As dancers extend backward in arabesque, instructor Katy Pyle reminds them to keep their legs straight — but, Pyle adds, "not too straight."
Though Pyle's students are performing a classical dance move, Ballez, a weekly 90-minute class held in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, hardly feels traditional. At the beginning of every class, dancers sit in a circle on the floor, introducing themselves with their preferred gender pronouns along with thoughts on the topic of the week, which may be adagio extensions or the philosophy of belonging. The ritual feels more like a supportive, hyped-up huddle than the intro to a classical ballet class.
"I was, frankly, triggered by traditional ballet classes — the music, the mirrors, and all the expectations would make me feel real freaked out in my body, [so much so] that I couldn’t do the movements," Pyle says, reflecting on their earlier years as a dancer. "I thought, OK, for myself, I need to redefine what ballet is."
Pyle founded Ballez in 2011 during an artist’s residency at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange in order to offer dancers (with a wide range of experience and proficiency) a radically inclusive queer space. And while the classes have developed in their structure, and size, over the past seven years, the goal remains the same — to offer the same exercises as a regular ballet class but with more friendliness, inclusiveness, space, and humor. Read more via Shondaland