[Callers] mental health and dance calling

Martha Edwards meedwards at westendweb.com
Fri Jul 8 15:13:26 PDT 2011

I handle it slightly differently. When I get a report of creepy behavior, I
give the person the opportunity to deny it (because they generally will, I
find), and say "Between you and me, I'm going to assume it was an accident.
So we're okay. Just be sure you figure out what it is that you might be
doing, accidentally, that causes people to report that you are making them
uncomfortable. As far as I'm concerned, if I never hear about it again, it
never happened."  In all cases, the person continued to try to convince me
no harm was meant (while I'm thinking "milord doth protest too much..."),
but kind of stopped showing up for a while (showing that I got through to
them), then came back and behaved for a long period. Not forever - "that"
sort of thing is usually pretty deeply ingrained - but enough to keep the
dance community safe and pleasant for a while.

It sounds as if the fellow you described was a bit more committed to bad
behavior than the ones I've dealt with, and it may be that I can be "nicer"
because I'm a woman, but I would like always to try compassion first. For
one thing, if I tell a new dancer whom I overhear complaining about a creepy
person that I'll talk to the person, nicely and anonymously, it sends the
message that it's okay to let us know because they don't have to take the
responsibility for having caused the person to be kicked out or whatever,
and it also sends the message that we really do mean it about being civil,
which makes it a safe place for the new person as well.

Still, that guy sounds pretty dreadful. I wish he could get some help.


On Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 12:30 PM, Chip Hedler <chiph at rumney.org> wrote:

> 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
> consequences.
> 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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As you set out for Ithaka, pray that your journey be long, full of
adventure, full of discovery...
May there be many summer mornings when, with what pleasure, with what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time.
~Constantine Cavafy, "Ithaka" 1911

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