Dance Team's Pop Gun Hazing Incident Goes Horribly Wrong

A very successful dance coach with the Cannon Falls, Minnesota school district lost her job on August 25 due to a team-building/hazing activity she organized.

According to the Post-Bulletin, head dance coach Madi Salisbury and assistant coaches of the Cannon Falls Bomber Dance Team planned a team-building exercise in which they gathered initiates—some as young as 7th grade—in the school gym, turned out the lights and played scary music while upperclasswomen jumped out and scared the new girls. Terror seems like a wholesome way to build lifelong bonds—what could possibly go wrong?

"I did not have prior knowledge of the guns. I did not know they were being brought out," Salisbury told the Post-Bulletin.


Wouldn't you know it, a teacher not on the dance team staff thought to up the fun quotient with some pop guns. After all, guns in schools are a proven recipe for eliminating teen angst a good time. The victims heard the popping, thought they were real guns, and did indeed get scared. They screamed; mayhem ensued. Salisbury said she was not in the gym at the time but heard the screaming, and as quick as you can say "jazz hands," put a stop to the team building.

"I want to be very clear—the coaches planned this to jump out and scare the girls," said Salisbury. "It was taken to a different level under advisement of someone not even on staff. It wasn't intended to go the route it did."

Well, they did intend to scare the new dancers. Getting fired was apparently the unintended part.

Whatevs, right? I mean, only two of the 53 girls in the gym reported "lasting negative effects" from the whole misunderstood guns/darkness/scary thing. Percentage-wise that's... a very small percent. Way less than the 150 people who showed up at the Cannon Falls School Board meeting in support of Salisbury, noting it was, like, her first mistake. Unmoved, the school board decided not to renew Salisbury's contract.

Described as "An awesome high school dance team filled with awesome, talented young women with a passion for dance! ♥" on the Bombers' Facebook page, very recent alum Kelsie Beissel posted these awesome words of encouragement:

Hey ladies. Don't think too much about what happened. Yes, there is a time for sadness, but the rest of the time is for striving and moving forward. Use this as motivation. The bigger the obstacle, the greater the success that follows. You ladies have so much support towards each and everyone of you. I am excited for this year because this kind of stuff awakens you girls. Take this situation by the horns and fight till the end. This is the time to unite as one. You determine your success. Your biggest competition is yourselves. Conquer that dance floor. Have a hell of a season ladies. Love you All! Keep your heads up!!

They may be keeping a sparkly veneer but Salisbury is worried they're crying on the inside: "We're talking about 53 high school and middle school girls who just lost their mama bear," Salisbury said. "They're really hurt. They're the ones being punished. They're the ones who have to pick up the pieces." Because she won't be around to make good decisions any more.

Like Kelsie said, there's time for sadness and there's time for killer hip rolls, but this might also be a time for the dance team and Cannon Falls School District to take a good hard look at subtle creeping militarism in their program. For one thing, the school mascot is a bomber. Even though I'm sure there have been noble, valiant, spunky bombers who were good at sports, mass death and destruction keeps coming to mind. The Bomber Dance Team website is slashed with the tagline "Put On Your War Paint," which the girls carried through masterfully with Rambo headbands, war paint, zombie eye makeup and a gymful of badass zombie attitude. While not strictly militaristic, zombie references coordinate nicely with the horror, the horror.

But let's not think too much about guns and war and bombers and the bonds that happen when you're scared to death. Because that would be a bummer.

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