I love a viral dance star on Instagram. I love a gay boy dancing in heels, love a hip hop dance troupe, and love to watch ballet dancers post sassy videos of their warm ups. But the industry is dominated by cis voices and cis dance artists. For me, as a trans dancer, I feel like trans dance artists have to do so much extraneous work before we even get to the stage. From the moment we step into a dance studio, our trainings and career paths are often determined by cisgender gatekeepers. Rarely, will you find gender-neutral locker rooms at popular centers like Broadway Dance Center and forms such as Ballet often break up classes according to the “two genders,” demand gender-specific clothing, and codify “masculine” and “feminine” movement. If we choose and have the privilege to transition medically, then there’s the added turmoil of either putting our dreams on hold or publicly navigating clumsy hormonal changes such as weight redistribution with people’s stares.
Once we finally hit the stage, it’s often only to serve as dancing bears for our local annual LGBT programming. I, for one, would love to make and perform work that's not always about my trans identity. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of choices because I refuse to “move like a man” and cis choreographers fear I’ll “make gender the unintentional focus” of their work. So, it's not only deeply frustrating, but it is a form of erasure when cis dancers have the freedom to create whatever work they want and they choose to make work that capitalizes off of narratives that are dangerously close to ours.
Outside of erasure in the industry, we’re also erased on online — especially on Instagram. To remedy that, I’ve curated a list of trans and gender nonconforming folks you can follow right now.
Nightlife, dance, and drag often go hand in hand. If you want to see how someone seamlessly weaves these forms together, then stop by pretty much any Brooklyn queer nightlife venue and you might catch an electrifying performance by drag queen and go-go dancer Zenobia. If you can’t tell by her dancing, then I’ll confirm that she’s definitely a Leo. Follow Zenobia.
Ballet is one of the more binarist forms of dance, but American ballet dancer Chase Johnsey is changing that. Johnsey is the first out genderfluid dancer to join a “female” ensemble of an international ballet company, and is a former principal dancer with the popular drag ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Johnsey is using his famous past to create an inclusive future with a classical ballet company called Ballet Manifesto. Follow Chase.
Last January, Jayna came out out as trans while on a full “male” scholarship at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC. This young artist is in the process of auditioning for pre-professional dance programs with ballet companies and colleges where she hopes to further her training en pointe and choreography. Not only would it be foolish not to accept her, colleges should be giving her that full-ride scholarship coin. Follow Jayna.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Midwestern boy myself, but Scout Alexander’s positivity and persistency stole my heart. Scout came out at age 15, kept dancing throughout his medical transition, and recently received a full scholarship to BalletMet’s 2018-19 trainee program, which shouldn’t be a surprise because the boy can lift, and has legs for days. Follow Scout.
Sean Dorsey is an award-winning San Francisco-based choreographer, dancer, and writer.
Recognized as the U.S.’ first acclaimed transgender modern dance choreographer, Dorsey has toured his work to 30 US cities. When Sean isn’t making his own work, he’s amplifying the voices of other trans artists through Fresh Meat Productions, which is the nation’s first organization to create, present, and tour year-round multidisciplinary transgender arts programs. Follow Sean.
If you still think Madonna invented Vogue, then your homework is long overdue, sweetie. Start your education off right with the "Wonder Woman of Vogue" Leoimy Maldonado. In 2009, Leiomy made history as the first transgender woman to appear on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew (Season 4) as a member of the openly queer dance group “Vogue Evolution.” You can catch one of Leoimy’s popular Vogue Femme classes at Peridance Capezio Center on in New York City. Follow Leoimy.
From professional ballet dancer to collaborator for Veuve Cliquot and artist FKA twigs, there’s nothing this visual connoisseur can’t do. Currently, IMMA resides in New York City and works creatively as an image architect with performance artist Jaamil Olawale Kosoko. As a religious follower of her Instagram, I can assure that you are in for a dancerly visual treat. Follow IMMA.
niv Acosta is a multi-award-winning and internationally acclaimed multi-media artist and activist based in Brooklyn. Recently, niv received a 2019 Creative Capital award for BLACK POWER NAPS. The installation has multiple surfaces to facilitate reclining positions, a bass sound healing station, and multiple levels in which to find and create a space of one’s own to rest. In niv’s words, this project will “focus on rest, restoration, rejuvenation, reparation, and black joy.” Follow niv.
Toni Carlson is a dancer and performance maker based in Brooklyn. She has appeared in the work of Yanira Castro, Sarah A.O. Rosner, Lance Gries, Ishmael Houston-Jones & Miguel Gutierrez, Brendan Fernandes, and Ming Wong as well as her own. She has presented her own work as part of the Rooftop/GroundFloor Introducing Series, Hot Consumer Trash, curated by Alex Romania, and through Movement Research at the Judson Church. Follow Toni.
Rigorous, full-embodied play and NIC Kay are synonymous. A native of the Bronx, NIC is an interdisciplinary artist who creates dance and performative spaces. Often incorporating digital video and audio into their performances, each performance renders the venue almost unrecognizable. I often leave their performances not knowing which way is up and which way is down. If you need a shift in perspective, then follow NIC. Follow Nic.
Also! Me, lol. Call me vain, but consider this my author’s bio. I’m a transgender dance artist and performer based in Brooklyn with an affinity for Cher and new work in the making. As a 2018-2019 Jerome Foundation AIRspace Resident at Abrons Arts Center, I ran my first solo evening-length performance prettygirl264264 premiered in November which was spotlighted in the New York Times. Follow Ashley.