DanceSafe's mission is spelled out rather plainly in its name. With nine chapters now in place across the United States and Canada, including the latest one in Denver, the non-profit organization, as its name implies, was founded to educate, inform and engage in frank dialogue with members of the dance community about drug use and the associated risks. We recently spoke with Missi Wooldridge, the director of DanceSafe's Denver chapter, about the importance of the organization, and how it has already positively impacted the local dance community.
Westword: DanceSafe has been around for over a decade. What prompted you to start a chapter in Denver?
Missi Wooldridge: What prompted me? I have a master's degree in Public Health, which implies outreach, awareness and education. I have been a part of this scene, the electronic music scene, for almost ten years, from even when I was in college. I would focus on school during the week, and be out raging in my free time. I saw the need within the community, because a lot of the people partying are younger. I think that's what's up! They know good music. On the flip side of that, that's the prime initiation for youth. It's important to have people who are encouraging them to know themselves and know their body.
How does DanceSafe operate within the scene at shows?
It's more raising awareness on who we are, and why we are here. If someone feels like they have taken too many drugs, or feels like they're friend needs some water, we are there to provide support. We are there to answer questions about drugs, we are there to answer them. We also offer condoms, hand sanitizers, tampons, and generally meeting the needs of the environment. A lot of it now is just raising awareness.
How did you get involved with DanceSafe as an organization in regard to setting it up the chapter out here?
I have been in the electro scene for ten or eleven years, and when I moved here from upstate New York, I realized that it had such a different vibe. I know some people out here, and everyone out here is so welcoming, anyway. Granted you have your issues everywhere you go, but there was a lot more acceptance of drug policy and drug use out here. I started training in the beginning of this year, and we started up in October.
DanceSafe is a non-profit organization, so how do you acquire funds to continue?
We have no federal or local funding, even for the national organization. Everything we do is volunteer. Even our board of directors is made up of volunteers. Locally, we make money through online sales of test kits, merchandise and other objects we offer at the booth.
Why is DanceSafe an important organization in the dance music scene?
People could be high on something that they didn't know they were high on, and it may not be the heroin, PCP, or whatever else they took was cut with. This is the result of not having enough education and information available to the people. What people don't know is that nutrition, hydration and education are all important factors when it comes to partying... safely. Really though, abstinence, in a sense, is the only way to steer clear of addiction. If you choose to use, it's important to know what's sold as molly [MDMA] -- or ecstasy, or whatever you choose to use -- that it's actually that and not something else.
What is the main goal of DanceSafe in Denver right now?
We are looking to get more people locally involved, and we are hoping to get a full training session together, and get a rage crew together for summer. The rage crew will be all of us in the crowd talking about DanceSafe, bringing them back to our mobile booth, and sharing what we've learned. What we really need is support from artists and promoters. No one wants anyone dying or getting arrested at their shows, and no one wants the negative health parts that come with partying. We want to be happy and healthy, and we want to enjoy the music and the scene.
How can people get more involved with DanceSafe in Denver?
A lot of it is just establishing partnerships and collaborations, like interviews, sponsorship, marketing, promotion and looking for grant funding. We have people that are familiar with grant funding, but it's just finding those grants from people are willing to help. Also, people who can reach out as far as drug policy issues, that can help us mobilize and get motivated to try and advocate for change. At this point, though, any stakeholders are important. The role is up in the air, the only thing we lack now is exposure and money.
What can people expect when they come to a DanceSafe booth at a show?
On that point, I do want to say that we take a non-judgmental approach to everything. I'm not your mom, I'm not the police, and we are just a social support system for the scene. We really want to move away from the people that think we will get them busted. We are not the kids that test drugs. Yes, it's an entity of who we are, but we are there to focus on harm reduction, and all the negative health consequences in using or engaging in risky behavior.
Why does DanceSafe target the electronic music scene?
Back in the '90s, when electronic music really hit the circuit, it was underground. Now, it's not underground, it's totally mainstream. It's not just the main genres like techno, house and trance anymore, either. The dubstep scene is so hot out here, and the fact that Skrillex was the only sold out show on Halloween should justify that. It's not in these underground clubs, its very much so mainstream. And it's not that we need to target that scene, its where a lot of adolescence and youth are.
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