An 18-year-old male ballet dancer is turning centuries-old tradition on its head by donning en pointe shoes and pushing his way into roles until now reserved for women.
Ashton Edwards will be the first male dancer to study en pointe at the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) in Seattle. He says it’s a path he started on after coming out as gay last year. Edwards, who moved from Flint, Michigan, said in a KIRO 7 News interview that his journey started after coming out last year to his parents.
“It definitely took some time and a lot of courage – it was definitely really hard,” Edwards said. “I came out to my family as a gay man,” he said.
He’s since discovered that he identifies with other groups too. “He him/ she her/ they them,” Edwards said. “I haven’t hanged any labels yet but I’m still learning.”
Challenging personal boundaries translated to him pushing the limits of another love – ballet. “I kind of had this self-realization I could do more and I didn’t want to limit myself in any way,” Edwards said.
“There will be a moment when someone like Ashton is dancing en pointe in a role that audiences haven’t seen before and it will be a first. It will be a door opener and I would imagine – I would hope – that we would flood through that door,” Peter Boal, the artistic director at the PNB and director of its affiliated school, said in the local report.
National Public Radio (NPR) reported Edwards’ “leap through the air is pure art.”
“It’s really exciting to see choreographers nowadays blurring the lines of gender binary and sexuality,” Edwards said. “We see men dancing with men and women dancing with women. And it doesn’t always have to be a love connection. It can just be a partnership.”