Chantelle’s story

Chantelle talks about her experiences as an RAD student and offers advice on supporting others in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Dance has always been a form of expression and therapy for me and when working out my sexuality and confusion as a teen I relied on dance to work through my feelings when I wasn’t ready to say them out loud.

I always felt a little isolated in being a lesbian in ballet through my dance lessons as a teenager because I didn’t see others like me being represented. Because of this I kept my sexuality between my friends and I and ‘lesbian Chantelle’ and ‘ballet Chantelle’ very separate. When I applied to get onto the BA (Hons) Dance Education (BADE) degree however, I did circle the lesbian/gay section on the forms.

In my experience of studying, not only did I not hide, but I found many opportunities to celebrate my sexuality and explore it through dance on the course. I applied LGBT studies to dance in my exams, for example, studying the representation of trans dancers in my cultural studies assignment. I never received any doubt from tutors when I proposed my LGBTQ+ dance topics, in fact they were extremely supportive.

The RAD gave me opportunities to be comfortable in myself and realise that ‘lesbian Chantelle’ and ‘dance Chantelle’ were just ‘Chantelle’ and that’s something to be proud of.

As a dance teacher I always ask new students their preferred name, allowing for shortened names or different names from the ones their parents signed them up as. I don’t specify why, to avoid uncomfortable feelings for them in front of their peers. For those old enough to write at the beginning of the year I have a short form differing on age, allowing them to put in their preferred name and pronouns and mine, to attempt to keep them comfortable. It also states that they can let me know at any time if their answers on the form have changed and that dance is a safe space for all.

Chantelle’s advice

On dance teachers supporting students in the LGBTQIA+ community

Patience, consideration, and inclusivity. Ballet specifically has embedded certain gender roles, females in leotards and en pointe, males in differing uniform and performing lifts supporting and high jumps. But if a student were to transition, have you considered the uniform and choreography while keeping all students safe. Consider same sex duets more often if students want this. Forget the rules we have naturally upon ourselves and our students.

On giving advice to LGBTQIA+ dance students who may have felt isolated

There is always at least one other person in your life who feels the way you do now, and if neither of you discuss it that’s two people alone. Reach out if you feel safe to do so. Even if you’re confused, your feelings are valid and stand strong by them.

On the importance of student ambassadors being allies to the LGBTQIA+ community

New and current students reach out to you often and university age spans anywhere from 18, meaning countless students could be not only confused but feeling isolated, have mental repercussions and even home and physical repercussions due to their sexuality. It is fundamental that you are a safe and friendly person to approach an open and detrimental conversation regarding this.

On being a role model to students in the Faculty of Education

I try to always be welcoming and strive to make time for others. I am very willing to be vulnerable and have vocalised my personal experience in the past regarding my difficulty with my sexuality and dance and feeling isolated and low. I use my newfound acceptance as a lighthouse to those currently struggling.