Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
Sad and lonely — that’s how Sally Park felt two years ago after going through a breakup. Dan Abrigo wanted to drink, and Sally did too, but she also wanted to be sad with a friend.
She said she thought he was going to be there for her as a friend. But it turned into a hazy night, rejecting kisses from him multiple times. At one point, later that night, she woke up naked.
“I just remember later that night feeling icky and uncomfortable,” Park said. “I kind of brushed it off as a drunk night.”
Park said she wasn’t raped, but she was sexually assaulted.
Park is one of 45 women who have spoken up about being sexually assaulted by Abrigo, who sources say is well-known in the East Coast dance community — a space where hundreds of Asian-Americans have found a sense of belonging.
The former Jersey City resident posted on Instagram on June 20 that she is looking to file a legal suit against Abrigo, labeling him as a “sex offender.” Within a few days, the post got over 300 likes and 44 other women messaged her about similar incidents with Abrigo — all of which she is using for the suit.
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EDIT: IDK IF I NEED MONEY YET FOR LEGAL FEES IDK ANYTHING ABOUT THIS LOOOOL BUT THANK YOU EVERYONE! WILL DO RESEARCH AND POST ABOUT IT ——— his wackass apology is not enough. his silence is not enough. his disabling of his social media accounts is not enough. given his track record, i have zero faith he will be better. and i fear for other folx whom he could potentially harm. i will not let him target any more. no more. i’m beginning my research now, and since i’m still unemployed and job hunting, i will be investing as much of my time and energy into this to charge him of all his crimes. dan abrigo, you get to hide in your wackass apartment in edgewater, while almost 50 women have to live with the trauma you caused. i will never forgive you. if you’d like to share this post on your story, feel free to do so.
Park says Abrigo’s actions have broken “a lot of trust” and has shone a light on “toxic masculinity” within the community.
The Role of Dance For Asian-Americans
Hip-hop was born in Bronx, New York, and became an escape from oppression and form of expression for inner city Blacks and Latinos during the 1970s. But Ninochka McTaggart, co-curator of magazine Don’t Believe The Hype: Asian Americans in Hip Hop, once wrote that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have roots in hip-hop too.
“From the early days of hip hop, a West Coast hip hop movement emerged that included Filipino DJs and break-dancers, and steady AAPI involvement has continued ever since,” McTaggart wrote in Asian Americans in Hip Hop.
And it’s continued to grow since 2008 when San-Diego-based Jabbawockeez won the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew to 2016 when Asian rapper Rich Brian moved up the American hip-hop charts.
An Roug Xu, a New York photographer, told Vice in 2019 that hip-hop was created “so you could feel like you belonged,” and that’s how sources described the East Coast dance community.
But some sources added that that’s how Abrigo manipulated them.
“I Just Wanted To Be Friends”
Park met Abrigo in either 2015 or 2016 at Prelude New Jersey, a national dance competition that showcases local and regional hip-hop dance groups. She said she wasn’t part of any dance teams at the time, and had gone to support her friends.
Her next interactions with him were never in person; it was always through Facebook messenger. She said he was very flirty, and though they didn’t have much in common, he continued to message her.
“There would be many times when he’d ask to hang out and drink after work, and I’d make excuses every time to not be rude,” Park said. “But he was very pushy and dismissive.”
For Pat Z., a dancer from New York, she was trying to break into the New York/New Jersey dance community in 2015. She didn’t know anyone.
But then Abrigo messaged Pat on Facebook messenger and offered to hang out. Pat said she agreed because she was eager to make friends.
They went to a bar after work where Abrigo asked if the hangout could be a date; Pat declined because she wasn’t interested in dating him.
“I don’t remember the exact words… I remember him saying something like ‘Just give it time, you’ll change your mind,’” she said.
A former East Coast dancer, who did not provide her name, said she met Abrigo through mutual friends while she took dance classes. We’re calling her Chantal.
Her initial impression was that Abrigo was nice and had a “let’s-be-friends-I’m-here-for-you” vibe. But she said she learned that wasn’t his true self.
“He makes it seem like he will really be there for you and give you an ear,” Chantal said.
Abrigo did not respond to request for comment.
“It Was His Ego”
Abrigo, of Edgewater, danced for teams including ARC/Rhythmology and Outburst, and co-founded TheM, Park told Slice of Culture.
Park added that Abrigo stopped dancing in 2018 after reportedly harassing another TheM member’s ex-girlfriend. The girl brought it up to the directors and they removed him from the team and community, “hoping that he’d be able to take that time to better himself,” she said.
It is unclear how long he was part of the community but Park said a victim’s experience took place in 2012. Outburst dance company also has an Instagram post of Abrigo that dates back to Aug. 20, 2013.
A YouTube channel named “Dan Abrigo” — with a profile picture matching his deactivated Instagram account — posted two videos in 2014 titled “Outburst: The Morning After Defining Rhythm 2013” and “On Stage @ WODNY 2013 After Announcing Winners.” World of Dance (WOD) is a famous international dance competition that takes place every year.
“He spent most of the time telling me about how he was friends with famous dancers,” Pat said. “‘Oh yeah, [famous female dancer] and I text all the time. We’re homies.’ And telling me about how close he was with the directors of both teams I just auditioned for.”
“He bragged about the nice clothes he wears and the nice gifts he got from an ex but how that ex cheated on him,” she added.
Pat said she felt like she was supposed to be impressed by Abrigo, but she wasn’t — he came off “too strong” and was overall disingenuous. He pulled out his Instagram to show photos of himself during that first hangout at the bar.
To another East Coast dancer — who asked to remain anonymous — Abrigo was egoistic, shameless and ill mannered. We’ll call her Terry.
Terry said she met him through the dance community, but knew him through his girlfriend at the time. She said she once considered them friends — when her and her ex used to go to Abrigo’s place to choreograph or hang out — but not anymore.
She did not say she was sexually assaulted or harassed by him.
“He was one to really mostly care about himself… enjoyed talking about himself mostly,” Terry told Slice of Culture. “I also said he was ill mannered because in social situations again, he was very inconsiderate, inappropriate even with others around.. Just usually made someone in a room full of people still feel uncomfortable.”
Pat — who used to be on the same dance team as him — said that Abrigo would say “inappropriate sexual things” to her in front of mutual friends and she would have to ask him to stop. This happened both in person and over text, she said.
The New York dancer also said she was firm in clarifying she never wanted to date him, and only agreed to hang out “if he would promise it would be as friends.”
“Whenever I would get there, he would eventually do something in an effort to be romantic, which I saw as overstepping my boundary, like asking for kisses,” Pat added.
The Night of the Incident
That night two years ago, Park said she was in and out of consciousness at Abrigo’s apartment, but does remember being naked at one point. She added that she drank so much that she woke up drunk.
She woke up in Abrigo’s apartment that night, but doesn’t really remember how she got back home. She thinks she left in the morning, and that he had gotten her an Uber.
Park didn’t tell anyone about what happened.
Around 2016, Chantal said Abrigo told her to head to his apartment and practice dancing with him. He said he would help her become part of a team.
But things got weird, she said.
“I said, ‘If I do this, will you stop making me feel uncomfortable?'” Chantal said.
Abrigo replied with something like, “Yeah, I will,” she vaguely recalled.
The two had sex, but Chantal said he didn’t keep his promise.
“I let it happen because I didn’t know how to be more assertive before,” she said. “… I felt pressured and influenced… He just wanted my body.”
She didn’t tell anyone about what happened.
After the first hangout at the bar, Pat said her and Abrigo continued to text as friends, and that he invited her to his apartment and another bar to “hang out as friends.”
But Pat said Abrigo was still persistent. The two were once in a cab that Abrigo paid for after also paying for drinks, and he asked to kiss her, but again she declined, Pat said.
“He said, ‘Come on, you have to after those drinks and the cab,’” she added. “So I kissed him on the forehead so he would drop it.”
Pat said her story was “hidden for so long.”
“I Ignored Him After That”
Terry said she stopped being friends with Abrigo around two years ago. She would see him in public from time to time and that “was pretty much it.”
Meanwhile, Chantal “quietly” left the dance community after what happened and chose not to be involved with Abrigo anymore. Pat said the two never had lengthy interactions during practice.
For Park, she said she told Abrigo she wasn’t comfortable talking to him and no longer trusted him because of what happened. She asked him to stop talking to her.
But, after a few months, he messaged her again.
“I just remember the conversation because when he hit me up again, I was like, ‘…wtf,’” Park said.
Her last conversation with Abrigo was May 16 where Park said he said objectifying comments.
“There have been other times I was straight up with him about his shady behavior and comments, and he only apologized for my feelings, and not his actions,” Park said. “(He would say) ‘I’m sorry you feel that way.’”
And He Was In A Relationship
One former Saint Peter’s University student — who asked to remain anonymous — said he was “kind of” friends with Abrigo. We’re calling him Jonah.
Jonah met Abrigo at the Jersey City college, but Jonah eventually transferred and that’s when they stopped talking.
He said Abrigo finished SPU in 2019.
But during Jonah’s time there, he said they would smoke vapes or cigarettes in front of the O’Toole Library on Montgomery Street in between classes. The two were also part of the same club at the school — which Jonah asked to be unidentified — and he said girls would feel “very uncomfortable” talking to him.
Jonah said Abrigo constantly asked the girls to hang out or practice dancing, and he said he warned everyone to stop talking to Abrigo, but “some listen, but some don’t.”
But amidst all this, Jonah said he tried telling Abrigo’s girlfriend what was going on. He said it didn’t turn out the way he hoped.
“That was the scary part,” Jonah said. “I kept telling her really what’s going on…Like you know you don’t believe if it really happens (and) don’t want to because it’s ‘fake news.’ But it’s real.”
Then, in 2018, Jonah said Abrigo tried to turn the tables. He said before he was able to confront Abrigo for his alleged actions, Abrigo started to spread lies.
“(He said) I was trying to hit on his girl,” Jonah said. “I was trying to protect her from what he is doing… he was making people say I was wrong and he was right.”
Pat said in 2018, Abrigo asked her to hang out at his apartment and that he and his girlfriend were on a break. Pat said she declined and confirmed with his girlfriend that they were not on a break.
Meanwhile, Terry said she saw how Abrigo acted with and without his girlfriend. She added she was aware of what he was “capable” of.
“I was always confused when they would be arguing or on a break,” Terry said. “It was too much for me to really catch up especially since it wasn’t my business to know their relationship like that.”
Jonah, who is still friends with Abrigo’s then-girlfriend, said the two split in May.
The Community’s Response
Park said, recently, she’s seen sexual assault stories surface from the dance community. There was an apology post from a team in Toronto and a victim’s story from the West Coast dance community, she said.
“That’s when I was like, ‘Oh shit I relate to this wtf…’” Park said. “And I felt compelled to share my story.”
“This dancer’s attacker was a well-known choreographer who was directing teams and teaching at studios. He had power,” Park added. “And for someone to out him like that? I had no problem outing Dan. He has no power over me. That’s for sure.”
After Park posted, she said she received direct messages on Instagram from fellow dancers in the East Coast dance community and they were “me too” types of messages.
The #MeToo movement started in 1973 by Tarana Burke to help survivors of sexual abuse. In 2017, the hashtag and movement went viral after Alyssa Milano shared her sexual assault story using #MeToo to talk about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse allegations.
For Park, it was no different.
Along with victims speaking up on their experiences, a number of dance teams released statements about Abrigo’s accusations — including teams he was once part of. TheM , ARC, Outburst and Ven15 acknowledged the incidents.
GroundFam, a West Coast dance team, said they were re-evaluating their leadership team.
But Park said her favorite was a post by The Jam, who posted a lengthy statement and included resources.
But it wasn’t just the dance teams or victims speaking out, Abrigo did too.
Park said he posted a public apology before deactivating his Instagram.
“It’s absolute bull,” Park said. “And he still doesn’t apologize for his actions, and he even proceeds to victimize himself.”
Of the 44 allegations, Park told Slice of Culture that some of the victims were minors. She said the stories ranged from “he added me on Facebook and tried to message me when we had never met before” to “he ignored my no’s and forced himself on me.”
“Expose him for his action because if he doesn’t learn it’s going to be a big problem,” Jonah said. “… Everyone needs to be aware because there’s a lot of guys who are like that and need to be exposed.”
When Pat saw Sally’s post, she said it created a safe space and helped her come forward with her story and took away the fear that kept her “silent for so long.”
Terry said she wasn’t that surprised to see the post, but she was speechless with how many girls he “preyed on.”
“Truthfully after seeing the trend of victims coming forward about their stories, Dan Abrigo stayed at the back of my mind.”
Chantal said she left the dance community because “it would be hard to talk it out to anyone” there. She was surprised to see the post, but was happy Park was there to listen.
Park said the parallels in victims’ stories were “unfathomable,” and she cried for a few days because of what they all must’ve gone through. A day or so after the post, she uploaded an Instagram story of her in tears, speaking on how shocked she was from the number of accusations.
The Next Steps
Chantal said she hopes sharing her story can protect other girls besides herself. She said that they shouldn’t “eat up the guilt,” learn from their mistakes and call out offenders in their community so they can be safe and know they aren’t alone.
Pat and Terry said they hope this exposure is a wake up call to all men and Abrigo cannot move through silence anymore.
“I want everything he’s done to be fully transparent to send the message that ‘We know what you did. We won’t let you do it in secrecy again,’” Pat said.
Pat added that she wants his friends to know their complicity “fed into the silence” and protected him.
For Park, she’s taken the next step and has been in contact with an attorney. She added that it’s “a lot of work to do,” but she’s taking it one step at a time.
As her final words, she sent over this statement to Slice of Culture:
“I will see to the end of this. nothing will stop me from seeking justice for the trauma and PTSD myself and so many others have suffered. We have to carry this for the rest of our lives.
The point of this isn’t to bring someone down just for the hell of it. I’d rather be sitting at home and watching all the Marvel movies in chronological order with my partner.
I’m strong and resilient, and I want to use that to protect other women from potential harm by this perpetrator.
Furthermore, I hope this brings necessary change, sparks difficult conversations, and improves the dance community and beyond moving forward. We all deserve to share our passions in safe spaces.
This is only the beginning.”
On Wednesday, Unique Movement, a Brooklyn-based dance crew, posted a statement of former members Muhammad Rivaldo and Steven Chen, who were accused of sexual assault.