McAllister brings up an interesting point about the way dance marketing has become increasingly raunchy in the past 15 years in response to an increasingly sexualised culture. His personal guiding rule is “if it can’t be in the show, it can’t be on the poster … otherwise it’s misleading people”.
So, what do dancers think of nudity? You would imagine that most would be fine — incidentally, they are paid a so-called nudity loading for their efforts — but a surprising number admit to discomfort, at least initially. Li still recalls his nerves at going almost completely bare, save for a dance belt, in The Rite of Spring (“I had to imagine I was a wild animal”).
Van Dijk, meanwhile, winces at the memory of being asked to perform nude for the first time at 19 as a young dancer in Rotterdam, but says “it’s like jumping into water with no clothes on — you get used to it”.
Some don’t, as was the case when former AB principal Justine Summers refused to dance in Bella Figura. (She would later say, “I don’t want to be remembered for the tits. I want to be remembered as a dancer.”)
SDC dancer David Mack has taken part in “extreme” performances with the de Frutos company in the past but says he still has times in the studio when he has qualms about baring all, depending on headspace or mood.
Young recruit Carroll says he was “definitely” hesitant when first approached for Nude Live — it seemed premature for only his second ever mainstage show with SDC — but took the approach “that I may as well do it now while my body is still young”.
For male dancers, nudity can trigger anything from body image issues — men, too, sometimes have “fat days”, says Mack — to “a real anxiety around penis size”, as Stewart puts it.
But when it comes to the sexual politics of nudity, female dancers are more likely to be put in potentially awkward situations, McAllister believes: “It can seem more gratuitous … often male choreographers seem to be more interested in talking the girls into getting out of their gear than the boys.”
Micich agrees that choreography tends to still be a “male-driven industry”.
When audiences head to AGNSW to watch the SDC dancers next month, be warned — they might be watching you. “I think there’s always an interesting reaction to observe when people go see a nude show,” says Mack. “We all go through this spectrum of voyeurism, a bit of shame, embarrassment. How long do you look for, and will you be judged for looking?”
Nude Live is at the Art Gallery of NSW from January 7 to 23.