This Dancer is Working To Be The First Male Ballerina

Chase Johnsey in the English National Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty" - photo by Elliot Franks

Last week, the English National Ballet performed their version of "The Sleeping Beauty" with all their usual glory - elaborate sets and costumes, and lovely dancing. However, it was a groundbreaking moment for Chase Johnsey, as he became the first male dancer in recent history to perform a traditionally female role in a major ballet company. 

In an interview with The New York Times, the American-born dancer said that he "wants to be seen as a ballerina. My hair is up, I wear makeup, female attire. I am able to do female roles and look the part, so that is artistically what I do." He chooses to use the male pronoun but says that he is gender fluid. He has had facial surgeries to make his face appear more feminine and has been working with a nutritionist, physical trainer and ballet mistress to reshape his body, which included losing 20 pounds off his 5-foot 5-inch frame. 

Johnsey was formerly a member of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, famous for their comical renditions of classical ballets with men dancing en pointe in the leading roles. In 2017, he won an award for 'best male dancer' at Britain's National Dance Awards for his work with the company. For his role in Sleeping Beauty, however, he performed as a member of the corps de ballet, appearing in the character-dance sequences in character shoes.

The director of English National Ballet Tamara Rojo (who was recently under fire for her management of the company as well as her relationship with a dancer - see our reporting on that here) told the NY Times that she felt this step was "reflecting the world we live in. There are different races, cultures and beliefs in our company - this is another aspect of that view."

We're all for gender equality, and for people expressing their true selves by any means possible! It takes a truly brave person to do what Johnsey is doing. But this does open up an interesting debate. One the one hand, ballet has been used for centuries as a way for men to express feminine characteristics. And why should it matter who is performing the role, as long as they are embodying the character and executing the choreography with passion and grace? But, as Isabella Boylston told the Times, companies need to be "open to it going both ways" and place women in male roles as well. 

What are your thoughts? We want to hear from you - leave us a comment below!

Read the entire interview here

photo: Chase Johnsey in the English National Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty" - credit: Elliot Franks

Let's Hear It For The Dancing Dads

Dancing Dads

Father's Day is this weekend! (Did you forget? You're welcome for the reminder). In honor of these hardworking and loving fellows, we thought we'd highlight a few of our favorite dancing dad videos. 

This is an adorable video which surfaced last week and that we can't stop watching. Two-year-old Bella Daniels came down with a bad case of stage fright when performing at her first dance recital. When her dad saw the problem, he swooped in (with another baby on board!) and performed alongside her on stage. Shout out to this MVP for knowing all the choreography after practicing with her at home. 

Here's a classic from a few years ago - these dads attended a Valentine's Day ballet class with their daughters, and they are really giving it all they've got to make those turns and jumps happen! Special shout out to the dads rocking a tutu.

There have definitely been some stellar father-son duos on talent shows over the years, but John & Brandon Pohlhammer stand out as one of our favs. They strut their stuff on Britain's Got Talent last year, not only tapping their toes, but singing!

June is also wedding season, so we can't have a Father's Day tribute without throwing in a father-daughter wedding dance. Here's a great one, that starts with a traditional dance fake-out and ends with some seriously hilarious choreography that features everything from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air "Jump On It" to disco classics. 

Keep on dancin', daddy-o's!

Alvin Ailey Heats Up Lincoln with Girl Power

Jacqueline Green and Jamar Roberts in Judith Jamison's "A Case of You" - photo by Paul Kolnik - from alvinailey.org

Alvin Ailey has been in the news a lot lately, as they’ve been working on finessing a contract dispute. The dancers recently staged a boycott that stated they were paid less than other predominately ethnically white companies of a similar size and status. The good news is that the contract issues have been resolved, the dancers are back at it, and are ready to work. And by work, we really mean WERK! This season, ladies have really taken over the choreography front, and the company will be performing some female dominant classics for what they are calling the “Celebrate Women Program.”

It seems that the world is realizing that female choreographers are scarce, and maybe we should do something about it. On June 13th and 16th, amid their season of performances at Lincoln Center in New York City, the Ailey company will be performing some femme classics. What’s on the docket? Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison's “A Case of You” and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's “Shelter.” Oh, and they’ll also be premiering a brand new work by Jessica Lang called “EN,” which is bomb dot com and totally on board with the whole #wherethegirlsat when it comes to choreo thing.

The truth is, we could probably count on our hands and toes the amount of well known female choreographers. So the fact that Ailey is trying to bring some support to the female famine is pretty awesome. Can I get a “You go girl!” please?

photo: Jacqueline Green and Jamar Roberts in "A Case of You" - photo by Paul Kolnik - from alvinailey.org

Want To Be On The Tonys?

Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles hosting the 72nd Tony Awards

The Tony Awards are just two days away! Broadway's biggest night is an exciting time for many - performers, singers, dancers, choreographers, and musical theater fans alike. Some of Broadway's biggest stars will gather this Sunday NYC at Radio City Music Hall (you can watch it wherever you are on CBS at 8/7 c). This year, Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles will be co-hosting the event.

Though they're both relatively new to the Great White Way, both performers made waves in their recent Broadway debuts. Groban garnered recognition after his portrayal of Pierre in Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, which ran from October 2016 to September 2017 (Groban starred in the unconventional musical from October 2016 to July 2017). He earned a Tony nomination in 2017 for "Best Lead Actor in a Musical". Bareilles wrote the music and lyrics for Waitress, which opened in August 2016 and is still running on Broadway. She even starred in it from March 2017 to June 2017, and returned to the role again for six weeks earlier this year. 

We're really looking forward to seeing these two bring out some major chemistry onstage - if the Instagram photos they've been posting are any indication, it should be a fun evening! 

Want to join them? We thought so. 

Here's how to enter the #TonyDreaming contest. If you're 18 or older, all you need to do is post a photo of yourself as a youngin', strutting your stuff in a musical or recital (don't have a photo? Ask your mom or your grandma - they definitely have one). Post it on Instagram on Twitter with the hashtag #TonyDreaming , and you may be featured during the show! 

We'll be watching...and we hope to see one of our Pluggers up there!