The words below include a description of sexual assault. Please consider this before reading further, especially if you are a family member or friend of mine that may not want to read about events that happened to me.  I have been detailed, because I want there to be as few opportunities for speculation or misconception as possible.

My name is Sarah Sullivan, and I have been dancing for about eleven years.  I’m writing to the Lindy Hop community after years of consideration, hesitation, and confusion, about an experience I had when I was a teenager with Steven Mitchell, an instructor who was much older than me.  The words below were hard for me to write, and it may be hard for some of you to read.

I grew up in the Lindy Hop community, and I’m still part of it today (I’m one of the people who runs the Mobtown Ballroom in Baltimore).  Lindy Hop has provided me with extraordinary opportunities and relationships, for which I’m deeply grateful. My experiences with Steven have caused me a great deal of pain and confusion, though, and as I have come to terms with my experience, I have decided it is important for the Lindy Hop community to know what happened.

My Dad started dancing when I was 12, and I began going with him when I was 15.  As a teenager I was a nanny for several international instructors, which afforded me the opportunity to travel to Beantown, Swing Out New Hampshire, Snowball, and other events. My Dad knew a lot of people in the scene, and I was a pretty mature kid. I had a lot of independence at a young age.

I met Steven when I was 16 at a workshop that he was teaching in San Diego. We saw each other at a number of events over the next year, and we became friends. I was enamored with the attention and approval that I was getting from someone who was a celebrity in the scene. I thought it was a little weird that a man of his age had befriended me as a 16 year-old (weird enough that I kept the details from my parents), but I wanted to be seen as an adult, so I ignored my instincts. Eventually we started talking on the phone and online between events.

Our interactions were inappropriate from the beginning, although I didn’t realize it at the time. A number of our instant message conversations were automatically saved on the family computer, and I found them a few years after I stopped talking to Steven. In the saved conversations, which happened when I was 17, Steven joked about us having sex, talked about how we had to be discreet about our friendship because “no one would understand,” and tried to make me feel bad when I didn’t respond quickly enough. In one conversation he asked me if I was a virgin. When I said yes, he asked me why. He told me that we needed a “code word” at events so that we could meet alone without anyone knowing.  He told me I was different from other people, that he didn’t usually trust people, and that he could talk to me.  These are things that I now know were attempts to make me feel special, and to cause me to keep our interactions hidden from any adults that would intervene.  I was thrilled that he had chosen me, and that he treated me like an adult.

The first time I ever got drunk was with Steven when I was 17, around the time when those instant message conversations were happening. I was babysitting at Beantown the summer before my senior year of high school.  Steven and his friends threw a party that was separate from the event. Like any sane adults, the others who ran the party did not want me drinking; I think they probably would have preferred that I wasn’t there at all. Steven got alcohol from the party and filled up a coke can so that I could drink it discretely outside.

The next year at Beantown, I was 18. We were drinking, and Steven wanted us to go on a walk and spend time alone together. We went to the “lodge”, a building that the Beantown camp used for soul parties and classes. It wasn’t being used that night, and it was far away from other people. We went to the second floor loft where there was a couch, and we continued drinking and talking. I don’t remember the play-by-play of how things escalated, and it’s pretty humiliating to think about. I remember making out with him. There was a lot of touching over the pants and under the shirt. I can’t remember if there was any touching under the pants. I was drunk, and I was scared (but I never would have admitted it to myself).

At one point, Steven was on top of me and I felt like the situation was quickly escalating. The physical vulnerability (because he was much bigger than me), along with the realization that we were far away from any other people, caused me to panic. I started flailing and pushing him until he got off of me.  I apologized profusely. I was embarrassed, scared, and confused.

The part of this memory that is most upsetting is what happened after. As we were walking back to the dorms, he grabbed my crotch. He held on to it and told me that he didn’t know what had happened to me that “fucked me up” so badly. He said there must be something wrong with me. He told me I was the one who reached for his crotch first, and that I had started it. As a young person (and especially as a young person that was sexually inexperienced) engaging with an authority figure, I got the message that I was “fucked up” for not having sex with him. That something was wrong with me because I trusted my gut and my self-preservation mechanisms. In that experience I learned that my instincts, my boundaries, and what I wanted were wrong. Of course I didn’t know this at the time, but I internalized that message for years, especially in regard to Steven.

A few months later we had a similar interaction at Swing Out New Hampshire. I still thought we were friends and felt special for being the one that he was focusing his attention on. Steven was sneaking me drinks, and he told me he wanted to meet me alone in one of the other buildings on the grounds of the camp.  We couldn’t go together because people would “start to talk.” Again, this is hard for me to write about, because I imagine that some people reading this will wonder why I went. Hell, I wonder why I went. I looked up to him, and I wanted to be as special and mature as he said I was.

I had taken classes in this particular building earlier that day but when I got there it was totally dark. It was an auditorium with a stage and a big dance floor and Steven startled me when I walked in. The story is similar to the event at Beantown, and I don’t need to elaborate the details. We were on the stage, and things escalated again. I don’t know how long it went on for. He eventually ended up on top of me, I realized I was drunk and vulnerable, and I panicked. I started pushing him and he got off of me.

After the incident at Swing Out New Hampshire, I knew that I didn’t want another physical interaction, but I couldn’t process that what had happened was actually wrong. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was traumatized by the incidents, because I wanted to think of myself as being mature enough to not let something like that happen to me. I thought we were friends, and I looked up to him as a Lindy Hop instructor. I stayed in touch with him but avoided situations where were would be alone.

Steven and I were alone on only a few other occasions after that. I babysat for instructors at Snowball (in Sweden) for a number of years, and I would often stay with the instructors after the event was over. Steven would sometimes stay in the house at the same time. I avoided being alone with him despite his attempts to spend time with me. One night I was staying on the floor of the family’s office because Steven was staying in the guest room. In the middle of the night I woke up to find Steven standing above me in the dark. He had come into my room while I was sleeping. I was so startled, groggy, and caught off-guard that I just started shaking, but did nothing. He laid down next to me on the floor and began emotionally venting about his life. I stayed silent and still until he left. That was the breaking point, and I consciously realized that this behavior wasn’t normal. Healthy, grown men don’t confide in teenage girls, let alone sneak up on them in bed.

I still wasn’t able to process or articulate what had happened, but I wasn’t ever alone with Steven after that. He attempted to contact me and make plans with me, which I politely avoided, until I felt so incredibly uncomfortable that I told some of the instructors I babysat for. I didn’t share any of the sexual details, but I admitted he was making me uncomfortable, that he had given me alcohol when I was underage, and that he was getting mad at me for not spending time with him. Their disgust and anger validated my discomfort. While I still didn’t want to see myself as a victim in the situation, I stopped communicating with him. He hasn’t made attempts at anything since.

I went to therapy during my senior year of college, and I began to come to terms with what had happened to me. I didn’t say anything publicly at the time for all the reasons that anyone in my situation doesn’t say something: I thought it was my fault, that I was making a big deal of nothing, that others would blame me, that I would be shunned for speaking up against someone that so many people adored; that my parents/people I babysat for/event organizers would be blamed. I didn’t want to see myself as a victim. The possibility that this could be happening to other people has been a constant source of guilt for years. I have gotten to a place in my life where I can see that none of this was my fault, and I don’t want to keep it a secret anymore.

I’m not speaking up because I want to ruin Steven’s life. I want the community to be aware of what he did. I teach kids now, and I bring them to events that Steven is teaching or judging at. There are teenage girls and young women at the Ballroom that look up to me and deserve to have an example of someone who speaks up when someone hurts them. I’ve seen him at multiple events a year, and I’ve kept my mouth shut when friends gush about how amazing he is. I have been carrying this around with me for almost a decade, and I have to get it off my chest. I’ve wondered if there are other women and girls who this has happened to, or is happening to (with Steven or anyone else), and I have been eaten up with guilt. I don’t want to feel as though I am colluding with Steven to keep his actions a secret.

I have been hesitant to use the term “sexual assault” because it can mean anything from an unwanted butt-grab to violent rape (I’m not discounting the severity of unwanted butt grabs, I’m pointing out the broad meaning of “sexual assault”). Let me be clear. Steven didn’t rape me, and we didn’t have sex. He wasn’t physically violent. I don’t want anything I’ve said to give you an exaggerated idea of what happened or lead you to believe anything that is untrue, because the truth of what happened is enough. He did have sexual contact with me when I was not sober or mature enough to consent. He manipulated me and abused his power as an authority figure, mentor, and adult. By putting this experience into words I am forced to define the weight of what happened to me, and I don’t want you to think that he did anything worse than what he actually did. I also don’t want you to think that I’m unsure about what happened, or that I think there’s room for interpretation—I am sure, and there isn’t.

I can’t tell you what to do with all this information, but I can tell you what I’m trying to do with the experience. I love the Lindy Hop community, and I am not going to leave it. It’s important to acknowledge, though, that this sort of thing does in fact happen in our scene, and the culture of our community contributes to it. As a scene, we idolize instructors and good dancers, and value what they think of us over speaking up when something is wrong. We frequently conflate having authority in dance with having authority in life, which leads to us privileging particular voices over others. As a young person, I thought that I would lose my place in this community if I spoke up about Steven. While I don’t believe that anyone besides Steven is responsible for what happened to me, I do think that a different tone in the Lindy Hop community could have protected me from the years of not speaking up.

I am trying to use my experience to inform my thoughts and actions in my position of power (at the Ballroom, and as a regular dancer that has been in the scene for a long time). At the Ballroom, we are constantly striving to make the venue safe, without taking away from the fun, adult atmosphere, or making “safety” the theme of our events (and I’m willing to explain how we do it to anyone who is interested). I strongly believe that the culture of events can be intentionally designed to be that way, and it’s the responsibility of everyone from top-level organizers and instructors, to each individual dancer. I don’t value my place in this community more than I value speaking up for something that I believe is wrong, and I don’t treat instructors or good dancers as being inherently more valuable/authoritative than anyone else for anything other than their dancing. I do my best to cultivate this attitude at the Ballroom and in dancers that look up to me, not just because I think it’s right, but because I think it’s actually dangerous for people to act otherwise.

Saying this publicly is part of how I’m trying to do this. The risk, while it feels high, is not as high for me as it is for a lot of other people, and I feel like I have a responsibility to speak up. While I am not advocating that we have a witch-hunt, I am hoping that I will forge a path for other people to speak up when they see something wrong, especially people whose position in the community isn’t as secure as mine. I’m also hoping that everyone will look at the way they act in the scene, and reconsider any behavior that breeds idol-worship or silences younger dancers. I consciously chose not to write this anonymously, because I want you all to know that it was me (because I want to take responsibility for what I’m saying). I want young people to know that this happened to me, and I’m still here. I want those that are inclined to question what happened to me to know that I stand behind what I’ve said, and I want to make it as difficult as possible for this to be ignored or written off.

I know this will have an effect on both Steven and all the people who admire him. It is with deep consideration and forethought (years) that I say anything at all, and I am not doing it lightly. The truth is that when I was a young member of the Lindy Hop scene, Steven fed me alcohol, engaged in wildly inappropriate conversations on and offline, and encouraged me to keep our “friendship” secret. As a hired instructor at events, he initiated sexual contact with me despite a massive age difference. He used his position of authority in the scene to take advantage of a drunk and inexperienced teenager who looked up to him. I think the Lindy Hop scene needs to have a discussion about how we perceive instructors and how we take care of our younger members, but in his case the time for conversation has passed. He has been entrusted with a role that he has abused, and it’s time for me to stop keeping it a secret.

I imagine some of you will want to contact me with your thoughts on what I’ve written. Feel free to email me privately at Please do not take it personally if I do not respond quickly (or at all).

542 thoughts on “

    1. It seems to me you are the one distorting the message here. Yes, power plays a big role here, the way we idolize people in the community. But all those codes of conduct and systems that are being set up is there to make sure everyone can be held accountable for their actions. If you can trust that there is a working system in place to deal with the situations that come up, if you know who to go to and that they will listen and take you seriously, that makes it so much easier to get help when something does happen.
      You are the one making it specifically about men. The quote you used wasn’t gender specific, it described problematic behaviors. So how is that sexist? The dance floor isn’t a pick up joint, people come to dance. Of course people might fall in love with someone they met through dancing, that doesn’t mean it’s ok to come there only using dancing as an excuse to hit on people. And if someone complains to the organizers it is probably not hitting on so much as it is creeping on people.
      And I’m guessing that since Sarah is one of the organizers of the Mobtown Ballroom she has been part of making that code of conduct, probably trying to protect other people from what happened to her.

      Having a code of conduct and a good system for handling harassment and other things is only part of the solution and getting to the problem of power dynamics and adulation is hard but it doesn’t get better by doing nothing at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Undeniably consider that that you said. Your favourite justification appeared to be at the net
    the easiest factor to be mindful of. I say to you, I certainly get irked whilst other people think about issues that
    they plainly do not realize about. You managed
    to hit the nail upon the top and also outlined out the entire thing with no need side-effects
    , other people could take a signal. Will likely be again to get
    more. Thank you


  2. This man should be in jail or at the very least a registered sex offender – but you people here on this comment thread are too narcissistic, self-indulged and scared to acknowledge a fundamental aspect from the foundation of your “social” dance.

    This man was ONLY interested in one thing from the start of his cult movement, very much like the cult movement of the 60’s; Getting rich white girls to open up. As he begged you to “Open Up” he might as well be asking you to please turn on, tune in and drop out of your inner inhibitions of morality and values. His goal? To destroy these women’s lives and families by confusion. This dance taught by him, allowed him to deduce to you “women” his promiscuous male whore of a man. Any authority figure that can bring these walls down in the mind of young naive females knows that they have their subject in their hands. Books like “the game” have been worshiped by these type of men in recent years for its use of NLP. This is not new. Male Rock stars, male movie stars, etc, like this type of authority for one reason, and one reason only – to get women to sleep with them. Guys go to dance because they want to get women they “lead” to soften up and follow while bringing down the inhibitions that “women’s rights” spent years to build. How? By getting women to “open up” to his moral relativism.

    Read his words from the book American Allegory: Lindy Hop and the Racial Imagination, by Black Hawk Hancock: Assimilating African American cultural forms into white communities by altering their aesthetic and style leads to a whitewashing of the dance from its original context. This process of whitewashing goes on not only in the performance of the dance, but in everyday social dancing as well. In an interview with Steven Mitchell, he commented,

    “But without the connection it looks like this wild dance. That’s why black people don’t like it, because there’s is no connection in it – there’s no spirit in it – there’s nothing in it now. Mind you, it’s better now than it was before. But what’s missing in the dance is the love, the love and – i don’t know – if love is enough, it’s just because love means different things to different people. What’s missing is the sensuality. There’s no sex in the dance – think we are afraid of using those kinds of metaphors. Maybe we need to say those things that are missing in the dance – come on, ladies, dance with this man like you’re making love to him. We say, Oh, I need this, I need that, and we’re afraid to day, Can you just gring the hips more? I don’t know if that’s the thing to say, but it seems that those are the things that are missing. There’s no sensuality in the dance at all. What’s wonderful about this is that you have a man dancing with a woman, but there’s nothing when you don’t feel it.”

    This notion of the sexuality of the dance, the blackness of the dance that has been removed, is a result of the white mode of engagement that simultaneously desires the dance and yet hlds out reservation in its execution. Just as the racial imagination conceptualizes blackness as more sexual, it negotiates boundaries by denying the sexuality of the dance in whites’ enactment of it. When asked if this could change Steven replied:

    “I you never felt the Blues then it is hard to get people to feel the Blues, it is hard to mime something you never felt, part of the problem is that if you have never felt these things before, it is hard for me to convey to you and have you move to it, if you don’t know what that feeling is… It really is about the feeling. I’m not saying it’s impossible. Why would i teach if i thought it was possible? It just takes a long time to get people to get into expressing themselves in ways they are not used to at all. It is one of the biggest challenges, to get open up. People are just so constrained and tight. It’s like people are scared to express themselves. Once you start hesitating and being self-conscious, then you lose the feeling. Sometimes it just makes you wonder why?”

    All this subjective, irrational language about connecting your mind and soul is the same language used and many forms of collective mind steering. Wake up people!


  3. I think that people getting very confused about the issue here. as far as I know, there is not a big problem of creeping or harassment in the community. I’m sure there are occasional creepers creeping and I am sure they are typically ostracized or asked to leave in some cases. If that is a problem, it should be addressed and dealt with. but that is not the issue here, & I think many commenters are using this as an opportunity to soapbox about so called rape culture, sexism, etc. of course those are bad things. but they are not the issue here. the problem is twofold. One is that a trusted individual is a sexual predator. and if good evidence exists as it seems to, he should be shunned, ostracized, banned and perhaps prosecuted.this is not really an issue in community. it could happen anywhere. Predators gonna pray, and no one’s going to have much luck changing them, so all young people, perhaps especially girls should be warned whether it is clergy Scout leaders coaches or dance instructors. other issue arguably, is the mix of young and old people in a rather unusual way. I do not think it would be out of line to ask people under 18 to sign a waiver that they have read some form of the warning of potential issues with older people. there are very few settings in which older unvetted people come into such close contact with young people on a regular basis. so a warning seems like a good idea. beyond that, if there is a problem with would lotharios, creepers, stalkers or others who act inappropriately, that should be discussed in another thread. Any discussions of this topic deflect attention from what happened and it could have been prevented


  4. Thanks for validating what I’ve thought about Steven Mitchell since the time I tried to bring him to Tampa Bay in 2001. He is an ego-maniacal jackass who doesn’t deserve his social position. I paid $3000 in 1999 for him and Virginie to teach for one day (plus flights, food, and hotel), and he acted like a pompous, new-money rock star. He enamored a few, but alienated most of our students. His last appearance in Tampa Bay divided our local scene, and caused a great number of Lindy hoppers to also behave like condescending bastards. I’m not talking about sexual misconduct here, but about behaving like a know-it-all, twelve-year-old child. Thank you, Sarah Sullivan for showing the world what a dick he really is.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The last revelation on “The Track” by Rikomatic, was for me a tipping point. I was shocked, the image that I had about the swing community was shattered. Once that image where of a warm and welcoming community, and over the years, this image were slowly eroded by the tragedy, the dishonesty of some people, and the podcast was for me the proverbial straw on the camel back.

    I didn’t sleep last night, I am a man, and I refuse to deny that fact, but at the same time, I am too conscious that hidden in so many good men there are predators, people with no ethics, no values, no integrity that use their fake “good man” costume to bring their victim away from the safety of the community. How to stop those men, without condemning all men.

    In this post, I think I got a good start at a solution. I must say, I’m happy with my idea, it is a crazy idea. Maybe I’m just sleep deprived.

    Here is the link :


  6. Found this surfing around dance sites: many thanks for posting this. Just by doing this you have lifted me, a victim of a person of similar ethics when I was about that age. All these years. Yes, experiences like this take chunks out of young girls who remain limping for their lifetime. You’re really someone special. xxx


  7. Even though it’s been some time, I wish you would extrapolate here, both for reasons helping other cance
    Even though it’s been some time, I wish you would extrapolate on this, for the benefit it would offer other dance communities, but I think what you outline may help beyond dance communities. Again, many thanks for your courage and candor.

    “At the Ballroom, we are constantly striving to make the venue safe, without taking away from the fun, adult atmosphere, or making “safety” the theme of our events (and I’m willing to explain how we do it to anyone who is interested). I strongly believe that the culture of events can be intentionally designed to be that way, and it’s the responsibility of everyone from top-level organizers and instructors, to each individual dancer.”


  8. I have to ask… Do any of the ladies (in this post and beyond) take a little responsibility for helping to create a Stephen Mitchell? As a person who’s danced for close to ten years now I’ve observed the following:

    In general, women pick of swing dancing rather quickly. (Whether that’s because they don’t have to lead is debatable.) As they get better, their swing circle of partners/people they dance with begins to shrink. Within a couple years they’re down to dancing with just a few partners anytime they go out to dance (i.e. their clique).

    So, a guy like Stephen Mitchell, who we all agree is a pretty good dancer, had the ladies lined up to dance with him. I mean, I remember a dance with Stephen where the ladies were literally throwing themselves at him just to get a dance. Me, and many other of the better than average dancers that night, would be lucky if we could have got 30% of the dancers waiting to dance with Stephen to dance with us.

    Anyway, you give any person this kind of power, in life and/or in swing dancing, there’s a chance he’ll take advantage of it.


    1. SwingDancer, what made you comment on this now, a year and a half after my original post? I haven’t responded to most comments on this page for a number of reasons, but it’s been long enough, and I find your particular comment upsetting enough that I thought I would take a shot at explaining why.

      Firstly, did you read my blog post in its entirety? The entire point of it was that we need to change the culture of idol worship and exclusivity that creates unhealthy hierarchies in the Lindy Hop scene by taking personal responsibility for the way we treat other people (myself included). Considering that was the point I made, your comment comes off as being a complaint that women didn’t dance with you as much as they dances with Steven, as though they are obligated to do so.

      I think it’s unfair to say that the reason that many women wanted to dance with Steven was related to the reason that the same amount of women didn’t want to dance with you or other men in those situations. While it’s possible that a few of the women you speak of are cliquish, elitist “ladder-climbers” who don’t dance with you because they are blinded by the supposed glory of dancers like Steven (which, by the way, is likely more about the way the scene as a whole gives him power, and what women in the scene need to do to get the same amount of power then men often get automatically, not because Steven himself is so irresistible), there are innumerable, more likely reasons that women are “down to dancing with just a few partners anytime they go out dancing” or are not dancing with you. Here is a partial, but not exhaustive list of possibilities:
      1. After dancing for a while they have learned that lots of men can’t be trusted with touching them, and so they don’t take risks anymore.
      2. They go out dancing to see their friends.
      3. They are shy.
      4. Perhaps they don’t want to dance with you because of you or something you are doing. You may have already considered this, but the tone of your comment is that women owe it to you to dance with you. I wouldn’t dance with someone who thought I owed it to them.
      5. They want to dance with good dancers (while I don’t personally agree with this, and think it’s a shitty way to approach dancing, I would never use that opinion to say that women should dance with someone they don’t want to dance with).

      Do you still dance? Did you just stumble across this blog now, or have you been around for everything that has happened since?

      Steven Mitchell is a serial rapist. Since writing this blog, I have learned of at least 10 women he has sexually assaulted, many of whom were children when he raped them. While we all need to take responsibility for how we treat people in the Lindy Hop scene, neither me, nor any of the other CHILDREN who were assaulted, created Steven.

      The deeper issue here is that the worldview/ethos expressed in your comment (which, like I said, sounds resentful and entitled towards women) leads to a culture in which girls and women, including myself, feel like we owe our attention, time, manners, dances, appearance, and sexuality to men. It’s a perfect example of the insidious attitude that led me (and other girls/women) to keep going back to Steven when I didn’t want to. I thought that I owed it to him, that I was put here to please men, and that my worth was based on his approval.

      I imagine that you may view this response as an overreaction. You may think you were just “offering a different perspective,” and meant it in a light, “this is just my two cents” kind of way. I understand you likely didn’t mean any offense, but despite your intention, I’m offended. You likely see your comment as an isolated opinion, separate from those who would openly say that women owe something to men, and may think it’s unfair for me to equate what you are saying with sexism or misogyny. I’ve considered these points of view, and I disagree. I want you to very seriously consider how this comment, and the underlying assumption, is insidious and destructive. While you may not have meant it to be misogynistic, if you follow the argument to the end of the line, it is. When women internalize the idea that they owe something to men, or that their choices led to being assaulted, they are more likely to be assaulted. Not only are you explaining a point that I already made (“you give any person this kind of power, in life and/or in swing dancing, there’s a chance he’ll take advantage of it.” – thank you, but that was the point of my post. I was a child when he started grooming me, so I didn’t know that, and the adults idolizing Steven should have), and putting the responsibility of being assaulted on people who were assaulted, but you’re perpetuating an idea that women owe men dances. While suggesting that I take personal responsibility for creating Steven, you are ignoring any responsibility you may have and perpetuating a culture that causes women to think they owe something to men.

      And frankly, if by your logic the repercussions of me choosing to dance with a good dancer are creating a serial rapist and getting myself assaulted, then I’m not likely to dance at all.

      I don’t know you, and I have no reason to judge you as a person. I hope that rather than getting defensive or automatically disagreeing with me, you take some time to think about this, listen to women in your life, and decide what you think about what I’ve said later.

      Liked by 5 people

  9. I couldn’t agree more with your response to SwingDancer. In addition to all that you so eloquently wrote, I would like to briefly add his logic is even worse than the “it was her fault for what she was wearing. Women who wear something seductive are asking for it because a man will take advantage of it.” Not only do you remarkably blame women and girls to have caused SM’s pathology by lining up to dance with him, but you utterly forgive rapist men for their actions, and so very remarkably leave out the idol worship by the men in the scene. Your narcissistic driven conclusion (because let’s face this, that post was really about your fragile dance ego) that women and girls who give a man this kind of power are responsible for him taking advantaging of it and attacking us. You place the responsibility squarely on women and girls to make sure WE don’t TURN men into rapist sociopaths. Not acceptable!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I no longer want to be silent about this:
    We told Joel Plys about Steven Mitchell, but Joel brushed us off.
    Joel denies he knew of Steven’s actions.

    That is why I’ve sent him those messages so that he can feel how and what we felt.


  11. Hi all,

    I am not a dancer (yet, I’ve actually meant to go to classes in the East and South CA bay area) but I previously dated a dangerous person in the community of past/present dancers. I dated Shawn Lesniak between ~October 2017-February 2018, and lived with him for six weeks from mid-October to mid-December. The day after we agreed that I would start paying him for rent to stay there, we got into a fight. I unplugged an appliance of his, doing it no harm, and he pinned me to the ground with his knee on my stomach so I couldn’t breathe. When he released his knee, I punched him, and he choked me unconscious. When I regained consciousness, he had me restrained by the wrists and told me that he would let me up if I promised not to assault him “again.” The beginning of the fight was ludicrous: I told him I’d go along with him to the bank, but had become too tired and fallen asleep while getting ready. He was upset and upon his return we got into a dispute about unrelated costs, and eventually he told me to leave. I refused, feeling (as I’ve said to him, mistakenly) that since I’d made the commitment to pay, I should be allowed to stay.

    In October 2017, Ouardane Joannot, a dance organizer, contacted Shawn informing him that due to allegations from a previous ex-girlfriend, he’d been added to Ouardane’s list of dangerous dancers. I never met her, didn’t know him when they were dating, and therefore can’t address any of it. Shawn felt the allegations were unfair and deserved not to be included. Ouardane sent a second message telling Shawn that someone had accused him of sending threatening email messages. I looked at Shawn’s messages and agreed that I didn’t find them threatening. In fact, at the time, I wrote a lengthy letter “to” Ouardane, which Shawn has in an email, expressing that that the accusations against him couldn’t be true and that they were certain to be inventions from that ex-girlfriend. What I did know was that he had a collection of stories about ex-girlfriends who exploded at him, treating him with violence and abuse seemingly out of thin air, and he seemingly had no idea why they were upset or to have any responsibility for the incidents. I asked him once why all these women were so mean to him, and he responded: “I guess I just have crappy taste in people,” a list on which I’m sure I now have a place. Of course, I now perceive him, his stories, and his behavior through a very different lens.

    Anyway, once I felt capable of driving the evening after Shawn’s attack, I left. I returned when he allowed me to do so the next day, for a short conversation in which I told him about my intention to contact Ouardane. He told me that I had to go, but could return in two more days, on the condition of not speaking to you. Assuming that Shawn would realize what he had done and take responsibility for his behavior, I decided not to tell, and feeling remorseful about my own role in our conflict instead of having simply left, I not only returned but offered rent for the preceding six weeks – as well as rent for December, should he let me stay. He agreed that I could live there for the remaining month. In the next two weeks, he told me that he found my emotions over the incident “tedious, boring, repetitive,” and told me that he didn’t know where I’d learned “the crying thing” but it came across as a manipulative ploy to get my way, and that I should just do better, be better, do as he tells me, be grateful I was still willing to be in his life. I moved out just eleven days later, when I told him I was getting uncomfortable with the fact that an apology had never come. He threatened to have me imprisoned for blackmail if I were to speak up, and told me that if I wanted to stay, I had to make a video testifying that I blackmailed him, saying I would contact you inventing this story if he didn’t let me. Realizing (to a degree, though not for good) how violent and dangerous he was, I left.

    Shawn claimed apologizing would provide “evidence” against him, should I choose to tell you in the future. I suggested I could claim he apologized either way, and he told me that I’m not a good liar. I left his house after packing my belongings two nights later. He said he couldn’t have gotten me to leave in any way but violence (and couldn’t have called the police since he’s a drug dealer), and I completely disagreed.

    Furthermore, Shawn assaulted me sexually on two occasions. In November, as we awoke, Shawn repeatedly pulled down my underwear after I pulled it back up and pushed him away. He ignored my rejections and had sex with my limp body. A second time, when I spent the night at his place in February, we got into a fight again. Midway, in tears and panic, I asked if we could simply have a nice night, and he asked if that meant I wanted to have sex. I told him, no. He repeatedly pressured me until I said that he could do what he needed, and that what I wanted was very different. Again, he humped my limp body. As I told him, I’d have left that night, but had already taken a sleeping medication after which I could no longer drive. The next morning, as I packed my belongings and got ready to go, he literally pushed me out the front door from his apartment and told me that he didn’t want me in his address book, nor in his life any longer.

    Two days after this February assault, Shawn sent me an email with the questionable assertion that he could no longer talk to me because he loved and cared about me too much, and truthfully, that now he was now hurting me more than he was helping. However, he insinuated that if I came forward with any of this, he would kill himself. Besides that, this letter is the only communication I have from him on a non-anonymous service such as the text messaging service Signal or the web service Etherpad ( on which he discusses any of it, though many people know the story. I’ve been considerably less “careful” about what I’ve said to him, and he has records of my attempts to contact him on various means for many reasons: in futile efforts to persuade him to also take responsibility for his behavior and apologize, for us to establish/maintain a positive relationship moving forwards, and simply expressing my anger/frustration/hurt over everything he’s done as well as his silence. As he said regarding his own actions, I’m not proud of my behavior, but it simply pales in comparison to his. To some degree, this statement is giving me the closure I need to move on. Whether he decides to own up, or continues to refuse on account of not wanting to incriminate himself, is his business.

    Shawn did, however, write me a letter on Etherpad with a half-assed apology for choking me unconscious. I had actually made plans to return to his house the weekend after moving out, but I had told him that he needed to apologize for me to feel safe doing so. I have a text from him on the anonymous text message service Signal service showing the Etherpad URL which links to the letter from him. As I expect he’s long since deleted anything implicating himself from his own decives, a record probably doesn’t exist on his end, so it comes down to my word against his. But I know that he’ll only hurt more people if I don’t speak up about what he’s done.

    Of course, all this implies: why did I choose to go back after he did what he did, and even pay him rent (going backward, and forward) to let me stay? Shawn rescued me after an accident in September. I developed a tremendous affection for him that made it difficult to come to terms with the abuse that he then began to inflict upon me. I was lonely, in denial, and still recovering from the accident, not physically, mentally, or emotionally strong enough to stand up for myself. My self-esteem and self-identity were too weak to believe that the abuse was real. Until the day I left his place and began to recover, I had become too depressed to resist. I thought it was safe to be vulnerable around him, as he had indeed cared for me when I couldn’t take care of myself. After each incident came even deeper depression, remorse, desire for reconciliation, and anger about his silence. But I’m able to care for myself now, and to a degree, to speak up about what happened, largely to protect his inevitable next victim.

    Thank you for reading my lengthy message, and all the best,



    1. I am angry that you had to endure this, and I admire your strength for speaking out. I live on the East Coast and am no longer an active dancer. Still, if there is anything I can do to support you in your journey to process and resolve this horrible experience, please let me know.


  12. In response to JIRA up above (who never contacted Sarah):

    100% false – The Plys family know exactly who did this and Dan Ang was found guilty in every legal/court proceeding that took place:

    La Mesa PD case #: 15013855 – July 29, 2015
    Restraining order case #: 37-2015-00022550-CU-HR-CTL – November 18, 2015
    Criminal Case (guilty plea) #: C353025 – April 28, 2016
    Small Claims Case #: 37-2015-00326756-SC-SC-CTL – December 20, 2016
    Bankruptcy Adversary Hearing #: 17-90114-CL13 – March 23, 2018

    You will notice that the video link is no longer there – VIMEO was contacted immediately:
    We have removed the video in question and disabled the account of the person who uploaded it, since this is a clear violation of our Terms of Service (


    If anyone is in need of assistance for Restraining Orders or harassment issues in general we can help share our legal experience with you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s