Another Day, Another Weird Ballet Stunt

You guys. This is getting a little bit out of hand. First the Kendall Jenner debacle, and now this? Despite the fact that dance seems to be getting more coverage than ever before (thanks to celebs, TV shows, movies and tasteful advertising campaigns), there are still lingering stereotypes about ballet being easy, or dance not being a real job.

Le sigh. Vanity Fair released a short video to accompany a story on dance-student-turned-photographer Petra Collins. There are several things at play here, and before we totally freak out, I think it's important to weigh them all:

  1. The story is about how Collins rebounded from a devastating knee injury, incurred when she was a teenager, to find a love of photography. Neither the story nor the video are attempting to portray her as a professional dancer. It's about reinvention.
  2. That said, the video is set up to show Collins "teaching" ballet. Yikes! It's clear from the moment she walks on camera that she doesn't posses the level of ballet technique necessary to teach others. There's lots of giggling and she describes herself as an "expert non-expert," so we know this is for fun. But that's leads us to point 3.
  3. It's obvious that Collins isn't trying to pose as a professional. The real problem is that there are tons of stunning professional dancers who could have been hired for this video—for EVERY dance-related video and advertisement—but who aren't. When professional dancers aren't sought out and hired, it reinforces the idea that dance isn't serious, or popular...or even a real thing that people do for their career.

Nope.

Let's consider a scenario in which a video combining ballet and Petra Collins could have been something other than very strange. She could have been dancing her heart out with her friends in her living room. She could have been receiving technique pointers from a pro, like Laurie Hernandez in this video. She could have been talking about what the loss of ballet meant to her while she improvised movement. She could have been photographing a few professional dancers, since photography is her current medium and dance is her first love. Too bad Dev Hynes (accompanying on piano) couldn't get some of his new dance friends involved with this project. #disappointed

Want more Dance Spirit?

Latest Posts


Trans dancer, choreographer, and activist Sean Dorsey in his work Boys in Trouble (Keegan Marling, courtesy Sean Dorsey Dance)

8 Phenomenal Trans and GNC Dancers to Follow

Whether through color-specific costumes, classes separated by sex, or the "traditional" view of the roles boys and girls should play in ballet, most dance students are taught that their gender determines their role in the studio beginning in elementary school. And, especially for those struggling with their own gender identity, that can cause harm and confusion. "From a very young age, I did not see myself reflected anywhere in the modern dance field," says trans dancer, choreographer, and activist Sean Dorsey. "There was a really intense message I received, which was that my body and identity don't have a place here."

Despite significant societal progress in regards to gender representation, the dance world has trailed behind, and many transgender and gender nonconforming teenagers still feel lost within the world of dance. Prominent trans and GNC professional dancers are few and far between. "Being a Black trans woman means I have to work extra, extra, extra hard, because I have to set the tone for the people who come after me," says Brielle "Tatianna" Rheames, a distinguished voguer.

But the rise of social platforms has given Rheames, Dorsey, and other trans and GNC dancers a path to visibility—and that visibility helps create community and change lives. "Social media plays an extremely big part," Rheames says. "You can't just hide us anymore." Here are eight incredible trans and GNC dancers to add to your own Instagram feed.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search