Column: Is ecstatic dance group knowingly allowing sexually predatory behavior?
Column By Editor Skye Pratt
– I recently became privy to increasingly shocking behavior from a local man who is an organizer of an ecstatic dance group in San Luis Obispo. I saw something that disturbed me and so I wrote an article sharing my experience on the site, the SLO Vegan Guide. After sharing my experience I have learned that there have been multiple accounts of sexually aggressive and predatory behavior from this individual and yet he remains because he is an organizer. I now have reason to believe that the ecstatic dance organizers are knowingly allowing sexually predatory behavior at their events.
Here is my account:
It was the second time that I had attended the event in San Luis Obispo, although I have attended an ecstatic dance in Santa Barbara previously. I went alone, as my friend who introduced me to ecstatic dance will no longer attend, as she was continuously weirded out by one particular man who seemed to be behaving like a voyeur and making her, and many others, uncomfortable.
Ecstatic Dance is designed to be somewhere where anyone can go to express themselves through free-form dance and feel safe and comfortable in their bodies. It is intentionally held during the day, and people are expected to remain lucid and not under the influence. The dance floor is non-verbal, and the “no” is supposed to be recognized through body language.
This story really starts last week, when I went to a public hot springs in Avila last with a friend, and we noticed a tall, middle-aged to older man with brown salt and pepper hair and a goatee leaning over and placing his hands on the wall in a way that was displaying his rear end to the people in the hot tub. He and a female friend were both clad in wetsuits, only his had a hole in his. A hole that we could all see his testicles through. It was a cold day and I soon realized that this man was knowingly displaying his testicles in public and hoping that someone would notice (there were children in the hot tub).
I was, at that very moment, trying to convince my friend to come with me to ecstatic dance, saying that it was really fun but there was this one guy who weirds everybody out. I shared with her an anecdote of me opening my eyes at my first ecstatic dance experience and seeing him try to forcibly sit on a man’s face. Little did I know that the man I was talking about was the same man standing in the hot tub with us.
Well, they must have heard me and wanted to claim their turf because he and his female companion promptly started rolling around like horny otters in the hot tub in their wetsuits, making everyone uncomfortable until we all left. I thought, “huh, that was the same kind of behavior I saw from that guy I was talking about, what a coincidence.”
But it wasn’t a coincidence. It was the same guy. And I came to realize this Sunday.
As I made my way out onto the dance floor on Sunday, I secured a spot and claimed my little space and did some meditation and stretching. As the music picked up I began to dance. I immediately noticed this guy and recognized him. Perhaps he took me making eye contact as a sign of interest, but I was staring at him in the face out of shock, not out of desire.
He made motions like he wanted me to come and dance with him and two others and in what is described as “contact improv” and I tried my hardest to non-verbally say no, turning away, looking down, literally shaking my head… They encroached in my personal space so I walked out and used the restroom. We were only a few minutes into the dance at this point.
I came back inside and started dancing as far away from him as I could, over near the DJ. And then he appeared again with the same tactic and I again nonverbally declined.
I went as far away from him as I could, across the entire dance floor, a third time and to my shock, he followed me and tried again to include me in his group “dance.” At this point, I sat down angrily and stared at him. “If he touches me, I’ll shove him really hard,” I thought to myself.
I closed my eyes for a bit and when I opened them again he had moved onto a new victim. I kept my eyes open and watched his every move.
He started “innocently” dancing the tango or foxtrot or something like that with her. Then he tango-ed her over to the pillows and did a dance with the pillows as he walked her over the mat. When they got to the mat it looked like she didn’t want to join him, she even shook her head a little, and so he violently pulled her down onto the mat and started forcibly rubbing his body all over her. He slithered over her body then slid in front of her, crawling on the mat slowly while sticking his feet on her face, seriously rubbing his dirty bare feet on her face.
I looked around in shock and everyone was just dancing. Totally zoned out. So I walked out. And I walked directly to the organizers and asked them how I could file a formal complaint.
I spoke to two girls, one who check everyone in, and a female organizer, and told them my story. They said they knew exactly who I was talking about and that they too, had felt molested and encroached upon by this man, have heard many complaints, and that many people no longer come because of him. They asked if I knew how to protect myself and then they recommended that I drive up to Cambria to dance when he is usually not there. They said that I was going to have a hard time getting my concerns heard and that he is “king narcissist” and said has brushed off any prior claims made against him as people being “prude,” or that they were crazy for thinking that they were attractive enough to warrant this guy’s attention.
Since Sunday I have learned that there are nine organizers involved in the ecstatic dance group, and this man is one of them. Another organizer contacted me, invited me to come over to his personal residence to have face to face contact with the individual, which I of course refused, and then abruptly stopped the conversation after I informed him that I was a journalist and that everything he was saying was on the record. One of the two original founders of the ecstatic dance group said that I would, “have trouble” reporting this guy’s behavior because he is an organizer and is someone who he knows personally.
I now ask anyone who has been a victim of this man to contact the police. If the organizers choose to do nothing, the next stage will be setting up a live-stream news broadcast from the inside. It is my legal right to film anyone in a public place and I will be reporting on the next event for all of the different platforms that I write for.
For now, I will be taking my story everywhere that I can find. Please share this with your friends and have them reach out to me.
Both the hot springs and the ecstatic dances are important places here on the Central Coast that are widely revered as sacred and his actions are inexcusable and unacceptable and the people of the Central Coast deserve better.