chapter  7
11 Pages

Body Trouble

Sexual Harassment and Worker Abuse in Musical Theater Dance Employment
WithEric Kaufman

Beginning in the 1980s, and throughout years of employment on Broadway and beyond, I was an unwitting participant-observer to scenes of sexual harassment in musical theater dance workplaces. I experienced being a target of sexual harassment, not as trauma, but as an uncomfortable and accepted aspect of the employment landscape. The hypersexualized, bodily-aware, and emotional and physical intimacy of the work and work settings of theatrical dancers invite sexual banter and play that easily crosses the boundary between good-natured repartee and harassment. The uncertainty of dancers securing and maintaining work is amplified by employers’ and unions’ inability to guarantee employment. These aspects of the trade, along with extremely hierarchic employment power structures, encourage varieties of exploitation additional to all the usual ways in which workers are regularly abused in our market-driven systems of economy and employment. Taking an autoethnographic approach, along with contextualizing current literature on sexual harassment, this exploration addresses fundamental issues relevant to the present national conversation in the United States. Investigation into harassment in the explicitly sexually-charged environment of the theatrical dance workplace reveals the contradictions inherent to the hierarchies of worker abuse implicit in the current US cultural assessment of sexual harassment.