Today is a big step for me… I finally decided to put this on paper. I still feel pain in my heart, and my body shivers when I think about these events. I have gathered up all my courage and I will start to write one article (story) at a time about my experiences in the Contact Improvisation (CI) world–as a woman, as a Person of Color, as a beginner–dealing with cis-male power and authority, consent, boundaries and oppression. These are my stories.
I will keep many names, countries, and details of events confidential. The purpose of these articles is to help us. To see from this perspective, on how we can all grow as a community. You can call me Lucy. I was very reluctant to write about this because I am afraid of a boycott against me. I am afraid that if I tell my stories, I won’t be welcome to any CI festival anymore. I am afraid I’ll be seen as breaking up the “unity” of the CI community. I kept my mouth shut because I don’t want to be a trouble-maker. This is still my concern today. I will do my best to write from my heart and the space of love. This is about healing for all us, myself included.
Story One: This happened to me when I was a beginner, during my first year of dancing. I went to a CI festival somewhere in the world that was organized by two co-teachers. The female teacher was a very well trained and respected dancer and teacher. I liked her very much and she seemed kind and caring to the participants. I will call the male organizer Mr. X. I noticed Mr. X was very flirtatious to one participant. I saw him touching her private parts. His life-partner was in the class and I thought maybe they were in an open marriage. This is none of my business.
Then in a facilitated group dance, all the participants were asked to stand closely together where everyone could touch everyone else. Suddenly Mr. X put his hands on my vagina and tickled it. My first impression was shock! Did this just happen to me??? In the moment of shock, I looked at Mr. X and he gave me a giggling laugh, as if this was a joke. I did not know what to do. At this moment, a thousand thoughts came to my head. I knew this was not right. No one can touch my vagina in a dance space. But what should I do right now? The entire group was in a facilitated class together. I didn’t want to be a troublemaker. I didn’t want to be an outcast. I just wanted to fit in and dance and be part of the group. I continued to move in space and pretended nothing happened. But something did happen! It still gives me a chill down my spine, even now, writing about this some years later. But I kept moving in space like a zombie and not feeling my body or my movement. I just knew something bad happened and I was so lost and confused. I just went with the flow like a zombie. Then the class finished.
After the class, I was still shocked, but I continued as if nothing happened. I did not want to be a troublemaker. Mr. X was the organizer, the partner/husband of a very respected dancer/teacher. So I decided to distract myself by looking at my phone continuously. Sometime later, Mr. X came to dance with me. He lifted me on his shoulder and I felt an exhilarating rush of excitement, experiencing these lifts as a beginner. When he put me down, he laughed and I went along with it.
Fast forward a few years later. I saw Mr. X again at a CI festival where he was a teacher. By then I was no longer a timid beginning-dancer, who just wanted to fit in. I saw him and he said to me, “Hey, you have improved as a dancer, but not good enough to dance with me yet. Dance another year and we’ll see how you are then.”
The following year, I saw Mr. X again at another festival. At that point, I was much more experienced and had started to teach CI. This time he just completely ignored me. I had the sense that we both knew what had happened all those years ago.
Of note is that Mr. X is a white cis-male with power and authority. Over the years, I started to notice that Mr. X or similar people like Mr. X do NOT target experienced female dancers but tend to target newcomers to CI. If this happened to me today, I have the capacity to step past my fear and nerves to call it out immediately. I see myself in a very different role today. I now have more confidence and courage. I know that my story is just one of many that women like me have experienced at some point. I am not an exception. When I speak up, many people stand up with me. I am “standing on the shoulders of giants”. It saddens my heart that these things happen. It takes courage for all of us to stand up together so that we can educate the entire group to learn and grow. This is about bringing us out of the darkness. To create a safer place for all of us for unity. As human beings, we often must go through the darkness to see the light. We are all in this together. I am not alone.
Lucy’s stories will be released in parts. Follow this blog if you want updates