Abuse in the sport of dance

I Experienced Abuse In Ballet, And I Know I'm Not Alone

If the beauty and integrity of artistic instruction is to be preserved, the mistreatment of dancers has got to stop.


Abuse and misconduct in the dance world (especially in ballet) is slowly coming to light. It is an issue that has been prevalent in the dance world for years but has only recently gained any recognition in the public eye.

In 1992, Peter Martins, director of NYC Ballet, was charged with third-degree assault of his wife who was then a principal dancer in the company.

In December 2017, Martins retired from his position with NYCB after allegations of sexual, physical and verbal abuse. In September 2018, NYCB fired two male dancers and had a third resign after all three were mentioned in a lawsuit accusing the third dancer of sending inappropriate photos.

That same month, the Ontario court system investigated claims that a former instructor at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet pressured students, including those underage, to pose for nude or semi-nude photos and may have sold the photos online. These allegations spanned 30 years before the case was ever investigated.

These are just two of many stories that abuse in a dance workspace. I too have my own stories.

I had a ballet master who was incredibly knowledgable and experienced in his field. At the time, I was training at a relatively prestigious facility, so I figured I was receiving top quality instruction. I was too young to realize that I deserved much better. My instructor would call us names and make "jokes" that were a disgrace to every race, religion, and disability you can think of.

Once, after I incorrectly executed a barre combination, he asked if my mother knew I was autistic yet.

On a separate occasion, he said I danced as if I had down syndrome. I have close family and friends with disabilities who are wildly talented, so that dig hurt deeper than he'll ever know. He once made a "slave" joke to a row of black girls struggling with a step. He talked about his students' bodies inappropriately and was not afraid to throw things during class. Respect was of the utmost importance to him, and if he felt you had done something to insult his prestige, you were punished. He wanted his dancers as small as possible, so he closely watched what you ate and was very vocal if he felt you were "getting bigger." None of us were overweight, and many of us were underweight. I was becoming a better technical dancer but at the cost of my joy. It was a mental pressure as much as it was a physical one.

This was a catalyst for my years-long battle with an eating disorder.

At another facility, I had a teacher that was obsessed with flexibility. One day, we were doing a stretch where you lay down and bring your leg to your face. The teacher didn't think my leg was bending far enough, so without warning, she slammed my leg to the floor, even though I begged her to let up. It frayed my hamstring, and to this day, I still have problems with that leg.

If we attempted to voice our concerns, we were quickly silenced or temporarily placated. A few people heard me, an even smaller percentage of them believed me, and the chance of someone being willing or able to help was rare. After my experience, I began to hear similar stories from other dancers. I was not the only one who had accounts of being made to feel less than in dance. I was not the only one who couldn't stand at the barre or go to an audition without shaking like a leaf. However, many were not as accepting of my testimony, because pain and humiliation often comes with the territory of being a dancer, as if somehow that discredits my claim. While it's true that dance is painful, I am a firm believer in that the pain should never exceed a body's physical ability to perform.

This is where understanding the difference between tough love and abuse comes in. My whole dance career, I've had "tough love" dance teachers. I'm used to loud, frustrated yelling, being physically maneuvered (with consent), and even the occasional light-hearted jab at my technique.

When consent is not given, when words are belittling and offensive, when health is not prioritized, when women are mistreated and children are sexualized, it's abuse.

Dance instructors, choreographers, faculty, and parents, please listen to your dancers, and listen especially closely when they are young and vulnerable. If the beauty and integrity of artistic instruction is to be preserved, the mistreatment of dancers has got to stop. Acknowledge everything they say and let them know that they are heard. Only then can we eradicate this injustice and finally be on the right side of dance history.

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11 Things Fastpitch Softball Players Know To Be True

You'll never remember your Facebook password, but you'll remember softball cheers for the rest of your life.

There comes a time in every little girl's life when she must come to terms with the fact that she will never play Major League Baseball. So, she turns to softball. From tee-ball to coach-pitch to travel ball, to playing on your school team, softball has played a crucial role in your life. It taught you the value of teamwork, the importance of sunscreen, and introduced you to your best friends. For former and current fastpitch players alike, these truths are universal.

1. The rays of a thousand suns couldn't even out your tan lines.

Tan arms and a V-neck tan line is the unofficial uniform of the softball player. Years after you stop playing softball, at 2 p.m. on the second Monday of every month when the sun is shining through your bathroom window at a 90-degree angle, you'll swear you can still see the slightest hint of a racerback tan line between your shoulders. Good luck finding a flattering sundress!

2. Pitchers are a different breed of human.

It's a tale as old as time: You saw that the pitchers got to skip all of the intense drills at practice so they can go off to the side with the catcher to chat and have a catch for an hour and you said, "I gotta get in on that." So, your dad paid for your pitching lessons, you mimicked Jennie Finch as best as you could, and three years later, you're contemplating changing your name just to forget about that time you spent as a pitcher. Successful pitchers must have no other interests, future career goals, or a family who loves them because pitching just destroys everything you believe in. If you do survive being a pitcher, congratulations, because you are now fully equipped with nerves of steel that will allow you to conquer the worst that life has to throw at you.

3. An 8 a.m. game on Sunday means you had a really bad Saturday.

Where is the most tranquil and somber place that people often go to on Sunday mornings to reflect on their wrongdoings? No, not church. It's the softball field. When you have to be at the field before the sun, you start thinking irrationally, like "Maybe if I used the Demarini instead of the Stealth in the third inning of the second game yesterday we would've only lost by six runs instead of seven which would have put us in the winner's bracket!" Have fun running a lap for every error you made the day before.

4. If the other team is wearing shorts, you know you're going to win.

There's just so much leg! Shorts and softball go together like ketchup and strawberry jelly, as in, that's what your knees are going to look like if you even attempt to slide wearing a pair of shorts. Don't even get me started on the tan line from mid thigh to mid shin. You know the one. This is the big leagues, ladies, put on some pants.

5. If you aren't dirty after a game, you didn't play hard enough.

If you don't come home from a tournament, look in the mirror, and go, "Wow I got a good tan today!" only to take a shower and find out that it was all just dirt, then you probably missed that slide sign from the third base coach when you were rounding second.

6. Cheers are a necessary evil.

Cheering in softball is like having a dead-end job that you hate; it's unfulfilling, robs you of your dignity, and tires you out, but you have to do it anyway. You'll never remember your Facebook password, your parents' anniversary, or that you left your laundry in the washer, but you'll remember softball cheers for the rest of your life. Unless, of course, you fall into the water and bump your little head like that damn froggy.

7. Pre-wrap is a hot commodity in the dugout.

"I'll trade you a bag of Ranch sunflower seeds for your light blue pre wrap."

"No way, I had to get my mom to drive me to three different Sports Authority's last night just to find this color!"

8. You may get along with other teams between games, but they are not your friends on the field.

It's perfectly normal to meet another player in line for the bathroom at a tournament, compliment her on her cheetah print hair ribbon, and then trash talk her on the field half an hour later. You can make it up to her by giving her a high five and a poignant smile in the handshake line after the game.

9. If you get hit by a pitch and there aren't lace marks in your skin, it's really just a waste of time.

You love being able to showcase your bruises at school on Monday when all of your non-softball friends ask, "Does it hurt to get hit with a fastball?" and you can coolly and calmly answer, "Nah." Bruises up your street cred, and lace marks are just bonus points. So, when you don't have any stitching embedded in your skin, you wish you could just have the chance to bat. Take your base.

10. When the bat meets the ball juuuuuust right, it is the most powerful feeling in the world.

Your dad was right when he told you to keep your head down when you swing. You always thought that the "sweet spot" of the bat was just a myth until you hit your first home run. The rush of adrenaline will make you feel so powerful that you'll try to see if you can pick up a car in the parking lot with your bare hands after the game, but you still can't.

11. You will always consider your team to be your best friends.

After spending every weekend together, you and your team create a bond so close that it borders on uncomfortable. You may take out your frustrations on each other from time to time like when someone steps on the freshly chalked line before the game, or when you all fight over the ball with the best, most prominent laces for your warm up toss. But at the end of the day, your team will always be the biggest bunch of weirdos you know, and that is irreplaceable.

Cover Image Credit: Art Mad

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I Want To Be Embraced, But Touch Triggers Me

A poem about touch.


I want to be embraced, but touch triggers me,

Because with touch comes vulnerability.

Touch has the power to lift you yet can destroy you if it's unwanted.

We touch to feel, but the longingness to feel something—a body that isn't yours--takes the good feeling away.

It breaks you.

Over and over again you try to train your mind to tell itself that every touch is not bad; every touch won't leave you crying on the bathroom floor asking why this happened to you.

Every touch won't deprive you of your appetite.

Every touch won't leave you numb like you are when you're reminded of the person who took it all away from you.

Every touch is not meant to harm you the way their touch did.

Every touch isn't meant to break you.

I want to be embraced, because it can make me feel safe

It tells me that I am understood—

Not a body for someone to conquer, but one to nurture.

To be embraced is to be loved—by someone, by something.

But when being embraced turns so quickly into being touched, the safety net disappears.

I want to find refuge in your touch, but touch triggers me.

Because with touch came the conquering of my body

With touch, I was left to pick up the pieces of myself, alone.

With touch, I lost sight of my own.

I want to be embraced, but touch triggers me.

Because I'm reminded of the unwanted ones.

I want to be embraced and touched by you, but it's hard to differentiate between the two

The good from bad- the nurturing from the conquering.

They say boys will be boys, but the parents who taught their boys to be boys, turned into men who left unhealed wounds

Touch triggers me, but I don't want it to.

I want to be loved by you.

My mind says to let go and let you.

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