Dancing Beyond Gender Norms
Hannah (my daughter and the other half of Because I'm Proud Studio), is a dancer. She'll hate that I'm telling you this, but when she was tiny, all she wanted to wear were leotards and tights. I think her school pictures were in "dancy" outfits" until at least third grade. As a result, I have been to more ballets, and modern and jazz performances than I can count. I love to watch Hannah dance, and I love attending shows with her and critiquing the show after. A couple of years ago, we started wondering what shows would look like if ballets featured lgbtq storylines. As we thought about it more, we wondered what traditional ballets would look like if the casting was free from gender stereotypes.
I'm thinking about this right now particularly because it's Nutcracker season. In case you don't know the story, a little girl named Clara is gifted with a Nutcracker by her uncle at the family Christmas Eve party. She then dreams of a magical world in which the Nutcracker comes to life and whisks her away to the land of the sweets where she watches various dances. So- what if traditional Nutcracker roles were gender-inclusive instead? What about a non-binary Clara or Sugar Plum Fairy or Nutcracker? Nothing about the story would inherently change with alternate casting, and it might in all honesty, with apologies to choreographers everywhere, make for a more interesting ballet.
I want to stop here for a second and recognize that there are some companies reaching beyond traditional casting to include non-binary dancers in performances. You can read about them in this article from Dance Magazine- https://www.dancemagazine.com/nonbinary-dancers
or this article from the NY Times- https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/19/arts/dance/nonbinary-ballet-dancers-swan-lake.html.
What I know about dance in general and ballet in particular mainly comes from watching and listening to Hannah as she grew up dancing so take what I say as purely an observer's opinion and not an expert evaluation. Having said that, it seems to me that ballet in particular is so incredibly gendered, from the classic roles to the techniques, especially partnering. I think it would be a large stretch and a letting go of "tradition" to allow a non-binary person assigned female at birth to take on a traditionally male role, or a non-binary person assigned male at birth to dance en pointe and take on a traditionally female role.
Can you imagine, though, what it would mean to young people who identify outside gender norms to see themselves represented on stage? Or the validation a non-binary individual might feel to be included in a company no matter their gender at birth?
When I think about it, isn't this what needs to happen everywhere? Don't we need to burst our imaginary bubbles of what is traditional and "appropriate" regarding gender roles so that anyone of any gender can achieve their goals and live their dreams?
I know I sound very idealistic when I ramble on about diversity and inclusion, but if we're going to create a safe, inclusive, equitable community where everyone gets to live their lives with the freedom to be who they are, we have to think bigger and bolder than ever.
I'm looking forward to the day when I can see a gender-diverse Swan Lake or Nutcracker. That will be a show to remember.
I would love to hear from you about this or any other pride-related topic.
Lots of love, and thanks as always for being part of this community,