Theatre Thoughts: Ethics of Image

Thoughts on ethics of training, promotion and image...

Image Source:

Ethical Considerations
I recently made a comment on a blog that led me to a conversation with a dance teacher friend of mine about the ethical implications of images. The student in question had posed an interesting point that made me think deeper about the pros and cons of the point she raised. As a dance teacher she had stated that she always used current images on her website: this is obviously an important advert for the school as she mentioned that previous schools she had taught at we using extremely old images, and promoting themselves on the stage and television success, of students that were no longer at the school and not taught by the current teachers of the classes. Ethically, can a school promote themselves this way when the teachers now there were not responsible for these success stories?

In my day job I work with a lot of dance schools, and they often post pictures to Facebook or their websites of their students, shows, classes, etc. Their websites are simple and easy to navigate showing the location of the school and their class times, to enable parents to decide whether the times and locations are suitable for their children and their lifestyles. I understand this. However the scary thought that occurred to me while commenting was the following: the images are easily accessible through the website, that anyone can find and view. The classes are clearly marked and the location and times are obvious. Anyone can see a picture of a particular child and easily work out where they will be and at what time. This is quite a terrifying thought and it's terrible that we have to think this way, but what are the ethical implications of this?

On the one hand, the schools have to advertise, otherwise the business would fail. On the other hand, how can a school successfully advertise themselves while still protecting the identities of the children involved?

Image Source:

Another blog that got me thinking was the importance of image in the performing arts. As performers are we judged more for what we look like than what we can do? I believe yes. I have lost work in the past because of my body type and (in my opinion) less talented performers are having greater success because they adhere to the current commercially acceptable ideal.

In an industry based on talent, why does image hold such great sway over the casting process? When I was training, we were told to always attend auditions wearing full make-up with neat hair, and auditions I attended were full of model-type dancers wearing not very much to show off their figures. Now, I can dance as well wearing my jazz-pants and a vest top as I can wearing fishnet tights and a bra. My make-up has no effect on my voice. However to suggest to a performer that they attend an audition in a pair of jeans and a hoody would be unthinkable (unless that's what the character would wear!)

So why this focus on image before we have even had a chance to show what we can do? I understand that for certain jobs we have to look a certain way and presenting ourselves in this manner allows a casting director to see us more clearly in that role, but otherwise, surely the better dancer/actor/singer deserves the job over the one who has had their hair and nails done for the day?

An actress friend of mine has recently been cast in a new show. She is desperately trying to loose weight before rehearsals begin, despite getting the job while looking a certain way, and under no pressure from the production team to change her appearance. Why is she doing this? To feel better about herself? To fit into what she believes the expectation of her character should be? I don't know.

P.S. I wrote most of this while trying to fight a cat off the laptop (fighting my typing fingers and chasing the mouse pointer across the screen) so apologies for any random spelling mistakes or the odd 'Q' that might appear! I did proof-read before posting but this is just an apology in case I missed any!

Originally Published at


Popular Posts