Dance in Pop Culture

Meet "RuPaul's Drag Race's" First Professional Ballet Dancer: Brock Hayhoe AKA Brook Lynn Hytes

Courtesy MPRM Communications

A bright disposition with a dab of astringent charm is how I remember Brock Hayhoe, a National Ballet School of Canada schoolmate. Because we were a couple years apart, we barely brushed shoulders, except at the odd Toronto dance party where we could dance all night with mutual friends letting our inhibitions subside through the music. Dancing always allows a deeper look.

But, as my late great ballet teacher Pyotr Pestov told me when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine in 2009, "You never know what a flower is going to look like until it opens up."


Well, Brock Hayhoe has most certainly bloomed—all the way into his celebrated drag-persona: Brooke Lynn Hytes, a popular and polished performer on the new season of the Emmy Award winning TV series "RuPaul's Drag Race." He's the first professional ballet dancer (and the first Canadian) on the show so far, and by the looks of the episodes currently airing, he's already breaking the mold—even appearing on pointe.

What was your journey from ballet student to drag queen?

I started dancing ballet at 15, so when I joined NBS that same year I had virtually no experience. I was so far behind, but I worked really hard. After three years at NBS and two additional years as a part of the post-secondary program, I got a job dancing in South Africa with Cape Town City Ballet. I was fortunate to dance many principal roles, but something was missing.

The truth is, I've never enjoyed dancing the male roles. I always saw myself as that tall, glamorous soloist girl from Balanchine's "Rubies." So I moved to New York City to join Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. I traveled the globe with them dancing amazing roles, but my eye was moving more towards the drag side of things. So I moved back home to Toronto and decided I would become a full-time drag queen.

How do you define what drag is to you? 

I think drag is for everyone. To me, drag is physically becoming someone other than who you are.

How did the name Brooke Lynn come about?

Ha! I've had four drag names.

My first was one Halloween when I was pulled on stage at a bar and asked my name. I panicked and said Jackie D. Why? I don't know, but that only lasted one night.

Then I decided I wanted to be Carmen. It sounded sexy and it's one of my favorite ballets. I stopped doing drag while in South Africa so when I moved to New York I decided my name would be Bianca.

Finally, when I moved back home to Toronto local legend Fara N Hyte adopted me as her drag daughter and gave me the name Brooke Lynn Hytes.

Did you have a moment when everything clicked and you thought, "Drag could legit be my full-time career right now"?

Shortly after moving back to Toronto I won my first drag pageant called the Queen of Halloween at a local bar. Once that happened, I started getting bookings all over the city and that's when it kind of clicked that I was really good at this.

What was your upbringing like? 

Both of my parents come from very strict Christian upbringings so my upbringing was quite strict, which caused me to rebel in my later years. When I came out as gay at 18 my parents weren't thrilled. It took time but eventually they warmed up to the idea and now they love it! My mom even came to the premiere of the show!

Inquiring ballerinas want to know: What's worse—needing a bathroom break when you're in full ballet costume with tutu and tights, or in full tucked, pulled and padded drag? 

Oh, full drag for sure! I wear about seven pairs of tights plus padding plus tucking, so there is lots of rearranging that needs to be done every time mother nature calls.

What did you take from the ballet world into your life as a drag performer?

The importance of being professional and punctual. As a dancer, you are drilled in how important it is to be on time and to be easy to work with. In my opinion that's something many drag queens need a few lessons on.

What would you bring back from the drag world if you ever joined a dance company again? 

A sense of fun. I think sometimes we take ourselves too seriously in the dance world, and drag has definitely taught me the joy, and the importance, of laughing at yourself and being a little more laid back.

You are becoming a role model to many. How does that feel?

It feels weird to be honest. I never thought of myself as a role model. I'm just a man in a wig chasing his dreams!

That said, it's such a privilege being able to inspire people. I am so lucky to be in the position I'm in right now and never want to take that for granted. I would love to use my platform to help homeless LGBTQ youth and help LGBTQ youth in other countries who are not fortunate to have the same rights that we as North Americans have. I would also like to really showcase my queer Canadian brothers and sisters in any way I can. And of course, World Peace ;)

The Conversation
News
Fox produced a live broadcast of Rent in January—but could an original musical be next? Photo by Kevin Estrada, Courtesy Fox

When a musical prepares to make the transfer from a smaller, lesser-known venue to Broadway (where theaters hold 500-plus seats), often there's a collective intake of breath from all involved. After all, a bigger house means more tickets to sell in order to stay in the black, and sometimes shows with even the most tenacious fan bases can't quite navigate such a jump. But what about the transfer from stage…to screen? Is Broadway ready to be consumed from the comfort of your couch?

Keep reading... Show less
Hive by Boston Conservatory student Alyssa Markowitz. Photo by Jim Coleman

The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.

Keep reading... Show less
Breaking Stereotypes
Courtesy Lee

Daphne Lee was dancing with Collage Dance Collective in Memphis, Tennessee, when she received two difficult pieces of news: Her mother had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, and her father had Parkinson's disease, affecting his mobility and mental faculties.

The New Jersey native's reaction: "I really need to move home."

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Bruce Mars via Unsplash

Summer is almost upon us, and whether you're a student about to go on break or a pro counting the days till layoff, don't forget that with warm weather comes a very serious responsibility: To maintain your cross-training routine on your own.

Those of us who've tried to craft our own cross-training routine know it's easier said than done. So we consulted the stars, and rounded up the best options for every zodiac sign. (TBH, you should probably consult an expert, too—we'd recommend a physical therapist, a personal trainer or your teacher.)

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by McCallum Theatre
Last year's winner: Manuel Vignoulle's EARTH. Jack Hartin Photography, Courtesy McCallum Theatre

It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.

Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body

It's become second nature in dance studios: The instant anyone gets hurt, our immediate reaction is to run to the freezer to grab some ice (or, more realistically, a package of frozen peas).

But as routine as icing our injuries might be, the benefits are not actually backed up by scientific studies. And some experts now believe icing could even disrupt the healing process.

Keep reading... Show less
Advice for Dancers
Getty Images

I'm a contemporary dancer, and I'm nervous about trying to get pregnant since I can't predict if it might happen during the middle of the season. We have a union contract that is supposed to protect us. But I'm scared because several of my colleagues' contracts weren't renewed for no particular reason. Having a big belly could be a big reason to get rid of me!

—Andrea, New York, NY

Keep reading... Show less
Dance As Activism
From Dance of Urgency. © Ekvidi

When the going gets tough, the tough start dancing: That's the premise behind "Dance of Urgency," a recently opened exhibit at MuseumsQuartier Vienna that features photos, video and other documentary material relating to the use of dance as political protest or social uprising.

The groups featured in the show, largely based around clubs and electronic dance music scenes, span the globe and respond to a variety of issues—from inequality and social stratification to racial divides to crackdowns on club culture itself.

Keep reading... Show less
News

Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.

The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.

As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Lorenzo Di Cristina/Unsplash

When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.

The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."

Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Quinn Wharton

What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.

So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance History
Still of Fonteyn from the 1972 film I Am a Dancer. Photo courtesy DM Archives

On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance As Activism
Courtesy #Dance4OurLives

Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.

When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.

The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox