers place on themselves when something happens to thier kids) yes you took her to dance class...but you are just as much of a victim cause you did not know it was a cult..otherwise you would have not taken her....this does not make you a bad mother at got her out and are working to get her the help she needs....It might be good if you seek help for yourself in dealing with any guilt about by the same person treating her so you can work together through this and the therapist can teach you how to help her as well

my mom has alot of mother guilt about not getting me out of the cult sooner...she did not know....totaly irational guilt...she is doing better and so am I


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