These days, social media is an essential tool for dance companies looking to promote their work. Karole Armitage's company, Armitage Gone! Dance, recently posted ads for their upcoming show at New York Live Arts, You Took A Part Of Me, a "mysterious and hypnotic display of erotic entanglement and unresolved attachment" inspired by traditional Japanese Noh drama.
But Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have blocked the company from posting images and videos promoting the work, labeling them as "adult sexual content." The company's Twitter ads account has been suspended indefinitely, despite multiple appeals.
Here is one of the images in question:
While Facebook and Twitter have strict rules for advertisements and boosted posts, Armitage's company says that even their organic posts promoting the show are being censored.
Twitter's Adult Sexual Content policy includes "nudity, partial nudity, sexual aids and toys, as well as adult/sexual language, video and images." Facebook maintains that their nudity policy "has become more nuanced over time," and that they "understand that nudity can be shared for a variety of reasons, including as a form of protest, to raise awareness about a cause, or for educational or medical reasons. Where such intent is clear, we make allowances for the content." They say that nudity in a painting or a sculpture is allowed—why should a dance performance be different?
Not to mention the fact that the dancers aren't even nude. In most of the censored images and videos, they are wearing beige leotards with two horizontal black stripes.
It should be obvious to anyone who looks at them that these images and videos don't belong in the same category as pornography. Besides the fact that they aren't even sexually explicit, they depict, as Armitage Gone! puts it, "a sophisticated production with high artistic value."
It seems whoever is making these decisions can't see past the sensuality to the art. This, unfortunately, tracks with how dance and dancers have long been sexualized, especially when viewed through the male gaze.
There's nothing new about artists being censored, either. But for a small dance company trying to fill seats, it has real and potentially damaging consequences.
Without being able to post content from their show on social media, Armitage Gone! has taken a new promotional tactic: Rallying their supporters around the injustice of their work being censored.
The company is encouraging audiences to share their posts to raise awareness about censorship in the arts—and, of course, to show support by attending the upcoming show.