A popular Big Apple dance instructor sexually harassed and threatened a front-desk worker at a Manhattan studio — and management danced around the issue when she complained, a new lawsuit claims.
Gabriella Pinheiro, 24, says Afro-Cuban dance teacher Stevie Insua “forcibly kissed” her and said unseemly things to her in Spanish because she was usually the only other person who spoke the language, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit against the Peridance Capezio Dance Center.
“I left [the front desk] to go count a class and [Insua] kind of grabbed me and kissed me and he was laughing about it. I was super uncomfortable,” Pinheiro told The Post describing it as a “big wet kiss on the cheek.”
“I was the only one at the desk who could speak [Spanish] with him, so I think that made me a target from the get-go,” Pinheiro said.
The Brooklyn woman — who started the work-study position in May 2018 — claims in the suit that Insua once told her she was “welcome to come by and see him whenever [she] wanted,” at his apartment.
He also threatened her on several occasions, once telling her “curiosity kills the cat” because she had gone outside to check out Insua screaming at another student, the court documents say.
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Insua also allegedly cornered her in a stairwell screaming “no complain! No complain!” after Pinheiro griped to the front desk manager, who spoke about Insua’s behavior to the director, according to the suit.
When the Union Square studio’s director heard that Pinheiro was scared and had panic attacks because of Insua’s treatment, the director said she “ ‘clearly has other problems,’ insinuating Plaintiff was being hysterical and overdramatic,” the court documents allege.
Pinheiro says her manager insisted she not return to work “due to Insua’s harassing conduct” and to prevent her from having to work. She left in November 2018.
“I resigned because I don’t feel safe working in an environment where they don’t take sexual harassment seriously,” she said adding the way the studio handled the situation “felt like a joke.”
“I’m all over the city dancing all the time and it is scary thinking I could run into him,” she said, adding she’s disturbed that he still gets work in the industry.
Despite the alleged threats and forcible kiss, Peridance “had no concern for Ms. Pinheiro’s rights or the law and took no action to remedy the problem or to provide a workspace free from discrimination and harassment,” the lawsuit filed late Friday says.
“It’s deplorable in today’s day and age that an owner of a company can condone sexual harassment and shame the victim as physiologically unstable for complaining and seeking remediation,” said high-powered employment attorney Matthew Blit, who filed suit on Pinheiro’s behalf.
She is seeking unspecified damages, including for lost wages.
The studio’s director, Igal Perry, who is not named in the suit, told The Post Pinheiro’s claim is “simply not true.”
“Peridance has in fact taken several steps as soon as the situation became known, including an investigation through our insurance company,” Perry said. “All steps are clearly evident through correspondence and notes, so a claim of non action is simply not true.”
Insua didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Tamar Lapin