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Former Boston Ballet Dancer And Husband Accused Of Sexual Assault In Lawsuit

Dusty Button (front) performs with the Boston Ballet in 2016. (Courtesy of Gene Schiavone/Boston Ballet)
Dusty Button (front) performs with the Boston Ballet in 2016. (Courtesy of Gene Schiavone/Boston Ballet)

A dancer with the Boston Ballet filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, July 28, accusing the husband of a former Boston Ballet dancer of sexually assaulting and emotionally abusing her while she was an apprentice in the company. The lawsuit also implicates the defendant’s wife, who was then a principal ballerina in the Boston Ballet, in the abuse.

The lawsuit, filed in Nevada's federal district court on behalf of two plaintiffs, accuses Mitchell Taylor Button, a former dance teacher who goes by several names, of using his position of power to groom, control and sexually abuse vulnerable young dancers. His wife, Dusty Button, a world-famous ballerina with a large social media following, is named as a “non-party co-conspirator.”

One of the plaintiffs, Sage Humphries, is currently a dancer with the Boston Ballet. In 2017, she was a member of Boston Ballet II, the company’s apprenticeship program. The suit says that Dusty Button, then a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, lured Humphries into an increasingly abusive and controlling relationship with herself and her husband. According to the suit, Mitchell Taylor Button sexually assaulted Humphries on a regular basis over the course of some months and performed violent sex acts on her without her consent. It says that on several occasions, Dusty Button held Humphries down while her husband sexually assaulted the young dancer. The lawsuit also accuses Mitchell Taylor Button of verbal and physical abuse.

According to the lawsuit, the Buttons wielded nearly complete physical and financial control over Humphries. It states that “If Sage ever attempted to distance herself or disobey the Buttons, they would threaten to revoke their financial support and sabotage her career.” Humphries’ parents eventually became concerned and took her home to California; in response, the lawsuit says, Mitchell Taylor Button threatened to kill Humphries’ father. Humphries sought and received abuse protection orders against both Buttons.

The Boston Ballet released a statement in support of Humphries that read, in part, “Boston Ballet supports Sage Humphries who is bravely coming forward, sharing her experience to protect others, and seeking accountability and justice.” According to the statement, Dusty Button’s employment with the company ended in May of 2017.

The other plaintiff in the lawsuit is Gina Menichino, a dancer from New Jersey. According to the suit, Mitchell Taylor Button groomed and then repeatedly sexually assaulted Menichino beginning when she was 13 years old. At the time, Mitchell Taylor Button went by the name Taylor Moore and was a dance instructor in Tampa, Florida. Menichino was his student.

The suit accuses Mitchell Taylor Button of abusing at least five of his students while he was a dance instructor in Florida. After parents began to voice concerns, the lawsuit says, he fled to London. It also says Dusty and Mitchell Taylor Button emotionally abused and molested two other young dancers, one of whom was 11 years old.

The lawsuit connects the allegations against the Buttons to a “culture of harassment and abuse” throughout dance institutions. “The Buttons abuse their positions of power and prestige in the dance community to garner the loyalty and trust of young dancers,” the lawsuit says. “The Buttons then exploit those relationships to coerce sexual acts by means of force and fraud.”

Amelia Mason Twitter Arts And Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for WBUR.

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