Recent media attention on sexual harassment has me wondering about my director, who has gotten involved with adult dancers in the company while being married. One friend became depressed after the relationship ended. Another dancer's contract wasn't renewed when his wife found out about his affair. Is this behavior crossing the line?
The dance community's legal response over the last few months towards eliminating sexual misconduct in the workplace is proof that a sea change is occurring. While only a few companies have policies prohibiting consensual relationships between dancers and those who supervise them, like artistic directors, you can bet that more stringent guidelines are to come. Bosses who sleep with employees tend to be serial subordinate seducers whose power to cast and promote dancers can make company members feel like this is the main way to get ahead. This is a liability for any director who exceeds the bounds of appropriate behavior and opens the door to charges of sexual harassment.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the legal definition of sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that's severe or pervasive and affects work conditions or creates a hostile work environment. It can be verbal or written (asking a dancer for dates), physical (inappropriate touching), nonverbal (following a dancer around), or visual (displaying pictures of a sexual nature). Dancers who feel that they have been victimized can speak to their unions or call the Equal Rights Advocates' hotline at 800.839.4372.
Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.