Chase Johnsey (in white) performs the White Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake with Heyler Lameda (Ricard Rosello, courtesy Chase Johnsey)

Gender-Fluid Ballerina Chase Johnsey Writes a Letter to His Teenage Self

In June 2018, Chase Johnsey made history. He became the first male dancer in modern ballet history to perform as a part of the female ensemble at an international ballet company, dancing in the corps in English National Ballet's Sleeping Beauty. Johnsey, who identifies as gender fluid but uses male pronouns, had previously been a standout performer with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo for more than a decade. Today, Johnsey serves as the co-founder and artistic director of Ballet de Barcelona, and continues to work as an LGBTQIA+ advocate in the dance community. Follow Johnsey on Instagram @chasejohnsey. —Cadence Neenan


Johnsey (center) performing at a young age (courtesy Johnsey)

Dear 15-year-old Chase,

I know your secret. You just bought a pair of Sansha pointe shoes from Discount Dance Supply with money you make from working Saturdays at your mom's hair salon. You haven't dared to bring them into the studio yet. Little do you know that you will soon find your feet in those pointe shoes, and in many pairs after that. Those shoes will not only take you around the world, but also allow you to make history. Most importantly, they will enable you to help other people find their feet. You are going to carve a brand-new place in the world of ballet for yourself and so many others after you.

I know this sounds crazy, because right now, the world makes no sense to you. The label closest to your gender identity won't exist for another 15 years or so. Your sexuality is seen as taboo. And, when you finally get the courage to wear your pointe shoes in front of others, and not just your full-length bedroom mirror, people are going to find you funny or think you are an abomination to the classical ballet world. But it won't always be this way.

I have to break it to you: You are never going to fit in. You are going to need thick skin, because you'll have to endure extreme criticism and discrimination. Luckily, there will be influential people who will understand how unique and special you are, and who will fight for you to be able to be yourself.

My final piece of advice is to never lose your rebellious quality when people tell you your limits. (Oh, and BTW—stop bleaching your hair as if you're in a boyband. The pictures will haunt you later!)

Latest Posts


Monique Smith (Tom Marvel, courtesy Smith)

5 Black Women on the Obstacles of Dancing While Black

Civil rights leader Malcom X famously said that "the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman." Decades later, those words still resonate. And the dance world isn't immune to subjecting Black women to unfair treatment. After all, it wasn't until this year—and after mounting pressure from online petitions—that many major dancewear brands pledged to make tights and pointe shoes in hues that match the complexions of Black women.

But other, more insidious issues continue to obstruct progress for Black women in the dance world. Dance Spirit spoke with five Black women about the obstacles they've faced as professional dancers.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
TikTok star Niana Guerrero films a TikTok (courtesy Guerrero)

A Day in the Life of a TikTok Star

Niana Guerrero is only 14, but she already boasts 12.6 million TikTok followers—the kind of internet fanbase most people twice her age can only dream of. Of course, keeping up with her millions (and millions, and millions) of fans isn't easy. We spent a day with Niana to see what it really takes to be a TikTok star. —As told to Cadence Neenan

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
TikTok vs. Reels: The ultimate showdown. (Getty Images/TikTok/Instagram)

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok: Which is the Best for Dancers?

Instagram's latest video feature—Reels—has been rolled out to users over the past month and is now finally available to all. Similar to TikTok, the app's new feature allows you to create short videos to showcase your skills, whatever they may be. And for us, of course, that means dancing. Despite that, the two apps feel very different to many within our community. So which is the best for dancers to use?

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search