What is "Intimacy Direction"?

Just over a year ago I began my exploration of Intimacy Direction. Which means that over the past year I have had a lot of conversations that start with the question, “What exactly IS intimacy direction?”

Initmacy Directors’ International defines it this way: “Intimacy Direction is the codified practice of choreographing moments of staged intimacy in order to create safe, repeatable, and effective storytelling. “

Theatrical Intimacy Education says that one trained in the art: “empowers artists with the tools to ethically, efficiently, and effectively stage intimacy, nudity, and sexual violence.”

So, what’s intimacy? Intimacy is usually immediately thought of as sex. However, intimate moments could happen between grieving siblings, or with intense eye contact across a room. Intimacy is personal vulnerability.

And, why choreograph it? This question also comes up, usually with a concern that it would look “forced” of “inauthentic”. However, fights are choreographed, and this is not often a concern raised with those moments. When something is choreographed, it means there is a level of accuracy to be achieved and maintained. Just like with fight choreography, personal safety is a mandate. Similar to dance choreography, in intimacy choreography, a person with training has created movement for the moment that: makes the performers look good, that furthers the story, that fulfills the director’s creative vision. Additionally, choreography is repeatable.

All of these elements make for story-telling that is safe for the performers, clear, and consistent. Communication with the audience is part of the goal of any performance, and intimacy choreography makes that possible.

Just like a dance choreographer has extensive training in various genres of dance and fight choreographers are trained on weapons and hand-to-hand, intimacy choreographers should have training in creating these moments for the stage. The two organizations linked above are doing that. I have been lucky enough to train with both.

The more training I do, the more I want to train and learn. And the more I see the importance of this work, in everything from youth theatre to ballet companies to professional theatre to ballroom dance competition teams. All of these instances require a performance of authenticity and vulnerability, for the communication of a story to an audience. A performer’s personal safety and professional integrity should never be compromised for that. Nor should the story or the audience suffer because intimate moments weren’t crafted with the same deliberation as the rest of the performance. And that is what an intimacy director or intimacy choreographer does.

This blog post is by no means comprehensive or definitive. For more information on this field, please visit the websites linked above. Also check out my Twitter timeline, as I regularly share the latest news on intimacy on stage via that platform. The button is below, or on the Contact page.