A former Joffrey Ballet dancer who has taught and performed at numerous venues in the Chicago area has been charged in southern Wisconsin with having sexual contact with a teenage girl to whom he was giving private dance lessons, authorities said.
Ariel Cisneros, 47, of Evanston, was charged earlier this month with sexual assault after police said a 15-year-old girl reported to police in Delavan, Wis., that he had touched her inappropriately during dance lessons at a local studio.
As of Friday afternoon, Cisneros was still being held in Walworth County Jail on a $50,000 cash bond.
Authorities said that after the girl reached out to police in mid-April, detectives sent Cisneros text messages on the girl’s phone, pretending to be her, and arranged a meeting with Cisneros in Lake Geneva. Cisneros was arrested when he arrived, officials said.
Cisneros, who was teaching at The Dance Factory in Delavan at the time of his arrest, had previously told the girl that she could be one of the best dancers at the school if she took private lessons, Walworth County Deputy District Attorney Haley Johnson said Friday.
During those lessons, the prosecutor said, Cisneros touched the girl in the lower hip area and below her waist and gave her hugs out of the view of Dance Factory cameras.
“The defendant told her (that) in the hallway, the bathroom, is where they can hug each other and show each other their love,” Johnson said. “The defendant told her what they do at dance lessons is between them and not to tell anyone.”
She said Cisneros also sent the girl a text message asking: “Did you like my special touches yesterday?”
Johnson said Cisneros admitted to police that he sent the girl text messages of a sexual nature, that he found her attractive and that he had touched her inappropriately during dance lessons. Johnson said Cisneros denied that he traveled from Evanston to Wisconsin to have sexual contact with the girl.
Tina Hansen, director at The Dance Factory, said in a written statement that the studio was immediately terminating Cisneros after learning about the allegations and is cooperating with authorities.
“This event has shocked and deeply saddened our entire dance family. We express our sympathy to those affected,” she said. “The safety of the children we serve is our number one priority. Every staff member is thoroughly screened through a series of enhanced, professional checks and interviews prior to employment. The Dance Factory has zero tolerance for misconduct and we will continue to refine our practices to ensure the safety of all the children and families we serve.”
Online news stories and biographies list Cisneros as having danced or taught for numerous studios and companies in Chicago and the suburbs. A Joffrey representative said Cisneros was a member of the company in 2004 and taught for the Joffrey as an independent contractor but has no current affiliation the company.
Cisneros is scheduled for a May 20 hearing.
Brian L. Cox is a freelance reporter.