Advice for Dancers

Bob Fosse Asked Dancers to Strip Down in the '70s—But Would that Fly Today?

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What is an acceptable request from a choreographer in terms of nudity? On the first day of shooting All That Jazz in the 1970s, Bob Fosse asked us men to remove everything but our jock straps and the women to remove their tops. His rationale was to shock us in order to build character, and it felt disloyal to refuse. Would this behavior be considered okay today?

—Anonymous


I sincerely doubt it. While nudity may further a choreographer's artistic vision at times, you don't need to participate if it falls outside of your comfort zone or if it's just billed as a way to "build character." What might have slipped under the radar back then is being subjected to enhanced scrutiny now as companies address sexual harassment. The American Guild of Musical Artists, The Actors Fund, Dance/USA and other groups have all been examining studio and performance practices to ensure appropriate guidelines.

Many uses of nudity in dance are not harassment, but asking dancers to participate in such a vulnerable act shouldn't be taken lightly. There needs to be an open channel of communication between a choreographer and dancers to make sure everyone feels respected and comfortable.

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

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Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

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