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?
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 practicesto 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.
Mention "flamenco" to anyone in the Cuban dance scene, and they are likely to bring up Irene Rodríguez. Artistic director of Compañía Irene Rodríguez, Cuba's premiere flamenco company, Rodríguez has shared the stage with such renowned flamenco artists as Eva Yerbabuena, María Juncal and Antonio Gades. She is also a faculty member at Havana's Fernando Alonso National Ballet School, and has served as a choreography consultant at Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.
Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.