Ballet Teacher

While in NYC this past weekend I interviewed a talented dance teacher who was applying for a new position with our organization. She carried an arsenal of impressive accomplishments, a bevy of well-known establishments had given her work, yet her chock- filled resume resembled a grasshopper, hippity- hopping from job to job.   As I listened to young teacher who seemed bright and gifted, I found myself not paying attention.

I realized that I had become completely sidetracked by her appearance.

It became obvious that uniforms, however stereotypical, were not limited to those of French maids, and Police officers. The reptilian part of our brain tells us to trust.   “It’s in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photo shopped world very hazardous.


And this trust – what the person is wearing including , her clothing, her piercings and tattoos was in fact bothering my perception.  Well I struggled –   Mainly because I have many friends, dancers and colleagues that entertain the tattoo fancy.

I was indeed guilty of profiling.

The meeting concluded and I left for my hotel. Her appearance however, stuck with me and It wasn’t until I was back to my hotel after viewing a beautifully produced ABT performance of Le Corsaire filled with many dancers who did have tattoos, and had turned on a rerun of Scandal that night that I realized why. No matter what the Olivia Pope’s or Cyrus Bean’s crew wore, they always look amazing but, more than anything else, they always looked like a press secretary a politician’ or maverick CEO.

So why did I think this young dancer/teacher with her great resume didn’t look the part?

Instead of my usual route to  not getting involved in others problem or entangled in a sensitive subject… rule, I have decided to blog about it.

Is it partly a generational divide.?  Maybe? – Maybe Not.   Every generation finds a way to make itself distinctive from the one before and to make a proclamation to the old folks that “we’re cool, you’re not.” The flappers in the 1920s shortened their skirts and bobbed their hair. Flappers were daring, self-assured, and sexy.  While the trend did not show breasts or hips, it did show a lot of leg, and the just-below-the-knee length horrified many of the older generation. Despite the youthful enthusiasm for flapper style, some people felt threatened by it. When hemlines began to rise, several states made laws charging fines to women wearing skirts with hemlines more than three inches above the ankle, and many employers fired women who bobbed their hair

Young women in the 1960s shortened their skirts even more (remember the mini and hot pants?) and grew their hair long while the young men drove their fathers wild by deserting crew cuts for the Beatles famous early ’60s “mop top.  After a long hiatus, piercings began to experience a cultural resurgence when hippies returning from India brought the tradition back to the States. Nose piercings, like the septum, became popular with the rise of the punk scene throughout ’70s and ’80s as a sign of rebellion.  In the ’90s it was grunge. – the hallmarks of grunge were comfort, and where the less you spent on clothes, the more ‘coolness’ you had.  Commercially successful in the first half of the 1990s, due mainly to the bands like Nirvana’ Pearl and Stone Temple Pilots’ Core…this was an Ugly American time…  Too lazy to shampoo, this unkempt fashion sense defined the look of the “slacker generation”, who “skipped school, smoked pot, smoked cigarettes and listened to music” hoping to be a rock star one day.

The 2000’s seem to be about tattoos. It’s not your granddad’s simple anchor on the bicep from his Navy days, either. No. Now it’s full sleeves and multiple tattoos in multiple places. Many really are gorgeous works of art.  Then of course in our small world of dance, Voila!   Like Magic… the sexy and so gifted Bad Boy of Ballet steps in to fill the void.  The Ukrainian Dancer Sergei Polunin, blessed with bewildering power and confidence, Sergei Polunin took the dance world by storm and became the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal. At the peak of his success, aged 25, he walked away, driven to the brink of self-destruction by stardom – his talent more an unwanted cargo than a gift. This – Earlier this year, a music video featuring Polunin dancing to Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” which was directed by LaChapelle, went viral on YouTube, recording 12.6 million views.


I did a lot of research about these tattoos. The following information is gathered from various TV and magazine interviews where he talks about his tattoos. On his left shoulder is The Joker from The Dark Knight. On his right shoulder, it says James Dean. The head is of Igor Zelensky, his mentor, a dancer and artistic director of the Russian theaters Sergei dances at. The scars on his chest and shoulder-blade (under which it says “Forgive me, tiger”) are “tiger scratches”. He loves tigers. The circle on his chest is a Kolovrat. It is an ancient pagan Slavic symbol representing the sun and it gives energy and light. On his stomach left is a howling wolf. He played “The Wolf” in the Royal Ballet 2009 production of “Peter and The Wolf” at age 19. His front right stomach says “I am not a human; I am not a god I am”. On his right side is The Grim”. On his wrist is a cross. On his hand is the national symbol of Russia, eagles clutching a shield, because he likes the design. On the inside of his index finger it says “dirty money”. On his foot it says “Achilles” in ancient Greek and on his inner ankle is a gladiator helmet. He loves ancient Rome, ancient Greece and the film “Gladiator” is one of his favorites. He says he just likes designs on skin.

Even though, I guess that am a seasoned professional and now part of the grandparent generation – I am shaking my head. I was motivated to answers to my distraction to try to seek out why I had these feelings and yet even as an artist that creates – I could not stop the interference from affecting me.

My hypothesis is Companies have the right to have a dress code and that dress code may exclude tattoos. Corporations, banks, attorney offices, retailers that appeal to the general public and public agencies aren’t likely to risk alienating a third of their potential clients by confronting them with their values about body art.


The Same is true of Ballet Teachers.

My unsolicited advice is:  Don’t expect company policy to change just because you think their attitude about tattoos is irrational. It may be irrational, but it’s their call. Don’t think that you have something so special to offer that they will make an exception. However brilliant, gifted, and creative your tattooed self may be, there’s probably someone equally brilliant, gifted and creative who isn’t sporting a fairy on her ankle or an elaborate design on the arm.  tattoos shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to employment because it doesn’t affect the person’s ability to get the job done. But there’s still a chance that employers or college admission officers can make negative prejudgment based on tattoos.

Hiring managers know that. In a recent survey by, 31 percent of HR managers said that visible tattoos can have a negative impact on their decision whether to hire someone. Why? Because the people who own the business or company are often in the 50- to 70-year-old crowd. Even when that’s not the case, the customer base for a business may include a substantial number of those who are 40 and up. If that’s an important demographic for a particular workplace, tattoos can be a liability for getting a job there.

Most current example – On April 1, 2016, Disney theme parks, including Walt Disney World Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, are banning admittance to anyone with visible tattoos.



Per The Walt Disney Company’s spokesperson for Consumer Relations-Theme Parks Division, April Engañar: “We don’t think that tattoos fit into the image of a wholesome Disney family. For years we have received complaints from concerned parents saying that they didn’t want their children to be subjected to tattoos so this decision has been a longtime coming. We still value tattooed customers; we just want them to cover up before experiencing the Happiest Place on Earth.”

Reactions on social media have, as one would expect, been very strong.

Legally, Disney has the right to refuse entry to anyone they please because the parks are their private property. “While we respect individuals’ freedom of expression through tattoos, we do not think that ink has any place in the Magic Kingdom for years it has been whispered that Disney CEO Bob Iger has despised tattoos, not just for the aesthetic quality, but because of tattoo artists making money for inking Disney logos and characters without compensating his corporation.  Other than tattoos, Disney has also banned facial piercings other than earrings and nose studs. That means no lip, eyebrow, septum or dimple piercings

What’s a recent college grad, or anyone on the job hunt for that matter, to do? If you don’t have a tattoo, consider whether the risk to your career potential is worth it. Sure, if you’re going into a creative field where tattoos are widely accepted, it may not matter. But if you’re thinking about work in a more straight-laced profession, including working with young children, you may be significantly limiting your chances.

If you really must have succumb to the INK, consider having it done in a place that can be covered up for work. Some people actually like this option or at least make it work for them. For some, it’s like having a secret identity. For some, their tattoos are part of their cloistered life, not something they want to share with everyone decided that if my body was going to be my medium I needed it to be as clean and pliable, capable of representing whatever it needed to.

Yes I agree it can be beautiful.



If you’re serious about being a dancer I would just put it off or not get it at all. It is a hassle to cover and when you’re performing/auditioning the last thing you want to worry about it whether the modification to your body you chose to make is going to show and cost you the job or discredit the performance.  The professional world works very differently, of course, but I guess I’m wondering why you’d want to swim upstream when you don’t have to..

So in closing, I say — Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. In your 40s and 50s you stop worrying about what other people think about you. And I would assume, finally, in your 60s and 70s you will realize that they were never thinking about you in the first place.

Maybe next time I will try to ignore the artwork on your wrist or ..

Maybe I won’t grant the interview at all.

Time will tell.







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