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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Legendary Betrayal

There probably isn't anyone in this country who doesn't feel betrayed by the recent news surrounding Bill Cosby. How could a man who so many considered the kindly father of comedy be the same man accused of raping so many women? What is it about the position of power that some men find themselves in that gives them a sense of immunity?

In the last few days the Lindy Hop world has been reeling with similar allegations against one of our teaching legends: Steven Mitchell.

In the hierarchy of Lindy Hop, Frankie Manning--one of the originators--had two direct descendents: Steven Mitchell and Ryan Francois. Chester and I considered ourselves lucky to have studied with all three of these men for many years. Some of our own students have had the advantage of studying more recently with Steven at Swing Out New Hampshire.

Here's the post that started it all:

Since this post other women have come forward with accounts of their own personal encounters with Steven Mitchell. What they all have in common is the absolute abuse of power: An older (in some cases decades older) "famous" dancer preying on those with less self esteem and taking advantage of his status to force himself on them.

I find the entire situation entirely sad, and entirely believable.  What makes it so sad is that the situation is not rare. Is so believable. Is, in fact, almost imbedded in our society. Just the players are different. When Chester was in High School his band director was fired for having an affair with a student. The list can go on and on: the football players, the actors, the bosses, the wealthy, the teachers, even the relatives. Just about anyone in a position of power or authority can lord it over someone for sexual favors. For far too long it was considered the cost of doing business. It is abhorrent and abusive.

It is not okay. And I am proud of the women who are standing up and saying no. Of the women speaking out and taking back their power.

There are those who blame the dance community, who blame the women, who blame Steven. But I say it is society at large and the environment we have created that allows such things to happen. We will never stop worshiping and idolizing the famous. But we can pull back and say, "I am just as important." And that will make all the difference.

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