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On pointe: Young, gender fluid and ready to dance

Collin Kerdahy, a native of Smithtown, N.Y., began studying ballet when he was in middle school. After doing gymnastics as a younger child, and knowing that he enjoyed dancing, he auditioned for a musical as a pre-teen.

“I was in Seussical the Musical at around 11 or 12,” said Kerdahy, now 20. “After that, I found a weekend program at a theater outside of school, which included dance. I fell head over heels for ballet.”

He also fell in love with drag culture. “I love the idea of shoving your gender aside and constructing something else,” he said. His interest in gender fluidity and drag culture drew him towards continuing to challenge gender stereotypes. For one thing, he identifies himself as gender-fluid; he performs in drag as “Stella Virgin.”

And he has begun dancing on pointe (performing on the tips of his toes), which is essentially verboten for men in the ballet world.

A student at Buffalo State College, he’s taking the closest thing to a dance major that the school offers; it’s called “arts and letters.” He’s studying dance, theater tech and design. When he said he wanted to dance pointe, the Buff State dance department and classmates were “ridiculously supportive.” He said he was denied the opportunity at SUNY Potsdam.

“Pointe is not meant really for anyone,” said Kerdahy. “It does awful things to you. But the way it looks — it’s so crisp. And to see it on the more angular, male body (shaped like a square or a Dorito), it creates that harsher push.”

He’s equally comfortable dancing pointe in drag or as “Collin.” “Stella and I are the same person,” he said, speaking of his drag alter ego. “Except for five pounds of makeup, boobs and padding, plus 17 pairs of tights, eight- or nine-inch heels, corsets, etc. When I do pointe in my drag act, the audience is taken aback for a second. It’s different to see me doing something that’s lower energy.”

His sister inspires him. “She’s 13. She’s the weirdest little jerk I’ve ever had to deal with. She’s the light of my world, and…she’s a sister,” he says. “It’s hard to be here without her.”

He’s committed to his current platform, though. “Being a young student and being an activist and a drag queen — it shows people that you don’t need to be perfect to create change. Being non-gender conforming opens the door for many things. We need to push, to make ‘tomorrow’ better for us, for someone else, for my little sister.”

As for his future plans, like most students, he says, “I want to graduate.”

Thoughts about an advanced degree are daunting. “There are so many things I want to study in dance. I’m not sure further education is for me — I want to explore on my own,” he said. “I want to dance on cruise ships.”

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