[Callers] mental health and dance calling

Chip Hedler chiph at rumney.org
Fri Jul 8 10:30:28 PDT 2011

This isn't EXACTLY a mental health issue, but a few years ago there was a
male dancer in our area whose MO was to find unaccompanied young women who
looked new to dancing and uncertain, take them under his wing, monopolize
them, and become increasingly physically intrusive and obnoxious with them.
At some of the larger dances I think some of the women attending told him
off and he appeared much less frequently there but didn't disappear,
shifting his attentions to smaller community-oriented dances such as the
ones I've called regularly.

When he showed up at a public dance I was calling and started his routine,
at the first break I asked him to come outside for a private chat. I told
him what I had seen (almost completely monopolizing that particular dancer,
and pressing her and other women he met in the line closely and grasping
rather than supporting them while swinging). I told him how I felt his
behavior went counter to the norms of this and most dances, exploited the
normal trust dancers share and enjoy while in each other's arms, and in
fact, was blatant sexual harrassment. I shared the revulsion and anxiety
that other dancers had expressed to me about his presence and how that
deeply undermined their ability to enjoy participating. In conclusion, I
told him that, speaking for myself as the caller and on behalf of many
others, if any of this behavior continued, his presence would be unwelcome
enough that I would ask him to leave.

He made feeble denials and protests, but cleaned up his act for the next
couple of dances before leaving early. The next dance where I was calling at
which he turned up, I was able to speak to him before the dance started and
reminded him of our previous conversation. But before the break, he started
pushing the limits as before and I had to speak with him again. This time,
after making similar feeble excuses, he simply left and never appeared again
at any dances I called or attended.

What happens away from dances isn't really my first concern as a caller, but
as a community member I found it significant news when it was later reported
widely that similar behavior on his part in other settings had led to legal

My only regret is that I hadn't dealt with it before it became so blatant.
Have others had to deal with this kind of situation, and if so, how?

Chip Hedler

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