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Breaking Boundaries

Nicole Jeffords 6 months ago

Don’t worry, I’m not going to name names. All I’m going to do is describe the situation, starting with a little background. There are a number of ecstatic dances in Austin — you just have to google them, but if you know your way round you can dance pretty much every day of the week and twice on Sundays. The rules are simple, no shoes, no talking on the floor, mind your boundaries. It’s the boundaries that are sometimes a problem.


We are an easygoing group, perhaps three-hundred-and-fifty of us in the community at large, many of us close from years of dancing together. The facilitator creates music that forms a wave, going from slow and flowing to fast and chaotic and finally back down to lyrically slow and still. It gets pretty wild, believe me, and if you were to stand on the side watching, you’d think these people are nuts, running around the floor in harem pants and tutus, weird scarves and headgear, fancy, sequin-covered underwear, dancing as if they’re in love. And while some dance with a body rubbing sexiness, most of us are in love… with the music and the ecstasy it brings, and with the thrill of moving energy through our bodies. In a group like that there can be misunderstandings and just around the time I was going under the knife last January, there was a big one.


A longtime member of the group who is gay and female went after another longtime member, a hetero male with a large physical presence and an aggressive personality. Both these people are in their sixties and have been dancing together for over twenty years, but you’d never have known it from the vicious way one attacked the other. The gay woman did it online, a veritable witch hunt, in which she claimed the guy (whom she named) had offended any number of women with sexual misconduct, castigating him as a creep and villain, even openly musing on calling the police to go and investigate him. For what? Nothing provable as it turns out, but she managed to get more and more people on the bandwagon, including a PhD psychologist who analyzed the guy and gave her opinion publicly on Facebook, a real no no, one would think, in the world of psychotherapy. Pretty soon the posts went viral, pulling in people from ecstatic dance groups all over the country. Everyone was chiming in about this guy and the terrible things he had done, overstepping boundaries, groping poor unwitting young females, giving new pretty girls the rush when he should’ve known better and kept his hands to himself. The hue and cry was the guy should be banned from all dances.


And although no one could point to anything actual the guy had done, that was what happened. He was basically excommunicated from a group he’d danced and broken bread with for twenty-four years. Why? Well, that was the question.


Featured photo: https://www.the-dancecompany.com/media/