The true story behind ‘Dancing for the Devil’ on Netflix
(Credits: Netflix)


The true story behind 'Dancing for the Devil' on Netflix

The latest Netflix documentary to roll off the production line follows the same template as many others, in that it would seem incredibly far-fetched if it didn’t happen. Dancing for the Devil traces the experience of TikTok dancers recruited by a management company, who soon discover nothing is quite as it seems.

Miranda and Melanie Wilking gained popularity on social media for their dance video, and their success online won them not only millions of followers, but plenty of endorsements and sponsors. The next logical step was to find professional representation, which saw them signed to talent agency 7M Films.

When Miranda ended up becoming romantically involved with fellow dancer James ‘BDash’ Derrick, his videographer Isaiah Shinn introduced them to the Shekinah Church, a religious organisation that had initially been founded by Shinn’s father Robert.

Melanie gradually began to notice her sister becoming more distant and withdrawn, and she ended up cutting her family out of her life entirely. She refused to attend her grandfather’s funeral on perceived religious grounds, and when she and Derrick got married, none of her relatives or the sibling she’d been so close to beforehand were invited to attend.

In early 2022, the Wilking family posted a video on social media where they publicly outlined their fears of Shekinah Church potentially being a cult-like entity, which was personally rebuked by Miranda when she shared a statement offering that she was “not held against my will and I’ve never been a hostage.”

Dancing with the Devil filmmaker Derek Donnen dives into the group, and discovers that Shekinah has always encouraged its members to not only sever ties with their family, but donate a large amount of their earnings directly to the church.

Testimony given to the director by several former 7M clients indicated that that founder Robert Shinn specifically altered the church so that it would appeal directly to aspiring TikTok celebrities, who’d struck out on their own in the hope of becoming stars and found themselves in need of a talent agency.

Speaking to Netflix, Donnen described Robert’s “brand of manipulation and control” as being “typical of many other cult leaders,” leading him to track down several ex-members who had similar experiences to that of the Wilkings.

Shinn took legal action claiming he’d been defamed and libelled by former church members who’d come forward, whereas dancers who used to be contracted to 7M filed a lawsuit of their own alongside other ex-members accusing the church and the company of fraud, human trafficking, and forced labour.