Rwanda – July 2017 & October 2017
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.