In a lawsuit, Sharon’s father says Katsura Kan made her his ‘sex slave and plied her with mind-bending drugs’
· Sharon Stern, 32, from Hollywood, Florida, committed suicide after being driven insane by her ‘butoh’ master, Katsura Kan, her family claims
· Butoh is a form of Japanese dance that explores themes of pedophilia, homosexuality and death
· Stern fell in thrall of Kan after she moved with her software engineer husband to Boulder, Colorado
· She began to travel the world with him to put on dances and then he also allegedly began to ask her for money – totaling $30,000
· In 2011 her distraught family found her in a psych ward in Denmark – her father claims Kan had given her mind-altering drugs
· She divorced her husband to prove her love for Kan, and after one last disturbing email, committed suicide in 2012
· Family is suing Kan for wrongful death claiming he ‘stripped her of her free will’ and ‘used her as a sex slave’. She called him ‘god’
A married woman from Florida was allegedly driven to commit suicide by a ‘cultish’ Japanese dancer who made her his ‘physical and sexual slave and plied her with drugs’, her devastated family claimed today.
Sharon Stern, 32, of Hollywood, Florida, was drawn into butoh, a Japanese style of contemporary dance also called the ‘dance of darkness’ which explores the taboo themes of pedophilia, homosexuality and death.
Her family claim the married yoga teacher lost her sanity and committed suicide, allegedly driven to despair by her butoh master, Katsura Kan.
Sharon’s father, Tibor Stern, 65, of Hollywood, Florida, as representative of his daughter’s estate, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Broward County, Florida, against Katsura Kan, whose real name is Terugoshi Kotoura.
‘Katsura Kan brainwashed her against her family and her life,’ her heartbroken father told MailOnline, echoing the claims he made in the lawsuit.
He alleged: ‘He made her forget everything that was happy about life, and told her she needed to experience pain and suffering, until he had full control over her. She called him god.’
The lawsuit, which Kan has not responded to, alleges that Kan ‘systematically stripped away Stern’s human dignity, free will and self-respect by subjugating Stern to Kan’s total control.’
It reads: ‘Kan seduced Stern to engage in a sexual relationship with him, abused, publicly humiliated, criticized, insulted and derogated Stern, induced Stern to ingest narcotic drugs.’
Kan has not responded to a request for comment by MailOnline.
Before meeting Katsura Kan, Sharon Stern never had a mental health issue in her life.
Affectionately called ‘Sharoni’ by her family, she was a sweet and loving child. Sharon was also smart, a good student, and passionate about acting, singing and dance, according to Tibor and Ron Stern.
‘When we were younger, she was always an actress in school plays,’ says Sharon’s brother, Ron Stern, 38, of Hollywood, Florida.
After graduating from the University of Miami in 2001, Sharon performed as an actress and comedienne. Sharon was also a yoga instructor and an avid swing and blues dancer.
In May 2007, Sharon married Todd Siegel, a software engineer. That fall, she and her husband moved to Boulder, Colorado, where Sharon enrolled in the master of fine arts program at Naropa University.
The curriculum included butoh, taught by Katsura Kan, a guest artist at the Naropa University and a Japanese citizen.
Butoh, the ‘dance of darkness,’ began in Japan in 1959. This avant garde dance style, with slow, controlled movement, is traditionally performed in white body makeup.
The dances often feature grotesque imagery or absurd environments, and explore taboo themes such as pedophilia, homosexuality and death.
According to Tibor Stern, ‘Kan’s teachings were based on pain, suffering and death; on the denial and erasure of the self; on the destruction of one’s ego; on the denial of one’s family and friends; and ultimately on the complete erasure of everything you know and all that you are as the only way to become a true butoh master.’
After Sharon graduated in 2009, she remained at Naropa University as Kan’s assistant. She travelled the country with Kan, promoting butoh festivals.
Sharon also did Kan’s physical and emotional bidding, according to the lawsuit.
‘At Kan’s request, Stern stole money to give him, degraded herself to satisfy Kan’s ego and subjected herself to the most tortuous of public humiliation.’
In May 2011, Sharon performed with Kan’s butoh dance company in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A friend of Sharon’s attended, and witnessed that she appeared to be on drugs.
Although, the Brazil incident is not addressed directly in the lawsuit, it claims that Kan ‘induced Stern to ingest narcotic drugs based upon Kan’s representation that such narcotic drugs would elevate Stern to levels of perception which she could not otherwise achieve in an unaltered state’.
‘Our daughter was observed in his presence, both during and after their dance performance, to be verbally incoherent and unable to communicate,’ Tibor Stern said. ‘In retrospect, this was the first public sign that Sharoni was in pressing trouble, but incredibly so, word never got back to us.’
Instead, Tibor Stern’s first frightening indication of danger came on August 6, 2011, when the United States Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, called to inform him that his daughter had disappeared.
‘How can this be?’ the distraught father asked. ‘She is touring the world with her teacher.’
Tibor Stern, his wife, Hana, and Sharon’s husband, immediately flew to Denmark. By the time they arrived, Sharon had been located — in the psychiatric ward of the Bispebjerg Hospital.
‘She was murmuring nonsense and walked into a church,’ Ron Stern said. ‘The police picked her up.’
It turned out that Kan had brought the dance company to the Christiana section of Copenhagen, which is a large commune famous for drugs and prostitution. For two weeks, the dancers squatted in a rat-infested, abandoned building.
Tibor Stern photographed the atrocious conditions, with drugs openly displayed on a table in front of the building, even though police warned him that commune residents did not allow photos, and he might be killed.
Sharon remained in the Danish hospital for five days. When Kan visited her, he bragged to the doctors and the police that Sharon had fallen in love with him, Tibor Stern said.
According to Tibor, Kan declared that this was not unusual — all his students fell in love with him.
The change in Sharon’s personality was heartbreaking. ‘It was night and day — how she was before and after butoh,’ Ron Stern said.
‘Before butoh she was swing dancing, an actress, a happy person who made friends easily. After butoh she was alienated from the rest of the world.’
Sharon’s brother attended every play and dance recital she ever performed in throughout high school and college. He never attended her butoh performances, but watched her on YouTube.
‘It was very disturbing,’ Ron Stern said. ‘Very disturbing.’
The Stern family brought Sharon home to Florida and for three weeks tried to convince her to enter a mental health facility. After suffering about ten psychotic attacks, she finally agreed.
Two days before she was due to check in, Kan reached Sharon by email and Skype.
‘He told her that he didn’t believe she was sick and that she should run away from her husband and family,’ Tibor Stern said. ‘He even went so far as to send her a prepaid ticket to Thailand to meet him.’
Kan urged Sharon to ‘escape from your family,’ so she snuck out and flew to Thailand in September 2011. When Kan saw how sick Sharon was, Tibor Stern said, he soon sent her back to San Francisco.
Sharon’s family then brought her to Boulder, Colorado for psychiatric care. Even under care, she twice attempted suicide.
Sharon’s psychiatrists and psychologists, her family, and the family’s lawyers all demanded that Kan leave her alone. But they claim Kan refused to let her go.
One likely reason was that Sharon had been giving him money and the lawsuit claims that ‘at Kan’s request, Stern stole money to give to him.’
Tibor Stern said Sharon asked him, her husband and brother for money. She also used his credit card without permission to buy airline tickets for Kan and herself.
In all, Tibor Stern estimated that family members gave Sharon between $20,000 and $30,000.
‘I wanted her to have money so she could be okay,’ Ron Stern said. ‘I didn’t want her to have nothing to eat and go into a foreign country with no money’.
About this time, Sharon wrote an email to Kan, Tibor Stern said. ‘Do you still love me?’ Sharon asked. ‘You told me you will be with me for 40 years and beyond. You turned me against my family, husband and society. You told me to lose my identity and authenticity in order to be a better butoh dancer.’
‘I don’t have the strength anymore, I hope you have it for the both of us, please guide me.’
To prove her love for Katsura Kan, Sharon divorced her husband.
The lawsuit claims: ‘Kan deliberately and knowingly isolated Stern from her husband, causing Stern to divorce him and from her loving parents and brother, causing her to become estranged from her family.’
Again, she snuck away from her family. On December 8, 2011, Sharon met Kan in Hawaii, then traveled to Japan and Israel.
‘We have family in Israel,’ Ron Stern said. ‘They saw her taking Kan’s bag and paying for him to have a massage. But she was walking the streets with holes in her shoes and was wearing rags.’ ‘She was bone thin. She was hurting.’
Then Sharon followed Kan to San Francisco on February 28, 2012, where she had another severe psychotic attack.
‘Kan then had the gall to write an email to us, asking, “Why did we let her go to San Francisco?” Tibor Stern said. ‘Unbelievably, he was blaming us for allowing her to go there when he knew we had no influence over her.’
‘To add insult to injury, rather than call 911 to have medical professionals help her, he left her in the street once again like in Copenhagen, crying and broken.’
Then Kan expelled Sharon from the butoh dance tour and the butoh community.
Once again, Sharon returned to Florida, where her family tried to help her. They hoped and prayed that being banished from the butoh community would finally give Sharon the opportunity to recover.
‘She was a whole different person from the girl we knew,’ Ron Stern said. ‘She would yell at us, get upset, cry. She wouldn’t talk about it, wouldn’t hear advice.’
‘I tried to take her out for a bite to eat with friends. I explained many nights about mental issues, that there shouldn’t be a stigma. I tried my best to help her.’
‘My first-born was born on April 10,’ he continued. ‘Sharon was so loving. She put him on her chest and held him close. I’m sad she didn’t get to see the birth of my second kid.’
The abrupt separation from Kan turned out to be more than Sharon could bear.
Desperate to see her mentor, Sharon traveled to Fortaleza, Brazil for a butoh performance. Kan did not show up. On April 17, 2012, Sharon emailed Kan from Brazil.
‘So I am writing with a question for you. Yesterday came up the idea that butoh is about deconstructing body/ego, etc. … So the question arises what happens AFTER the deconstruction of your body/mind/ego? I didn’t know the answer … Please let me know how you think about this point.’
A few days later, Sharon returned from Brazil. On April 25, 2012, she committed suicide.
The wrongful death lawsuit alleges, ‘Stern was reduced to a mere pawn in the hands of Kan who mentally and physically abused her, manipulated her, stripped her of even a modicum of free will, and utilized Stern as his mere instrumentality and his sexual and physical slave to the extent that Stern’s entire existence became committed to gratify Kan’s every wish and desire.’
After the tragedy, the family heard no words of condolence from the butoh community.
Tibor Stern now believes that Katsura Kan’s dance company was a cult, with Kan as the leader. Katsura Kan’s next workshop is May 10-11 in Bangkok, Thailand.
‘It is my family’s mission in life to make sure that the world will know of this wicked man and be warned about him,’ Tibor Stern said. ‘We are living with pain. We are sick. We are missing our daughter.’
So in memory of Sharon, the Stern family established a nonprofit organization called Families Against Cult Teachings.
The goal is to educate people about the dangers of cults and cult leaders, so other families will not suffer what they have suffered. The website is: http://www.familiesagainstcultteachings.org