Where are all the Pageant Queens in Classical Ballet?
Before drag television programs, drag queens were separated into two categories: pageant and comedy. In the Miss Continental drag pageant, Brooke Lynn Heights performed a Swan Lake inspired number, infusing her classical ballet technique while performing en pointe. She is a former member of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, which infuses classical ballet with comedy to produce parody. Societal ideas of gender performance have shifted since this company’s founding in 1974, but the representation of drag queens and transgender dancers has barely changed in fifty years. Other companies have also created farcical classical ballet with men en pointe and drag ballet has relegated itself to smaller traveling companies. While more traditional ballet companies have drag roles in ballets such as the Stepsisters in Cinderella and Old Madge in La Sylphide, these characters are meant to be camp or grotesque, and their stylized drag reflects a comedy queen aesthetic. Where are the pageant ballet queens represented in today’s ballet? Why can’t men perform en pointe without relying on gay minstrelsy? We can now define our identities as genderqueer, non-binary, and transgender, so why can’t we make a place for gender non-conforming dancers in classical ballet? Laughing at a man’s ability to fail at cisnormativity worked last century, but transgender women are no longer the butt of the joke. It’s time for ballet’s ideas of gender to change. Transgender and non-binary individuals need a place to call home in between the échappé en pointe and the double tour en l’air to the knee.