The Australian Ballet, the nation’s upholder of classical tradition, asks its dancers to have unpainted nails, to remove jewellery and to cover up any tattoos when on stage. Danilo Radojevic, the AB’s associate artistic director, says a tattoo would not preclude a dancer from joining the company.
“Those dancers who do have body art simply disguise it with costumes and make-up,” he says.
Rafael Bonachela, director of the Sydney Dance Company, is himself tattooed. He has a script on one forearm that reads “A por mas suenos” (for more dreams). And he is about to get another that will go “all the way up” his arm. Bonachela understands, as perhaps no other dance director does, the role tattoos play in self-expression.
“In classical ballet it is all about the line,” he says. “You probably can’t even have a suntan, and if you’re supposed to be a swan you can’t have a great tattoo across your chest.”
Contemporary dance, however, is more open to different body shapes, hair colour and skin art. Although there are no members of his company with visible tattoos, Bonachela says he would never reject a talented dancer because of it.
“I would actually think that was very cool because it is part of their personality, it is who they are,” he says.