Ballez Is Ballet For Lesbian, Queer, And Trans People, & It’s Revolutionary

Ballet is not known for being terribly inclusive, but choreographer Katy Pyle’s new company Ballez seeks to change that by featuring queer and transgender dancers in subversive reimaginings of classic shows — tutus optional.

Pyle told the New York Times Magazine, “I want to use this form to show that people are still carrying these subconscious judgments and ideas about how we should behave in relation to each other, how we should look and move, and what’s possible and what’s allowed.” To that end, everything from Ballez classes to their performances upend what we think of as traditional ballet. Instead of fostering a Black Swan-style competitive spirit, Ballez classes begin everyone introducing themselves and noting their preferred gender pronoun(s). And, gird your loins, but there are no mirrors in the classroom. NO MIRRORS.

Like so many young would-be dancers, Pyle was told her body wasn’t right for ballet. Now she refuses to let anyone else be stymied by the same excuse.”I have been really angry about not being allowed into this world that I deeply committed myself to as a young person,” Pyle said. “It’s been this knot inside of me. But because ballet was cut off from me as a really young person, it’s still a playful space in my memory.”

Pyle’s latest show, Sleeping Beauty & the Beast, takes the fairy tales of yore and turns them on their head, with a narrative that touches on labor issues in the 1890’s contrasted with the AIDs crisis in the 1990’s. The Beast’s character is inspired by trans activist Leslie Feinberg, who wrote Stone Butch Blues and stumped for labor rights. Details like this are what make Ballez stand out from the skinny, predominantly white, cis ballet crowd. After all, it wasn’t until 2015 that the American Ballet Theatre crowned Misty Copeland their principal dancer, the first ever African-American woman to be given that title in the company’s 75-year history.

Check out Ballez.org for more info, and if you’re in NYC, check out one of their shows. Sleeping Beauty & The Beast is running from April 29 to May 8.