Animals & Angels starring Cortney Taylor Key (l) and Audrey Malek
Cortney Taylor Key and Audrey Malek. Credit: Leigh-Ann Esty

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Animals & Angels

Choreographer Adriana Pierce’s latest commission came with two conditions: It had to be danced on pointe and it had to feature Washington Ballet Studio Company’s Audrey Malek. The resulting duet, pairing Malek with Cortney Taylor Key, a freelance dancer based in New York, debuted June 21 on the Joyce Theatre’s website. While ballet is no stranger to LGBTQ men, there are far fewer women dancers who are openly queer. Animals & Angels, Pierce’s new duet, seeks to normalize women dancing together, while also acknowledging that this romantic, on pointe pairing represents uncharted territory for the 300-year-old art form. “Malek, 23, has little patience for restrictive gender roles,” dance journalist Siobhan Burke recently wrote in The New York Times. And Key says there’s no woman she’d rather dance with. Malek grew up in New Hampshire and was promoted from the Washington Ballet’s trainee program to the studio company before the 2018-2019 season. Sadly, the pandemic limited chances for local audiences to see her dance live, and the recently announced 2021-2022 Washington Ballet season is nearly all heteronormative classics. However, New York’s Joyce Theater is looking to #QueertheBallet, so catch the local trailblazer online while you can. The performance is available through July 18 at Free.