Parents & Dancers PLEASE Read

At the McMenamin Academy Feis in Milwaukee this weekend, I witnessed a rather disturbing event that I thought would never happen at a feis. I suggest all parents and dancers read this, and share with anyone you think needs to read it…. I suggest all parents, with or without dancers.

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NOTE: Please see the comments below this post and on our FB page. This is not the only time ‘creepy’ has invaded our feiseanna.

I have added a second post to capture ideas to be presented to governing bodies on ways to make feiseanna safer. Please also visit that if you have suggestions.

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As I watched The Girl Child (TGC) practice in the hallway from inside the room where her stage was, I saw her and her Mom start this very intense discussion, so intense that it made me go out to find what was wrong. When I got to where they were, TGC said ‘that guy is filming us’ and as I looked over, I saw who she was talking about. My wife told me he had filmed a number of the girls who were practicing in the hall, as well as panned the whole area with his phone.

Not sure if he figured out we were talking about him, but he turned to leave, and my son and I followed him and watched him leave the building. I went to the awards table near the door he went out, told them what had happened, described the man and what he was wearing, and then I asked where the ‘Feis Boss’ was. They directed me to the office where I retold the story, wrote down a description of the man and his clothes, and I was informed security would be notified.

I returned to the stage and also told the feis volunteer who was working the hallway outside the stages what had happened. He had seen the man, but did not realize he was not associated with anyone at the feis. I told him I did not think he belonged, especially since TGC, as well as another dancer who was with her father, were both filmed, and we did not know him, and that when I had followed him, he had left the building.

And that was that, or so I thought.

As we were waiting for TGC to do her last dance of the day, I saw the ‘creepy man’ sitting in the back row watching the stage. I went into the hall to notify the volunteer I had spoken to earlier, and he was standing there with two security members, but had lost the man when he went to get security. I told him I knew where he was, and pointed him out to security. He was escorted out, and that was the last I heard of it.

Parents, you  know why I am posting this, and some of the older dancers who might read this get it. If you are like me, you would never think something like this would happen at a feis, and I tried to go through non-creepy scenarios as to why this man was filming, but his actions were just not fitting any of these scenarios.

So parents(and teachers maybe), please talk to your dancers, and let them know that if they see anything that just does not seem right, to tell someone. Do not assume that since there are feis volunteers around, everything is fine. In this case, a volunteer saw the man, but was busy with his job and had no reason to think anything out of place. NEVER go up and confront the person, but tell a parent, teacher or a feis volunteer. It could be someone taking pictures or videos, or who seems to be hanging around but seems to be alone, or whom just seems out of place. Have the dancers use the buddy system, and not run around the venue alone. This typically happens without them being told, but reminding the dancers to do it, and telling them why, is probably a good idea.

Also remember, there are some people who are professionals, and they do these things, but are supposed to be there. A photographer who had photographed dancers at the Dayton Celtic Festival mentioned on our Facebook page that he might fit the description above. I actually saw this photographer working at the Dayton Festival, and reassured him that I could tell the difference between him and the ‘creepy-guy’ right away, and I am sure he, and anyone who is supposed to be at an event, would be ok if they were questioned about what they were doing there. Just don’t assume that everyone is always supposed to be there, because sometimes, like this weekend, they are not. A little paranoia is not necessarily a bad thing.

25 Comments

Mary

We feis people as a group – parents and dancers alike – have been very trusting for a long time. I can’t you how many times I’ve walked away from our camp site and left my purse behind without a thought or have allowed DD to roam off with her friends or go alone to the rest room because we were at a venue we were comfortable at. It’s only been recently that I’ve been mindful of keeping my purse with me. This is a wake up call I think we all need. It would be interesting to hear what happened to the “creepy guy” – did they get his phone or ask him WTF and I don’t mean what the feis. As always thanks for posting!

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Rita Sutton Hayes

We were at the Louisville Feis this year (2013) and there was a man watching the U15 novice, prizewinner stage who was also alone and not related to any of the dancers. He sat at the end of a row and would brush the legs of dancers as they passed him. He was reported to the Feis volunteer table and eventually security came and escorted him out.

Parents and Teachers remind your dancers that Feis venues are open to the general public and not all spectators are there for the right reasons.

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Tara Hall

Yes!! I was the mother who reported him. Let me give you the whole story and why my ‘alarm’ radar is set to defcon 5! This gentleman sat on the edge of a row. I assumed he was someone’s grandfather. My two daughters were both on the stage and would come back and stand next to me (I was sitting directly behind the man). As they would come over to me from dancing to get a sip of water, he would strike up a conversation. He fixated on their dresses…commenting on how ‘heavy’ they must be to dance in. We tried to be polite and answered him that they were not to heavy. With my first daughter he took her skirt in his hand and LIFTED it up! That should have been shocking enough, but I was not even thinking that he could be a concern…because I thought he was there with a dancer! My daughter quickly returned to the stage, then my other daughter came over and AGAIN he mentioned the dresses, he lifted her dress and then he GRABBED my daughter and hugged her, since he was sitting down and she was standing, his face was directly in her chest area, he would not let go of her!! My daughter stood there with a shocked look on her face, I was incredulous and quickly growing scared/concerned/angry! I stood up, grabbed her hand and we quickly ran to the table of the feis volunteers. We refused to go back to our seat. They were wonderful, called security, we filed a complaint and they escorted him out. I am VERY aware of our surroundings now and my daughters are as well…

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Laura

We had one of our teen dancers grabbed inappropriately at a feis not long ago. The parent of that dancers was
Approached by another mom saying it had happened to a few other girls as well. There is no such thing as being “to safe” in today’s world.

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Mike

It saddens me that we do not hear about these events, and we need to to make our children safe. PLEASE post your stories and concerns SOMEWHERE. If you need help with that, let me know and I will find a place. Feel free to post them here if nowhere else, and SHARE ALL posts so we all learn.

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Mark

I have made similar observations since I noticed a creepy looking guy who did not seem to belong to anyone at a feis in Danbury, CT about 10 years ago. My daughter was an adult and we were there to compete in the adult competitions, so I was not personally concerned. But in a greater sense, it crystallized the observation that had been gnawing at me for some time and has continued at every feis and performance I have ever attended. There are a lot if creepy guys out there and parents need to make their children ESPECIALLY those children of the female variant, that they need to be conscious of this. I have seen far too many young ladies running around in naught but a sports bra, shorts, poodle socks and shoes. And anyone who knows me knows that I am FAR from a prude.

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Sheri

Parents just need to take the precautions and make sure their dances are in appropriate attire. Like a previous post, I have never understood why parents let their girls run around in little clothing in between their dances. My husband made the observation at one of the few competitions he has been to. I never really had thougth it was a “predators dream,” but after that article about the Milwaukee feis, I will be a little more vigilant. Thanks for putting that story out there!

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Karen

Or maybe people can stop feeling entitled to treat other people’s bodies as objects. Dancers should be free to wear whatever they want without anyone acting inappropriately. Please be aware that what someone wears does not open them up to inappropriate behavior. Hold the correct party accountable here.

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Cara Higgins

You’re absolutely correct, but the people that are doing this don’t think logically and can’t reason with sick people. I do think that they should be able to wear what they want, but it is true that it’s a predator’s dream to see all those little girls with very little on.
I’m lucky to only have boys that dance, but if I had girls, I would want them to cover up a little more for reasons just like this.

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Greg

I’ll take this one from an alternate perspective since I am a parent of two young dancers that does not hesitate to confront individuals that are filming while my kids (or any members of their dance school for that matter) are on stage performing. I take it personally, that is my family up there, and no one will put them in harms way. Security at local feis competitions is non-existent from a professional level, but that’s ok. The ID community is small and trusting, which means we all need to look out for each other and speak up when something does not “fit”. Common sense and the “gut feeling” go a long way. The ID community does not have loners like the random man with a camera described in the blog. It’s highly social and interactive with kids, parents, grandparents, and friends all coming together to support one another. Someone trying hard not to be noticed and yet stays close to these dancers is a warning sign whether or not they have a camera (other than a sulking teenager and maybe the occasional dad playing games on his phone trying to drown out the endless accordion music while holding seats because everyone else left to browse the vendor booths… yeah, been there) Don’t focus too much on the negative though, it’s a slippery slope. Let’s keep it fun and open, and engage those “loners” in conversation. If they are there for spurious reasons, they will quickly leave since the last thing they want is attention. My guess though is they will happily tell you which kid is theirs and be grateful for your watchful eye.
Last thought on the “between dance” clothing mentioned above, for the love of God can we please get these girls to put on something more substantial than the sports bra and dance shorts? I get it, it’s hot and uncomfortable in the dress, but it’s gotten out of control. This move has to be top down from a feis organization level, or us parents need to step up and make sure our own dance schools enforce a minimum dress code for kids walking around hotel lobby and ballrooms.

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Christin

“Last thought on the “between dance” clothing mentioned above … This move has to be top down from a feis organization level, or us parents need to step up and make sure our own dance schools enforce a minimum dress code for kids walking around hotel lobby and ballrooms.”

This has been an issue since I started feising back in 2000 (if not before). I’m pretty sure the line ” Modest attire is encouraged when a competitor is not dancing.” from NAFC Rule #1 was added a few years after that. At the time it was added, some feiseanna posted signs and were a bit more vigilant, but it seems to be one of those things that’s difficult to enforce or people become lax about over time.

It would also be nice if more feiseanna offered an area for the girls to change, but I also realize space constraints and policing of it could be problems. (I remember one woman – possibly a dancer’s grandmother – looking at me aghast when she’d asked where the changing area at a feis was, and I had to tell her there wasn’t one).

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Liam Lynch

I retired after 25 years of working in the Department of Corrections, and let me tell any of you out there that might think otherwise… there are lots of creeps in this world! We had a very minor issue, similar to yours at an outdoor event this summer. We worked with the parents and security to make sure there are eyes watching anyone who might be watching the kids… These creeps can not stand to be watched while they are trying to watch. Trust me… these weirdos HATE being watched!

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Lee

It happens everywhere unfortunately. Creep syndrome!
For our school – we are extremely vigilant – we have our own protocols that our dancers must adhere to.
Or they are not going up on stage! The rules are clear to all dancers and parents. I have no issue ‘benching’ offenders – and they know it. If you wouldn’t go to church dressed that way, then it’s time to cover up.
No bare midriffs – ever! No underwear only parading.. All bathroom breaks are in the company of an adult and/or a responsible teenager. Anyway, you never know who is in the bathroom , or for that matter, what’s been spilt in there.
These rules apply to both girls and boys .. Even adults. Although the adults can go to the bathroom unaccompanied, they still always tell someone they are going. It’s just a courtesy.
Our parents are amazing at keeping an eye out for who us taking video or photos – and can and do confront anyone they don’t know . One parent even confronted the local newspaper journalist once.
You can never be too vigilant .. You don’t have to scare the kids in the process, but as adults it’s our job to be vigilant.

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Molly

The sports bra and spankies look has been going on at least as long as I have been competing (early -to-mid 90’s). I hate to think that opening feises up to the community would bring in weirdos, but don’t rget; it brings in good people ! I met an older couple at my last feis who heard about it on the radio and decided to come check.it out. they were absolutely blown away and loved every minute of the music, the dresses, and especially the dancing. Like the comment said above- engage people who.don’t seem to be connected to a dancer! They may just be a curious and interested outsider who.has a lot of questions =]

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Laura

Thank you so much for publishing this! I hope family & friends take serious note of this. Sad the world has come to this. This is the reasom my 10 yo DD has had a cell phone for almost 2 yrs & isn’t allowed to go anywhere at a competition by herself. WTF I applaud you for this insight & what came with it!!! We’ll be seeing you in person soon. We NE OH Feisers have to stick together!

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Mary Smith

Why are any of you surprised, I commented on this issue just the other day. I attended a Feis with my family and also see several post on FB of young girls that look more like street walkers than Irish dancers. What are they being judged on? Their talent or their appearance. When my family was young the dancers never looked as they do today. I feel the costumes are sending the wrong message and with the sex offenders that are out there, there is always a risk for tragedy.

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cheekymonkey

When I was in high school, we were practicing cheerleading in the gym and we noticed a man staring at us through the hallway window. When two girls went out to use the washroom, he was there, how do you say politely… ‘playing’ with himself. We had to tell our coach and report it to the police.

Our TCRG never allows her dancers to walk around in booty shorts and bra tops at competitions. We must be covered up in proper warm up wear when not in our dresses.

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dancersmom

Our TC also requires our girls to be properly covered up at competition. They are not even allowed to wear a tank top. They have to have a sleeved shirt on and shorts, not booty shorts. If they get caught by any of our teachers in inappropriate wear, they are sent home. It’s because the family fee allows just anyone to walk in off the street. These are our kids we’re talking about, you can’t be too careful.

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Virginia

So sad that people like this have to make everyone so on edge and not allow the dancers to just focus on their dancing. I used to be a dancer and my husband and I don’t have any children. We used to enjoy attending a Feis now and then and loved seeing how the sport was developing while enjoying the music and dancing… but we rarely go anymore. Some Feis simply don’t allow attendees who are not affiliated with a dancer or school and the ones that do… well I just feel creepy now sitting there, as if people are wondering why the heck we would be interested in watching Irish dance when we don’t have a child involved. It’s just not worth the questions of “which one is your child” and when we say we’re just there to enjoy the competition they all look at us as if we’re up to something or doing something untoward. We don’t even bring in a camera or cell phone because, as a former dancer, I know the rules. I’ve always thought Irish dance would be much more appreciated and celebrated if the events were advertised and people could attend and bring their families and enjoy the sport, but creeps like this just make it impossible. So sad.

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lisa

Well, not too long ago when we were feising, you had to pay to get in & wear a bracelet. At least, things should go back to that. Then we’d have a record of who is buying tickets , correct?
Its just too creepy out there. I’ve always worried about this with my daughter running around hotels. Who could she be running into on elevators, etc….You just cannot be too safe, vigilant. We have to teach our children, give them perimeters, and give them rules (such as modest dress) . Parents & teachers need to work together.

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Karma

It is sad that these strange people must ruin it for everyone. I was at McDonalds with a friend in our wigs and make up getup. This man with a nice freshly blackened eye asked us what we were doing and we said Irish Dancing. He followed us out and said that he would come watch. At the time we didn’t think anything of it until we saw him watching the U9 girls

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