This Ballet Pioneer Is Totally on Pointe: dancer Kendall Britt returns home to NY

October 27th, 2015

Out dancer Kendall G. Britt Jr. returns home a hero with Ballet Memphis.

October 20, 2015 By: Brandon Voss

"I was begging my mommy to take me to ballet class when I was six years old, which is quite young for a boy, actually,” recalls out Ballet Memphis dancer Kendall G. Britt Jr., who grew up in Queens. “Most boys start in their teens, but I was in my little tights long before that.” 

Britt’s excited for a “paid visit home” when Ballet Memphis returns to Chelsea’s Joyce Theater October 27 for its first New York engagement in eight years. And yes, he’s aware that African-American male dancers are uncommon in the ballet world. “Ballet Memphis embraces all races, cultures, and body types, all sharing one voice,” says Britt, who joined the company in 2006. “Naively, I was never aware of racial lines when I was younger. Now, at 28, I’m becoming more aware of ethnicity in the arts because it’s being brought up more these days in terms of diversity and changing times. I feel like I’ve sort of been a pioneer without knowing it, which is humbling and empowering.” 

The idea of gay boys doing ballet, on the other hand, is unlikely to surprise anyone, but Britt says he does encounter closeted dancers. “Growing up in New York with a supportive family, I was never in the closet, so it’s still weird to meet someone who feels like he can’t be himself in the dance world, which is so flamboyant.” 

Has Britt’s sexuality ever presented any obstacles? “Oh, heavens no,” he says with a chuckle. “But in preparing for a role like Romeo or Prince Charming, I have had to find a way of presenting myself in a calmer, more subtle way. I’ve never been told to ‘butch it up,’ but I’m an excited person, and I want to be excited all the time! I have to remember that not all love is so loud.” 

Ballet Memphis, October 27-November 1 at the Joyce, 175 Eighth Ave (btwn 18th/19th Sts); tickets from $10. Visit joyce.org for more info.