Katy Pyle: Rethinking What Ballet Can Be

Katy Pyle. Photo by Elyssa Goodman

Katy Pyle. Photo by Elyssa Goodman

"Get out of that self-critical mindset and move towards what feels exciting.”

Katy Pyle began studying ballet at a young age. But by 16, she felt excluded and disconnected from the art form she’d spent most of her life learning. The representations of gender and expectations for women’s bodies were “woefully narrow,” she says.

As she built a career as a performer, choreographer, and director, Pyle began to rework and reimagine classical ballet techniques and performances, creating an art form that welcomed queer and trans people, their bodies, and their narratives. She called it Ballez.

Katy Pyle. Photo by Elyssa Goodman  

Katy Pyle. Photo by Elyssa Goodman
 

Pyle wants Ballez to be “a beacon of hope and possibility” for queer youth, she says. “It lets young people know that they can be who they are — as dancers and as queers, as trans and gender-nonconforming folks — and still be celebrated and upheld in ballet.

She’s staged Ballez performances across the United States, including two performances mounted with the help of the Kickstarter community: The Firebird, which reinvents the 1910 ballet of the same name, and Sleeping Beauty and the Beast, which revisits two eras of queer activist herstory in New York City. She also teaches adult Ballez classes, allowing anyone, regardless of skill level, to learn ballet techniques in a playful, open-hearted, and inclusive environment.

“Knowing that there are passionate, generous, engaged folks all over this country who feel that this work is important and want it to exist is deeply moving,” she says.

Photo by Elyssa Goodman

Photo by Elyssa Goodman

Pyle now wants to bring Ballez classes to people all across the United States and beyond — even if she can’t be there in person to teach. She returned to Kickstarter to create a series of instructional online videos that will allow anyone to take Ballez classes at home.

The series will also allow Pyle to spread her performance philosophy — one that Ballez openly models and embraces — far and wide: “Get out of that self-critical mindset and move towards what feels exciting.

Photo by Elyssa Goodman

Photo by Elyssa Goodman