Ballez is lesbians doing ballet. AND Ballez is not just lesbians, it’s all the queers that ballet has left out.

Ballez welcomes the outcasts that have always been ballet’s muses; those whose identities have been a part of ballet, but were forced into the shadows. In the margins, we have still communicated who we are through the study and mastery of ballet’s coded gendered gestures, and we know how to dance our identities, and subversively change our genre. It’s time for us to step into the spotlight, to demand that the form of ballet defy its racist, cishetero patriarchal lineage, and embrace the vitality and powerful life force of positive, inclusive change.

Begun in 2011 by genderqueer lesbian choreographer Katy Pyle, Ballez has grown to include a broad community of dancers, audiences, and change-makers. Ballez happens in classes, in grand performances, and in conversations through media outlets that reach millions. Ballez is influencing ballet; changing it from the inside out.

Ballez celebrates the emotionally expressive dancing of queers, dykes, fags, trans and gender non-conforming dancers whose identities have always been a part of ballet.

WE who have been deemed unworthy of the pride, nobility, and belonging in ballet’s centuries long hierarchical history… are coming back into the castle now, to take back the movements, magic, creativity and power that we have always been integral to creating. We’re here to dance, to perform, to learn and to teach, from our own expertise, and thus to change the form of ballet into what it could be: a place of joyful expression, passion, beauty, complexity, diverse representation, and, respect.

Ballez centers our identities, our dances, and our hidden histories within the creation of new story-ballets that update old expectations; with live orchestras, large casts of diversely trained performers, and epic theatricality. The Ballez “Firebird” told a story of trans self-actualization within an explosive community of radical queers, and “Sleeping Beauty and the Beast” told of unionizing 1890s garment workers, and, after a hundred year sleep, their re-awakening as 1990s AIDS activists fighting for their friends lives.

Since 2011, we have invited the broader community into our work through open Ballez classes and workshops that share our vision of re-imagined ballet class culture; inviting dancers of all identities and backgrounds into our process to re-imagine all the standard components of a ballet class, but with joy, generosity, play, mutual admiration, and a reflection of our constantly evolving intersectional queer-feminist values. We re-introduce the desire, sexuality and provocation always inherent to ballet, but with the necessary addition of CONSENT, owning our own beauty and sexuality, and defining and creating that for and with each other, with respect for one another and our boundaries.

For too long ballet has upheld the values and desires not of its dancers, but of the wealthy, cisheterosexual white male patrons that have dictated its budgets, and thereby, its expression.

We’re taking ballet back, for ourselves, and for the next generations of dancers, on our own terms, and for our own empowerment.

Come join us, and lez dance our way through to the revolution.

Cover video edited by: Lola Hourihane
Photos by: M. Sharkey, Elyssa Goodman, Ann Basu, Theo Wargo

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