Production still from Indoor Person at Normal Ave Theatre (Off-Broadway). Photo by Sub/Urban Photography).
"Collaborating with Cessa was such a true gift. Her care for the actors/space was profoundly impactful in the rehearsal process. Intimacy spiritually and physically is difficult to navigate on stage… Cessa’s work makes it clear and powerful."
Mario Orallo-Molinaro (director)
"Cessa is a complete joy to work with! She leads with a confident and gentle energy and can break down otherwise daunting moments of intimacy into specific and thoughtful steps that support a nuanced performance."
Kaden Kearney (actor)
Thoughtful and connected choreography for sexual or otherwise intimate scenes between actors
Developing a culture of consent, respect, care, trust, comfort and agency in your rehearsal room
Referrals and resources for supporting artists when dealing with traumatic or intense material
Consultation and training in terms of best practices, both logistically and artistically, when it comes to sexual, romantic, explicit, violent, traumatic, or otherwise intimate material onstage or on camera
Training for performers and facilitators on best practices when it comes to intimacy direction and consent/boundary practices in theatre, film, dance, and improv
I teach and have been through the entire IDC curriculum and have the exact same credentials as someone who is certified, though I remain formally uncertified by choice. I have also trained 30 hours with Theatrical Intimacy Education, and taken courses with Moving Body Arts, Intimacy Coordinators of Color, and multiple independent intimacy professionals. Please see my resume for a full list of relevant training,
Process & values
The process I have developed contains elements from:
Trauma informed arts practice and sexual assault prevention (my process has been audited by a mental health practitioner)
(formerly) Intimacy Directors International’s value system
Formal training from Theatrical Intimacy Education, Intimacy Directors of Color, and Moving Body Arts
Language around consent repurposed from the BDSM/sex positive communities and Planned Parenthood
Stage combat and dance choreography processes
Anti-Racism, accessibility, bystander, anti-harassment, and mental health first aid training
Collaboration with fellow intimacy professionals
Concepts in social psychology
My personal experience as a collaborative actor, movement and dance choreographer, director, & educator
My priorities and values when I choreograph intimacy:
Clear and honest communication
Physical/emotional/mental safety & health
Personal autonomy, physical agency, & empowerment
Comfort, trust, and positivity
Ritual and structure
An intersectional approach, as well as the understanding that it is part of my job as an artist to help decolonize and equalize systems that have contributed to the oppression of marginalized populations, and to amplify voices of groups and individuals that have previously been silenced
I am committed to a "do no harm" approach that pushes against the idea that creative processes should have a hierarchical power structure. While I feel confident in my training and ability, I want to be held accountable for any harm, however unintentional, I am responsible for. If you ever feel you have been harmed by me or a colleague of mine, here are a few of your options:
1. Let me know in person or via this feedback form. It’s a vulnerable thing to tell someone when they have hurt you, but bringing awareness to the hurt can keep it from happening again, and begin steps towards repair. If you feel you have the emotional space for it, I hope you take this option.
2. Contact one of my accountability partners. If you would prefer to go through a mediator with your concern (which is perfectly valid and valued), these are the names and email addresses of individuals who have volunteered to be professional accountability partners:
Ann James, Intimacy Coordinators of Color - email@example.com
Jess K. Smith, University of Puget Sound - firstname.lastname@example.org
3. If your concern is with something that occurred on an intimacy project, you can also contact the production company directly.
*** accountability language from intimacy professional J.C. Meyer-Crosby***
"Francesca has the ability to not only assess the needs and comfort levels of those in the room, but also create dynamic and engaging intimate scenes. She cultivates a space that is safe enough for actors/artists to take risks and trust each other, which in of itself results in more artistically powerful intimate scenes."
Linnea Ingalls, SIX with HERON Ensemble (stage manager)
"Francesca Betancourt working as our intimacy coach for 2 Sisters and a Piano created a space of creativity where the artists were able to safely engage in intense physical moments. Her approach to the work helped me to feel comfortable in very intimate situations. This approach not only helped us create a realistic moment between two actors, but it also helped us drop into our bodies and develop more well rounded characters. She was also a flexible director, and was able to change up her communication style depending on what each individual artists needed."
QuiQui Dominguez, Two Sisters and a Piano at Theater Schmeater (actor)
"I worked with Cessa Betancourt as an intimacy coach on Two Sisters and a Piano, and I can't recommend the experience (and Cessa, specifically) enough. It was helpful to have a neutral third party along in order to bridge the gap between what I envisioned and hoped for and what was safe for the actors...The comfort provided by having worked on it in this fashion, ensured that I felt satisfied that my vision was achieved without having the actors feel like their boundaries were crossed in the process, and made for a very pleasant experience."
José Amador, Two Sisters and a Piano at Theater Schmeater (director)
"The explicit and definitive boundaries established through Cessa’s direction led my scene-partner and I to feel comfortable exploring levels of extreme intimacy in order to find the true heart of the scene. Without the culture of safety and personal empowerment cultivated by Cessa’s intimacy direction, the scene would have been unsafe and subpar."
Jordan Moeller, SIX with HERON Ensemble (actor)
"I had never directed scenes involving nudity or sexual content before, and Cessa quickly gave myself and the actors confidence that we could work comfortably with one another to make these scenes the best they could be. She provided a clear and well thought-out process for rehearsing intimate scenes that, from my point of view, was irreplaceable in helping the actors relax and connect with one another as themselves and as their characters. She also gave direction to strengthen the scenes creatively, making them more powerful and realistic. A lot of time and nervousness was saved on-set as the actors felt more freedom to communicate with me and each other than if Cessa hadn't worked with us. They also had the freedom to give their best performances since the parameters of what they were doing and their consent had been established."
Nick Thompson, SKAGIT (director)
"The emotional, physical, and interpersonal intelligence she brought to the process greatly improved our production. From our first meeting, it was abundantly clear that we were going to have a positive, communicative, and collaborative working relationship. Cessa blew me away with her level of familiarity with the play and intimacy expertise."
"The intimacy she choreographed was safe, respectful and authentic. I was impressed by the ways in which she built a collective understanding of consent and a sense of community within the cast. By the time we began staging intimate moments within the play, the actors were already comfortable with themselves, their scene partners and their positionality within the room – empowered within a brave space that valued their needs as artists and humans. Since Cessa and I had communicated so effectively prior to our staging rehearsals, I was at ease as she shaped the intimacy.
In addition to the work one typically associates with an intimacy director, intimate acts between characters, Cessa’s work also included supporting the mental health within the play. The play grapples with many mental health topics; the most predominate are generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, post traumatic stress disorder and depression. Cessa collaborated beautifully with both our dramaturg and psychiatrist in supporting the cast and creative team. Not only did Cessa help the cast believably portray the mental health of their characters in regard to emotional and physical life, she also helped them care for themselves both in and outside of the rehearsal room. Throughout the rehearsal process for this complex and challenging play, it was always good to have Cessa around. I cannot wait until the next time I get to collaborate with Cessa."
Andrew Garrett, Indoor Person (director)
What is intimacy direction?
Find current working definitions of this work from Theatrical Intimacy Education here.
For the purpose of my practice, "intimacy" includes any content that may feel particularly intimate to either performer or audience member, which can also include violence, traumatic / severe content, or nudity.
There are a variety of terms that apply to this work and mean slightly different things including: intimacy choreographer/designer, intimacy coordinator (film & TV specific), intimacy specialist, and intimacy consultant. I have worked as all of these roles, but most often use the term 'intimacy director' for myself.