The Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle is home to hundreds of students and professional dancers, but one particular student is pushing to evolve opportunities for dancers of all kinds.
18-year-old Ashton Edwards is a member of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Professional Student Division. The school trains many excellent dancers, but Edwards' story is unique as he also wanted to train on pointe. Edwards studied dance from the age of four at the Flint School of Performing Arts in Michigan. He attended summer ballet intensives at The Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago, Houston Ballet School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle.
I'd only trained as a male dancer in ballet and when I came to PNB, they opened up a lot of doors for me and were open to a lot of conversations to allow me to start dancing on pointe. Now I'm doing everything, female and the male classes.
Usually men don't go on pointe and it's very binary and men have their own separate training for jumps and turns, but for men to be on pointe at a professional ballet school right now hasn't really happened.
Seattle's King TV described him as a “gender-fluid pointe dancer”.
Of course, his school year has been disturbed by the pandemic.
It's been tough because as I'm learning so many new things, a lot of obstacles in my way… especially being home and not being able to work directly with teachers and be hands on, which is a big part of ballet.
There's already so few jobs, there's thousands of dancers and hundreds of jobs… to have a pandemic also, it's even fewer and very nerve wracking. But it's what I love, so I have to keep doing it.
Friends and family set up a Go Fund Me account to Keep Ashton Dancing giving financial support for him to continue training at home.
It's incredible… I never expected it. People actually said they look up to me and I can't believe it.
The School told King TV,
The PNB School provides shoes to any of our Professional Division Students who will be dancing on pointe regardless of gender.
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Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.