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Waunakee High School "Psych Ward" dancers tone down crazy routine

This has nothing to do with mental health.
This has nothing to do with mental health.
Screen grab: Waunakee Tribune

The Waunakee High School varsity dance team has been performing a number called "Psych Ward" recently, decked out in wild makeup and make-believe straitjackets, while snarling at the crowd.

Hannibal Lecter might have tapped his toe to the hip-hop soundtrack, but when a photo of the dance routine appeared in the local paper, mental health advocates in Wisconsin and beyond weren't crazy about what they saw.

The team has been ordered to cover up the words "Psych Ward" on the costumes, and it had to pay a public penance when it competed over the weekend at a state meet.

As a result of our heightened awareness, we have altered our dance costumes for this state competition. We assure everyone that this routine was never intended to hurt anyone's feelings and we apologize to anyone we might have offended.

Here's the photo that set everyone off:

Mental health advocates didn't like this photo, and its message, in the Waunakee Tribune.
Mental health advocates didn't like this photo, and its message, in the Waunakee Tribune.
Screen grab via the Waunakee Tribune

Erin Cotter, the team's coach, told the Capital Times she's flummoxed by the bad press. A competing team last year dressed in orange prison jump suits and nobody complained about that, she said. What's the difference?

"Our intent had nothing to do with mental illness. Our total intent was just a hip-hop dance and the songs and the words that were popular," she said. "The thought never crossed my mind or the school's or the parents' or the kids' that it was about mental illness."

Straitjackets and the words "Psych Ward" have nothing to do with mental illness? Wisconsin really is a weird place sometimes.


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