Seattle-based Swing Instructor, Emcee Accused of Sexual Assault [UPDATED]


Yesterday, a Seattle-based dancer shared her harrowing account of being drugged and sexually assaulted by Mark Kihara, proprietor of Swing Jam Productions, an instructor at the Century Ballroom in Seattle, and a prominent emcee at events around the world, such as the Snowball party in Sweden. It’s a difficult read.

The alleged assault took place in 2006 in Kihara’s home during a party that the victim attended, along with other local lindy hoppers. She reports that Mark served her a drink that was so strong that it caused her to by physically ill and to pass out. While she was unconscious, she recounts that Mark took advantage of her.

The full account can be found on her blog here.

UPDATE 10/16/18, 10pm

Mark Kihara has shared with us a statement on the allegations in question. In his statement, Mark confirms that he “shared a sexual experience” with the other person, and that alcohol was involved. However he denies that he drugged the other person purposely. Read his full statement here.

UPDATE 11/7/18

Hallie Kuperman, Owner of the Century Ballroom where Mark Kihara has been employed as an instructor has issued a public statement on the matter on November 5, 2018, reproduced in total below.

These are the questions that I know are being asked:

What is Century Ballroom / Hallie Kuperman, doing to create a safe environment for those who come dining or dancing?

What are (are there) policies and procedures being put into place for future accusations?

How will we handle accusations of staff vs. staff, staff vs. client, client vs. client, present situations vs. allegations from years ago?

What am I doing:

  • I’m compiling information that many have sent me about at what policies exist in the dance world as it is a unique “work/play” environment.

  • I’m talking with HR professionals and reading other policies.

  • I’m talking with mediators who are versed in sexual assault and business mediation.

  • I’m attending my first meeting with Seattle Leadership re: Safe Spaces.

  • I hope to organize an open community meeting in Century where we can all talk/listen to one another.

  • My belief is that everyone must have a way to make amends.

  • I am looking into classes and ideas for empowering people to use their voice when they don’t feel comfortable in a situation.

I understand why people are angry on both sides for my lack of communication. Please know that I haven’t been silent; I just haven’t taken to FB to write what I’m doing at this time. I have been carefully listening and engaging in conversations with the staff and members of our community.

I am triggered by anger, but yelling, by hate speech so FB is not a good venue for me. Face to face, over the phone, any of these work, and I appreciate all the emails I’ve gotten, with suggestions on how hard this must be in my position, and ideas for moving forward. I’ve also handed out my cell phone number in an effort to have a conversation as opposed to back and forth emails with those who have contacted me.

I appreciate the mediator I’ve been working with, because these hard conversations are triggering for everyone, whether it’s because of the subject matter, our personal experiences, or because we are invested in one person or another.

Having an outside ear to help us stay focused, clear, heard and understood, is invaluable.

Our whole community is hurting. We WILL find a way through this.

I have attempted for 22 years to make Century a welcoming and safe place. That doesn’t mean I’ve succeeded on all accounts; there is obviously still work to do.

You have trusted me over the years to be a leader in the community. And though I know you might want more from me, please trust that I am fully aware of this current situation, the pain it has caused all involved, that healing and justice must be sought and that I am taking action.

Hallie Kuperman

Owner, Century Ballroom/The Tin Table

See our post listing some resources on combatting sexual assault and creating safer spaces.