“I am a huge feminist, so there was something about the strength of the females going on pointe, that really interested me, I like that there was strength beyond the beauty.”
Chase Johnsey is a gender-queer dancer that is making his mark on the ballet world. Dancing professionally for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo for 14 years, Chase was known for his expertise, speed and grace. In 2017 he won one of the UK’s top dance prize for the Best Male Dancer in the National Dance awards.
His time at Trockadero’s ended in January 2018, after Chase resigned from what he described as his dream job. In a powerful YouTube video he outlined allegations of harassment from a company that he said did not appreciate his gender expression and that of other dancers. Trockadero is known for sending up gender, with the all-male company dancing on pointe in drag. This gender expression was said to be something sent up on stage and trans issues or gender fluidity was discouraged. Chase made a big sacrifice and thought he would never dance professionally again.
Upon leaving Trockadero’s, a significant opportunity opened up to Chase, with English National Ballet’s Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo, offering Chase the chance to joining the female corps de ballet for the company’s production of The Sleeping Beauty. The casting was not done as a publicity stunt, but as a genuine attempt for the company to include Chase in the ensemble. This historic move was said to be the first, for a classical dance company to cast a gender queer man in the female ensemble. The casting certainly got conversations started about the capacity of ballet to reimagine traditional gender roles and gender more broadly.
Chase found that there was more freedom at the English National Ballet to be himself than at Trockadero’s. He hopes that he has taken an important step that will make it easier for gender queer and trans dancers in the future to get jobs in these companies.
“the possibility for anybody in any ballet company, for anybody who is talented enough to be there”
This is an extensive interview that covers Chase’s journey in to dance, including his vision for the future of dance.
“ballerinas are my superheroes”
This episode is part of a season that profiles performers and choreographers that disrupt the “normal” through their artistry including Luke George, Mette Ingvartsen, Philip Adams, Bruno Isakovic and Justin Shoulder.
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