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Before we explain why Ashton Edwards is such a groundbreaking ballet dancer, give us a second to define some ballet terminology. You’ve probably heard the phrase “on pointe,” which refers to the style of ballet in which dancers support all their weight on the tips of their toes. It’s also a style we see performed almost exclusively by women dancers.
But Edwards, who is gender-fluid, is currently training on pointe as a student at Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet. That’s a big deal, because training on pointe, and ballet dancing in general, is usually “very binary,” Edwards explained in an interview with K5 News in Seattle. “Men have their own separate training for jumps and turns. For men to be on pointe at a professional ballet school right now, hasn’t really happened.”
Edwards, who uses he/him, she/her, and they/them pronouns, is originally from Flint, MI, and joined the Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2020. He said he’d never trained on pointe before, but the staff at PNB “opened up a lot of doors for me and were open to a lot of conversations to allow me to start dancing on pointe,” he explained. “Now I’m doing everything, female and the male classes.”
Of course, beyond breaking gender barriers, Edwards is also dealing with the same issues as nearly all ballet dancers during the pandemic: financial cuts and job losses. He said he’s still pursuing his dream “because it’s what I love,” and has even set up a GoFundMe to keep himself afloat. Amongst all the stress and expectations, of course, he’s also shared some mesmerizing dances. Check out a few clips of the groundbreaking dancer ahead!