Robert Shinn 7M cult Netflix dancing for the devil
(L to R) Melanie Lee and Robert Shinn courtesy of Netflix

The title of director Derek Doneen and executive producer Jessica Acevedo’s new Netflix docuseries is Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult. But the creators of the series stop short of calling it a cult.

“I don’t think that’s a determination that Jess or I are experts to make, but others have. And certainly people who have come out of the group, as you see in the show, share that experience and certainly feel like that is the kind of group that they were a part of,” Doneen tells MovieMaker.

The docuseries follows a group of TikTok-famous dancers, including Miranda Derrick (née Wilking) and her husband James “B Dash” Derrick, who became members of a management company called 7M run by Robert Shinn. Shinn was also the head of a religious group linked with 7M called Shekinah Church.

Now, former associates of Shinn’s are coming forward in the docuseries, including former 7M dancers Kylie Douglas and Aubrey Fisher, to accuse him of highly controlling behavior toward the artists he managed. Other former members of Shekinah Church who were associated with Shinn years before he formed 7M, including sisters Melanie and Priscylla Lee, also accuse him of sexually and emotionally abusing parishioners.

Shinn has not been charged with any crimes as of this writing, though multiple former Shekinah members featured in the documentary have filed a civil lawsuit against him, accusing him of “brainwashing, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, manipulation, and exploitation,” according to USA Today. Shinn has previously denied the accusations. Attempts to reach Shinn and Shekinah Church for comment on this story were unsuccessful.

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Although Doneen explained that he and Acevedo don’t have the expertise to label 7M and Shekinah Church as a cult themselves, he provided some details that support it’s “cult-like” qualities.

“I don’t know that it’s my place to say what does or doesn’t make a cult, right?” Doneen says.

“I think there are experts who do that, who are sort of cult experts who look at a group like this, that has the amount of control that Robert has over his people that has a singular message that says ‘I am your path to salvation and me alone, nobody else’; who cuts people off from their families and sort of forces them to give more and more and more of their money until they’re essentially giving all of their money to the church that withholds favor for people in the group based on their loyalty and their sort of performance within the group and adherence to the rules,” Doneen says.

He adds: “These are all things that I think other cult experts have deemed to sort of be cult-like behavior for a religious group or any group with this behavior of a leader who can be identified as a cult leader.”

But regardless of what terminology is used to describe the group, for Acevedo, documenting what members of Shinn’s group went through is a way of supporting them on their healing journey.

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Dancing for the Devil Netflix cult
Former 7M member Kylie Douglas pictured dancing in the docuseries, courtesy of Netflix

“The purpose of the project was always to create a safe space for the victims to be able to share their story, and also during a very vulnerable time in their life,” she says. “My hope for the project was to allow audiences that had been following the story to be able to continue to dig into it, and to continue to put pressure on the organization and hope to reunite these families with their daughters and sons and just family members with one another.”

Doneen agrees.

“One of the things we learned is that groups like this are pervasive,” he says.

“This isn’t an isolated incident. And it doesn’t have to be a group with a sort of quote- unquote ‘cult leader.’ You could be in a highly controlled situation with a domestic partner, for example, right? And so my hope is that people see the strength and courage and bravery that these people had in sort of leaving that situation and seeking a better life, seeking more freedom and independence and sort of going out — and that they can find the strength that they need to do a similar thing if they find themselves in a similar situation.”

As for whether any of the dancers are still involved with Shinn — like married couple Miranda and James “B Dash” Derrick — it’s not entirely clear. Miranda Derrick has spoken out against the documentary, calling it a “one-sided” “public attack” and asserting that she’s not being abused or in any danger, although she did not confirm whether or not she’s still connected to Shinn, Shekinah, or 7M.

But Doneen believes she’s still part of Shinn’s group, whether it’s called 7M or not.

“After this [docuseries] went viral, they sort of tried to downplay it. They sort of said that the management company was dissolved and that there are no longer church services happening and things like that,” he says.

“What I’ll say is, I do know that they all still exclusively dance with each other under Robert’s management control, however you want to put it — whether they call that 7M or not anymore. It certainly seems like they’ve moved on from that name, but effectively, from our understanding, nothing has changed.”

All epides of Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult are now streaming on Netflix.

Main Image: (L to R) Melanie Lee and Robert Shinn courtesy of Netflix.