A genderfluid ballerina has made a landmark appearance in the English National Ballet.
Chase Johnsey, 32, became the first genderfluid dancer to star in a performance by the previously women-only company when he took to the London Coliseum’s stage in The Sleeping Beauty last week.
Johnsey, who is gay and uses male pronouns, rose to prominence after taking the title of best male dancer at the National Dance Awards last year.
This was around the same time that the idea Prince George might be taught ballet at his preschool was attracting outrage from The Daily Express, among others.
This was followed by yet more outrage when Women in Sport chief executive Ruth Holdaway suggested in December that boys should be taught ballet in school as all sports should be available to all genders.
Johnsey’s breakthrough shows that Holdaway and others have a point, with the American ballerina opening up about the accepting atmosphere he had found in the prestigious dance company.
“My first couple of days were terrifying, but it was so amazing how the girls helped me,” he told The Telegraph.
“They understand that I am really working hard and they respect me for that.
“As a gay person I was bullied by straight guys growing up, but in the production I am just dancing and that is what people see,” Johnsey continued. “All the other dancers, male and female are rooting for me.
“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.”
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He told Elle that it was difficult to get to this point, outlining the struggle which he had endured to achieve his dreams.
“Some say that I’ve always been an outcast – are you a boy? Are you a girl? Are you transgender? Are you gender-neutral?” said Johnsey.
“It was really challenging to be told day after day that you’re not man enough. I think I was born a ballerina. I just prefer doing female roles.
“I learned drag make-up from actual drag queens,” he revealed. “I went to the clubs and I asked the drag queens: ‘Can you teach me how to get this face beat?'”
And the dancer explained that his make-up routine required a great deal of effort, saying: “I have to contour like crazy and I have to highlight like crazy, and the lashes have to be extra long.”
He added: “I don’t know why I like performing as a ballerina but I like to live my life as a boy.
“I love dance because I don’t have to say anything, I don’t have to label anything, all I have to do is feel and be.”
Johnsey continued: “When I’m being a ballerina, I’m not trying to be more feminine; I’m not trying to be more masculine. All I’m doing is being myself.
“I guess the pointe shoes gave me my wings,” he remarked.