Are white people so oppressed these days that they can't even twirl around incoherently in glittery wings and tutus at arts festivals without getting discriminated against for the color of their skin? That's what Susan Stone, a.k.a. the "Dancer of Life," has been telling local media outlets after an incident at the African Arts Festival this past weekend.
But the truth might be more about ego than skin color.
Stone is well-known around St. Louis for attending festivals in colorful, butterfly-ballerina costumes and wowing (or confusing) audiences with her interpretive dance moves. But when she tried to inspire people through dance at the African Arts Festival in Forest Park, some folks just wanted her to stop.
Stone tells KMOV-TV (Channel 4) an employee reprimanded her for her dancing because she's white.
"He tells me, 'You can't be doing this here, this is an African American event. You can't be at this event. You're not black,'" Stone says. "I feel angry because they're missing out on the beauty of everything. We're all supposed to get along together. That's what God says."
The story went national, with some outlets making light of Stone's dance moves and other outlets pouncing on a possible example of reverse racism. And why not? A white person was told she couldn't attend a black event because she's white.
"Isn't it wonderful how tolerance only ever seems to go one way? " says a website called Mr. Conservative.
But Stone posted a video of the alleged racist exchange online, and it adds a bit more context to the story of a white person being told to stop dancing at a African American event. Also, it's a pretty absurd exchange on its own, even without the misconstrued racial stuff...
Watch the video of Stone's bizarre conversation with a festival employee and read about her tire-slashing spree on page two.
Employee: "[The audience] is trying to see what's going on and you're getting in their way. You gotta understand, they don't wanna see you. They wanna watch that."
Stone: "So I gotta leave?"
Employee: "No, you don't have to leave. You gotta sit down."
Stone: "I can't dance?"
Employee: "You gotta sit down."
Stone: "I don't sit. I dance."
Employee: "Well, you can leave."
Stone: "Can I talk to the one who runs this, please? I go all over the country, I have 14 million people, and what I'm gonna do to the African American people, I'm gonna make you people look bad because I happen to be a superstar. I'm the Dancer of Life."
Employee: "You can stay, but you gotta sit down."
Stone: "I don't sit. I dance."
Employee: "Well, then you have to go to jail."
Stone: "I like to dance. I'm good at it. I've been doing it for six years." Employee (to other man): "Put some handcuffs on her?" Dreadlock Man (to Stone): "You are dressed like you're a part of what we're hired to do. We did not hire you to do anything. You cannot go dressed like this with your costume changes and do what you're doing in front of the people. This character does not go with what this festival represents. This is the African Arts Festival, this is not the ballerina arts festival. This is not the European arts festival. It is not the Caucasian arts festival." [inaudible arguing]
Stone: "I'm the Dancer of Life. I do this all over."
Employee: "But you can't go up there. You can stay up here. But you can't go over there."
Dreadlock Man: "You were doing costume changes. You were sitting up there acting like you're a part of this group. You cannot do that."
Stone: "Have you heard of the Dancer of Life? Can I talk to the owner?"
Stone left the festival and eventually went to the media. Jason McNairy, the co-chairman of the festival, told KMOV that he apologizes for how it was handled, but maintains it wasn't instigated by race, but because of the disturbance Stone caused.
Stone is no stranger to the media. Aside from giving people the gift of dance, back in 2010, Stone was accused of going on a tire-slashing spree in Belleville, Illinois.
The Dancer of Life might dance to a different beat, but her style definitely adds a bit of color -- pun kinda sorta intended -- to the St. Louis festival and parks scene.
Here's a video of Stone dancing and reciting a poem with Abba's "Dancing Queen" playing in the background because that's how she rolls:
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