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Chase Johnsey leaves Trocks; Joins ENB

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It's a shame Chase Johnsey is an incredible ballerina:

 

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From the Dance Magazine article, it sounds like the big problem isn't that Johnsey wants to have gender affirmation surgery, but that they were being asked to maintain a male presentation off-stage.  That requirement was not a part of the company contract, and indeed there would likely have been some difficulty if the company had tried to include it in negotiations -- that kind of image policing isn't really common any more. 

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That is indeed quite unusual for a company to insist on that sort of thing! I certainly wish him all the best with this! 

I had wondered about this, if there were any issues for the members of the troupe if they wanted to transistion or something like that. I think it would be pretty amazing to have a company where the members could really be who they were, regardless of whether they fit a sterotype or idea. It would be a great chance to help further understanding and acceptance of not only trans but all the many diffeent aspects of humans. (I do not want to say, "lifestyles" , for it is not a decision to make; we are the way we are) But, probably there are those folks who see the dollars dwindling if they feel they cannot count on audience coming to gawk and laugh.  There has got to be a better way, though. 

-d-    

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You bring up several really interesting questions here.  Probably the simplest one is the first -- I know that the Ballet Russe companies that toured the US had rules about how women presented themselves in public, likewise Ballet Theater and NYCB had rules when the dancers were on tour -- I think all of these were before dancers were represented by unions.  I can understand why those companies wanted to create a certain image in public, outside of the theater when they were on tour if they were going to get press attention, or if they thought that their company image was all bound up with their time off the stage.  This seems, thankfully, to have faded away with most companies -- despite all the ruckus surrounding Robert Fairchild and his personal life, no one seems to think that it's really the business of the company to tell him what to do.

But the Trocks seem to be trying to incorporate their artistic work with their external image.  Their main message is that they're funny because they're men performing women's roles.  Ballet satire certainly doesn't require that element -- Myra Kinch's "Giselle's Revenge," and the "Swan Lake" parody in "Funny Girl" don't use gender switching to create humor, but the Trocks have had that as part of their signature since the beginning.  I don't want to get into the academic analysis of drag  -- other people have done wonderful work with this and I'd just be skimming off the top of their research -- but gender switching is a performance tradition on its own. 

I've always loved the Trocks because of their satire of the art form, especially of choreographic convention.  For me, "Go For Barocco" is funny because it's a commentary on the Balanchine work, not because those are men in those pointe shoes.  Likewise with "Yes Virginia, Another Piano Ballet" -- it skewers not only Robbins, but the whole genre that "Dances at a Gathering" jump-started.  And their staging of the Petipa works seemed to slice right to the nut of what he felt ballet was, how it operated and what it should do -- the Trocks repertory is like a Cliff Notes survey of the historical canon.  I'd find it funny if the cast were all men, all women, or a cis-gendered mix.

One of the other elements of the company that I've noticed in the past, though, may be part of the equation here -- they seem to have an allegiance to an older set of performing conventions.  They participate in the cult of the ballerina, which can include the idea of a transcendent woman and a worshipful man.  (ironically, this stereotype was created at a time when women would sometimes dance male-identified roles -- the world gets complicated).  It's one thing to convey the spirit of Anna Pavlova onstage -- it's another to require people to live out that kind of celebrity drama outside the theater.

I remember once seeing the company in a Petipa suite, and thinking that the individual who was dancing the female lead looked just like the photos of Eleanor d'Antuono -- not a satire or an exaggeration of "a ballerina," but a doppleganger of a well-known dancer.  The humor wasn't in the gender of the person in the pointe shoes, but in their approach to a beloved discipline. 

I haven't seen the company live in several years, but they seem to be doing well as a touring group -- I don't imagine that it should undercut their success if some of their members presented as women in their lives off the stage.  While I appreciate the chance to think about them, and the current fluid state of gender representation in our culture, I can't really understand why this has become such a fractious issue.

 

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3 hours ago, sandik said:

...they're men performing women's roles. 

And there...you perfectly summarized it.

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9 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

And there...you perfectly summarized it.

But I don't think that's a requirement for them to satirize the art form.

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5 minutes ago, sandik said:

But I don't think that's a requirement for them to satirize the art form.

If the AD think it is, then he really has to look somewhere else for a job.

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10 minutes ago, sandik said:

But I don't think that's a requirement for them to satirize the art form.

Let m rephrase myself. If the AD wants an all male company, then he has no place there after the surgery.

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17 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Let m rephrase myself. If the AD wants an all male company, then he has no place there after the surgery.

I don't want to pivot this conversation to a discussion of transgender health care, but there are multiple ways that people transition -- surgery is just one option.  And that's one of the reasons that the company seems to have opened up a more complicated can of worms than they anticipated. 

But I have a feeling that we don't know the full story right now -- I'd have many more questions about their terms of employment if I were going to write about this as a journalist.

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33 minutes ago, sandik said:

I don't want to pivot this conversation to a discussion of transgender health care, but there are multiple ways that people transition -- surgery is just one option.  And that's one of the reasons that the company seems to have opened up a more complicated can of worms than they anticipated. 

But I have a feeling that we don't know the full story right now -- I'd have many more questions about their terms of employment if I were going to write about this as a journalist.

Indeed, there are a few people who have transitioned who have made it clear that they did not have the removal surgery. Caitlyn Jenner is one.

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19 hours ago, sandik said:

I don't want to pivot this conversation to a discussion of transgender health care, but there are multiple ways that people transition -- surgery is just one option.  And that's one of the reasons that the company seems to have opened up a more complicated can of worms than they anticipated. 

But I have a feeling that we don't know the full story right now -- I'd have many more questions about their terms of employment if I were going to write about this as a journalist.

I understand-(believe me I do. I worked for a while, as an RN, in a sex re assignment floor). Bottom line is that I'm willing to bet that the Trocks wants to keep being an all male troupe, so he can't stay if he re invents himself as a shemale.

Edited to add: Given that we don't know if he will have sex reassignment surgery-( as I was rightfully pointed at)-, hence my use of the term "shemale", commonly given to anatomical males living as females, or in other words..."pre-op".

Edited by cubanmiamiboy

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A woman, playing a man, playing a woman?  If Julie Andrews could find comedy gold, I think the Trocks could too.  

 

 

 

 

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23 minutes ago, Jayne said:

A woman, playing a man, playing a woman?  If Julie Andrews could find comedy gold, I think the Trocks could too.  

 

 

 

 

Or he can go ahead and apply for regular female corps positions. There are thousands of troupes worldwide to choose from.

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16 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

I understand-(believe me I do. I worked for a while, as an RN, in a sex re assignment floor). Bottom line is that I'm willing to bet that the Trocks wants to keep being an all male troupe, so he can't stay if he re invents himself as a shemale.

Edited to add: Given that we don't know if he will have sex reassignment surgery-( as I was rightfully pointed at)-, hence my use of the term "shemale", commonly given to anatomical males living as females, or in other words..."pre-op".

The term "shemale" may still be common, but it is as offensive as many other terms that have become recognized as slurs, and won't be tolerated again here.

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It's pretty clear from the interview quoted above, if what Johnsey alleges is true, that this is about much more than discrimination against transgender dancers or those who are considering transitioning. It sounds like the Trocks administration has been hostile toward anyone who doesn't fit stereotypically male gender norms offstage:

Quote

I look male during the day time, but I am most comfortable performing as a woman. Women have been my heroes, and through women, I have strength. I aspire to have the strength of women. 

So for now, I am happy with just being who I am, even if I do not fit any mold. The older I get, the less I feel like I have to apologize for it.

 

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The puzzling thing is why the Trocks would be willing to lose their best dancer (IMO -- I saw the Trocks a few times and Johnsey was absolutely the star of the evening) over what seems to be a private choice when he's off the clock. It's not as if these dancers are so recognizable offstage that the company has to protect a certain brand. Chase Johnsey (and the other company dancers) could probably walk down any street anywhere unrecognized as Yakatarina Verbosovitch (his stage moniker). There is no sexual misconduct/abuse here. This sounds like discrimination. 

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[Admin beanie on]

I should have put it on before.

This is not up for discussion or a vote:  it is not acceptable on this site.  Period.

[Admin beanie off]

 

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43 minutes ago, canbelto said:

The puzzling thing is why the Trocks would be willing to lose their best dancer (IMO -- I saw the Trocks a few times and Johnsey was absolutely the star of the evening) over what seems to be a private choice when he's off the clock.

I get what you're saying overall – and yes, discrimination seems precisely the word – but again, according to Johnsey, it sounds like it's about a good deal more than "a private choice when he's off the clock":

Quote

When it came to the show, we were encouraged to be who we were. But in ballet class, it was a different story. We weren't allowed to express or present ourselves as we wanted; we couldn't wear our hair in buns. Even what you wore to the airport was monitored.

 

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I did read that. I was shocked. I've seen many ballet companies where ballerinas do not wear their hair long at all and actually are rather androgynous off the stage. This seems to be a form of discrimination that is surprising for a company that, as I said, was probably considered a safe space for many gay male dancers to express gender non-comformity in their dancing. 

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

The term "shemale" may still be common, but it is as offensive as many other terms that have become recognized as slurs, and won't be tolerated again here.

Sorry about that. It is certainly used in the medical field for pre-op trans patients, although I understand it might had gone out there to become slang. I guess  we can then still use the regular "he" or "she", according to our own beliefs and perceptions. He or she are definitely NOT slur, nor offensive. I still can't get used to use the modern "their" for sure.

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7 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Sorry about that. It is certainly used in the medical field for pre-op trans patients, although I understand it might had gone out there to become slang. I guess  we can then still use the regular "he" or "she", according to our own beliefs and perceptions. He or she are definitely NOT slur, nor offensive. I still can't get used to use the modern "their" for sure.

No. You don't get to decide what to call people according to your own beliefs. If you are a decent human being you call people by the term for the gender THEY identify as.

And I really wish you'd stop bringing up pre- or post-op. That has nothing to do with gender orientation.

 

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That is most definitely NOT a medical term and has never had use in the greater biomedical field. It's a slang term with origins in pornography and it is derogatory. Stop using it.

I appreciate Helene and the mods trying to shut this down.

Edited by kylara7

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