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Never Too Late: How Erin Tomlinson is Breaking Ballet Stereotypes


Black ballerina standing en pointe in a mirror


Interview by Veronica Viccora

Words by Erin Tomlinson

2.13.24

Welcome to Never Too Late, a series that highlights different members of The Slipper Edit community who are following their dreams, breaking ballet stereotypes and doing what they love, no matter who they are. These are their stories, to inspire yours.


 

Meet Erin Tomlinson

Breaking Ballet Stereotypes One Pointe Shoe at Time


I'm Erin Tomlinson, a transgender ballet dancer. I started dance back in 2005 as a hyperactive boy with a passion for dance and theater. I started out ballroom dancing where I ended up on the front page of our local newspaper which was so amazing. I was later introduced to ballet and [since there were] only a couple boys in the class, I was already a bit nervous. On top of that, I was the only black person as well. I remember asking the instructor if guys go on pointe and she said they don't but I really wanted to because it looked so pretty. She ended up letting me get pointe shoes (which I clearly wasn't ready for).


Fast forward some months I remember being shown videos of YAGP competitions and thinking about how cool [it] would be to experience. [People told me things like] "you will never make it far because of the color of your skin" and "ballet isn't meant for black dancers. That's why shoes aren't in your color."


As a kid, it really hit me hard and made me feel down on myself. [I was] already feeling like I have to be stick [thin] just to fit in which caused me to develop health problems. Not too long after, I stopped ballet because of what everyone was saying and thought to myself...


maybe they're right, maybe I'm not meant for it.


Fast forward 15 years to 2021, I decided to step back in the ballet scene again only this time I was 250+ pounds and had scoliosis and [had] already started living my truth as the proud trans woman that I am. Everything was going fine at first, until I started having past ballet trauma resurface. These traumatic things were in my head and had nothing to do with the studio I was in at all. They're very accepting of all body shapes, sizes, color and dance experience.


However, the trauma that kept coming back caused me to think that I wasn't good enough because I was plus sized, and that I had to be thin. [I starved] myself and to loose almost 100 pounds in an unhealthy way. I kept comparing myself to the other dancers and telling myself "why can't my leg go that high?" or "how come I can't do a simple turn?"

Eventually, I had a conversation with our artistic director about it and she told me "you are perfect the way you are." That stuck with me. [It's] now the motto I come back to whenever I feel down. I've been at this studio for a little over 2 years and they've done nothing but welcome me with open arms ever since.


It felt good to put [those] pointe shoes on again after 15 years.



trans woman of color


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