Being Transgender in a Binary Ballet World
I'm a transgender ballet dancer (male to female) who desperately wants to perform in a professional company. I haven't come out about my gender because I'm afraid it will hurt my career. Yet it feels wrong to do male variations and have my teachers tell me to be more masculine. What can I do?
Only you can determine when or if you are ready to share this news. While increasing numbers of transgender contemporary dancers, like Chinese cultural icon Jin Xing, are challenging social norms, ballet—more than any other dance form—is defined by stereotypical gender roles. The art form's training, attire, and gender-specific aspects and movements, like pointe shoes for women and double tours for men, can be confusing to navigate as a transgender dancer. Choreographer Katy Pyle, a cisgender (non-trans) dancer, addresses this dilemma in her Brooklyn-based company Ballez by including a spectrum of gender identities and roles (such as a "Tranimal," a creature that's part bird and part man as the title character in her Firebird).
If you're emotionally prepared to start a conversation about your gender, you might approach a trusted faculty member. But if you feel that your program may not support you as a transgender woman, you could enroll in a different school where you can embrace your femininity more freely. As the dance community becomes more sensitive about the full spectrum of gender identity, it will hopefully welcome all genders into its fold. For more support on how to speak with your teachers, check out PFLAG, the nation's largest network for people of all orientations, allies and families.
Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at email@example.com.
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.