From The Why Hasn’t This Been Standard Practice For Decades File

I recently wrote a piece for ArtsHacker about the emerging role of intimacy direction for productions on stage and screen.  When I first read about intimacy direction a few years ago, it was at a time when there were revelations about people exploiting their position or opportunities without the full consent of others.  The role of intimacy director seemed to be about ensuring a level of protection and security.

However, the more I have read about the role, the more I realized it is really addressing a long neglected part of the creative process. In every instance when performers are exerting themselves in close quarters with each other, whether it is dance or stage combat, movements are rehearsed and scrutinized in detail until it is right. Then someone is assigned to make sure everyone warms-up and rehearses those motions prior to every performance.

When it comes to intimate moments, performers are often told to go off and figure it out themselves or given vague direction. This lack of proper attention can result in a very awkward moment or an all too authentic moment, both of which jar the audience out of the established reality.

The customary practices surrounding dance and fight choreography may be tedious and boring, but they have a goal of providing audiences with a consistent quality experience while ensuring no one gets hurt in the process. In this context intimacy direction is about addressing a long standing lack of attention that has risked these objectives.

When you think about it, you can almost credit the problem as an extension the oft observed phenomenon where people are unfazed by scenes of massive death and destruction but recoil at hints of nudity or intimacy. Perhaps people have been more comfortable micromanaging fights, but prefer to distance themselves from intimacy.

While intimacy directors are increasingly becoming part of the production process, demand far outstrips supply so if you are interested in getting trained, check out Intimacy Directors International to find out more.

Also check out the ArtsHacker post for additional links, videos and examples.

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About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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