A Perspective On Safety, Misconduct And Abusive Behaviour On The Dance Scenes
PLEASE NOTE: I am writing this after various conversations with people, where points have constantly come up that I have not seen openly put out, so I am presenting them here.
A lot of sensitive issues have come up on the Dance Scene again recently. Everything from Racism, Sexual Abuse, Questionable political views, and more. These are not new on the dance scene but their presence is being taken more and more seriously, as they should be. I have written this to simply aid in bringing perspective and hopefully a more practical approach to dealing with these things.
I've laid out 9 things I think are relevant, and I hope this informs people and makes everyone consider how to approach these issues that we are all aware exist.
PLEASE KNOW, nothing I've written is personally directed at Anybody or any Group.
1) TALKING ABOUT CHANGING THE SCENE 'The Scene' is not a place, organisation, or anything physical that someone can control. It's a worldwide multi-cultural, community with different languages, religions and ways of life. No one has the authority or power to make anyone do anything on the scene, plus, there are also many scenes within Dance; the battle scene, the choreography competition scene, the class and teaching scene, the commercial work scene. We're all dancers, but we are split when it comes to how and where we dance, and why, as dance exists in many forms. Talking about changing the scene is simply not realistic, as that is like saying you will change basketball... You CAN change the NBA as an organisation, but you can’t change the people who play streetball, play in other countries, at school, in local teams.etc simply because you say ‘basketball’ needs to change. It’s better, and makes more sense to focus on your smaller groups and the specific part of the scene you inhabit the most.
2) PROMOTERS, TEACHERS AND ORGANISERS, NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND HAVE POLICES: If you run any type of business on the dance scene it is YOUR personal responsibility to have official, written polices in place to deal with any unlawful or hateful issues or crimes that might happen at your Event, School.etc These businesses include running an Event, Studio,Workshops, Classes Teaching (private and public), running an Organisation, putting on talks, discussion panels, festivals.etc Basically, anything where you are bringing groups of people together. The reality of the world is that bad things can and do happen- Sexual assaults, violence, racism.etc You should have a policy on this for your Event, School.etc, and be doing official checks. This is your Responsibility and No one else’s.
3) KNOW THE MEANING OF UNLAWFUL WORDS AND TERMS If you want to help or protect people please find out the meaning of all terms before throwing them out. For example: 'Sexual Assault' refers to many sexual offences. These range from unlawful touching up to violent rape, so referring to something as a sexual assault can mean many things. It is imperative to be clear here so to education others who might not know, or might experience what they believe is a sexual assault but are unaware if it fulls under this group of offences. But I urge anyone who experiences any form of sexual assault to always report it to the police, no matter the level. If you are unsure report it anyway. No form of sexual assault is ever acceptable- they are all unlawful, criminal acts, that should be reported for the safety and future safe guarding of the person it was perpetrated upon, and others that, that offender may also try and assault. I also urge the seeking of close family, friends, and professionals for help and support in reporting, or deciding whether to report any type of sexual assault.
Sexual Harassment is also different to Sexual Assault, but I've seen many use both terms as if they are inter-changeable, they are not. Both should be reported, always, but it is for the benefit of all to know clearly what you are referring to. And if someone is a victim and is unsure, they should be directed to professionals who know how to make them feel safe about defining what happened to them.
4) THE REALITY AND QUESTION OF KIDS ON THE DANCE SCENE There is a hard reality here everyone needs to face, with more and more kids coming into the dance scenes. Our dance scenes are a rare place in which young kids mix with adults regularly and freely. Most every other competitive or social art form splits adults and kids, having kids do separate classes, separate competitions, and just be separate in how they learn and inhabit that community or activity. The safe guarding of kids is one of the reasons for splitting them from adults in the same activity, but on the dance scene it is natural to see young kids and teenagers training, competing, partying and hanging out with adults 10 plus years older than them. Those running any events, classes. etc need to start asking themselves what their Policy is on kids and adults mixing and if they want to continue to do this? Any events, classes.etc should have an official, written policy on this. And this is something that is not up for debate, it is morally and legally required.
5) IF YOU'RE NOT A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL KNOW TO LIMIT YOUR INVOLVEMENT Unless you are officially trained to deal with situations of an abusive manner (sexual, violent, racist.etc) you should not be soliciting anyone to give you information if they are attacked or someone attempts to attack them. If they are your friend or relative and so confide in you, this is different, but even then, in reality, everyone should direct any victims to call the police or official hotlines that have been set up to deal with such issues. We are Dancers on the scenes, not trained professionals within these matters.
6) ASK QUESTIONS We all have friends who are members of the opposite sex, race, sexual preference. etc whom we can talk to, so talk to them. Men, ask your trusted female friends about how women see issues and why. Women, ask your trusted Male friends how men see issues and why. Same with racism, sexual preferences.etc Times are emotional and tense right now, but not every white person is racist. Not every man is to blame for men who are abusive. Not every woman thinks every man is to blame for the males who are bad. Woman can abuse young boys, men and other women as well- it is on a lower scale to the men doing it, but it is reality and happens. Talk more, have more conversations, it’s the only way to actually learn from both sides. And you can never solve anything if you are not aware of the questions other people have. People can only truly learn if they feel unafraid to ask questions.
7) WILL A DANCE ORGANISATION HELP? I've spoken to people on the scene about if an official Dance Association or Federation would help. In the end no one, or business, on the scene are obligated to sign up to any associations, or follow their rules, so yes you can set one up, but no, no one has to follow or acknowledge you. But anyone signing a contract to be apart of an official Organisation will be subjected to its rules and polices.
If you want to set up some type of official organisation to help please seek advice from other professional organisations first and talk to solicitors who can advise you on the important legal stuff.
8) WHAT ABOUT INDIVIDUALS ON THE LOCAL SCENE WHO COMMIT OR CAUSE ISSUES If someone on the local scene has caused you, or anyone you know, any severe, on-going or unwelcomed abuse on some level, I urge two things: Firstly: If it happened at any type of event, class, workshop, or any officially run activity, please tell the people who organised that event, class. etc. As mentioned, they should have a policy to deal with this. Also, ask a relative or friend to come with you to report this to the organisers if you feel like you need the added support. Second: If it happens outside of any official event, classes.etc, or the organisers of the event, class.etc refuse to help, please go to the authorities to report the abusers and the organisers who failed and refused to help you- both are accountable and liable. And again, go to close friends and family for support and help if you don't want to report the issue alone. But, if you feel like you cannot tell anyone what happened, please call a helpline where you can talk to someone and stay anonymous for your own comfort. But I urge anyone in this position to seek some form of help and support and not to bare things alone.
9) PERSONAL SAFETY SHOULD ALWAYS COME FIRST We talk about changing and resolving issues and bringing people to justice. This is very necessary, but we must also talk about how to prevent these issues with a heavy concentration on personal safety. As dancers we constantly travel to new countries and cities, we meet, work with, train with and interact with new people/dancers on a daily basis. Safety should always be first, as just because we share a common passion for dance it doesn’t mean everyone is a good or trustworthy person:
-When travelling know the details, names and phone numbers of anyone you are meeting, working for, or will be spending your time with, if they are not your known friends. And make sure a trusted friend also knows those details. -Think twice before accepting invitations from dancers you don’t know, whether it be to train privately, come to their city or country, or even come and chill before the after party.
-Underage young dancers SHOULD NOT be at after parties, in hotel rooms, or even taking their phones out to exchange details with older dancers they have just met.
-If you are talking to someone on social media who you have never met, never be afraid to ask their age and reason for talking to you. This goes both ways, for young dancers and for older dancers. There is a reason you get ID checked for alcohol even if you look old enough- it is simply a way for a store to make sure they are being responsible. Be responsible online. -After parties are fun, but again, if you are not around trusted friends, drink responsibly, and if you feel uncomfortable at any time, leave and take a cab back to where you are staying.
-Think twice before accepting an invitation to sleep at the place of a stranger simply because they are another dancer and you had a good training session with them in their city.
These are just a few safety rules you should always follow.
OK, I hope this helps, as it’s vital we stop with the knee jerk reactions, step back and look at how the actual rest of the working and public world has been dealing with these issues and problems for years. Schools, gyms, places of work. etc all have policies written and ready to go to deal with all these type of issues, so I urge everyone to do their due diligence, and in extreme cases please direct and urge anyone in trouble to speak to relevant professionals for help and advice.
It's Important that we realise and acknowledge that being Dancers in NO WAY qualifiers us to give advice or help in these situations. Be a friend but remember, unless you are trained, you are not a professional! There are people who deal with these issues for a living who you should always urge victims/survivors to seek out. Let's build and work on a more professional and practical way of looking at and dealing with these issues.
If you have links or information that can help here, please post them.
I also ask that no one uses this to start any debates or throw accusations. This is written solely to try and highlight a more practical way to look at the serious issues on our dance scenes, but obviously constructive comments and feedback is welcomed and encouraged. And as uncomfortable as it may be, certain conversations need to be kept open and going.
Thanks for reading