Culture

Metalhead Ballerinas Rock the U.K.

by Tasbeeh Herwees

September 28, 2014

Bridie Mayfield is a ballerina, she’s also more metal than you.

The dancer and choreographer is the founder of Brutal Ballet, a death metal ballet company. Should you harbor any preconceived notions about what a ballerina looks like, banish them immediately.  Mayfield’s lean, tatted arms and her death metal dances will destroy any pink-hued visions of tutu-wearing princesses you may currently hold. She’s been dancing since she was two years old and in 2008, she finally put her two favorite pastimes—dancing and heavy metal—together.  

“I’ve always kind of choreographed to metal in my head, but I never thought it would be accepted so I never thought anything of it,” says Mayfield. “I just thought, ‘oh, no one’s going to accept that!’ Metalheads are so diehard and passionate about it and they’d probably think I was just killing their art by doing it.”

And then Mayfield discovered Ballet Deviare, a New York-based company that used metal as the soundtrack to their original compositions. It inspired her to start Brutal Ballet in her hometown of Brisbane, Australia. But Australia’s audiences weren’t filling the seats, while Europe seemed to offer a bigger stage. So, three months ago, the death metal ballerina moved her company to the U.K. Just this week, they showed up at TitanCon, a science fiction and fantasy convention based in Belfast, and debuted a sensational piece choreographed to a death-metal cover of the Game of Thrones’ theme song, by the band Lizzard Wizard. GoT stars Eugene Simon (Lancel Lannister), Kerry Ingram (Shireen Baratheon), and Aimee Richardson (Myrcella Baratheon) were in the audience watching.

“They were getting photos with us, rather than us getting photos with them,” says Mayfield.

The dance has made the internet rounds—they were profiled by the BBC, and written about on the A.V. Club and io9. The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, an international dance instruction examination board based in London, even tweeted their approval.

“I never thought we’d be accepted by anybody from the dance world. Because we haven’t been so far. They kind of look at us go, ‘well, that one’s covered in tattoos and that one doesn’t have the perfect body parts,’” says Mayfield. “We’re kind of the rebel ballerinas.”

Mayfield says the hardest about running the company is finding dancers. It’s already difficult to find hard-working ballerinas, and dancers willing to perform to metal music are even more rare. But Brutal Ballet’s choreography doesn’t stray too far from the classical form.

“They [the dancers] have been really surprised by how classical it is and we haven’t really changed anything but the music,” says Mayfield.

Not only are Brutal’s ballerinas learning to consider different musical forms, but the company is introducing ballet to non-traditional audiences as well. Classical ballet tends to conjure elitist connotations, to the detriment of building a larger, younger fanbase. At the other end of the cultural spectrum, metal, too, is frequently regarded as intimidating and inaccessible. But combined, these two fringe cultures not only merge audiences, they appeal to people outside either community as well.  

“It’s taken [ballet] away from being entertainment of the high society and it’s sort of introduced it to the general public,” says Mayfield. “People who aren’t metal heads and who aren’t ballet community people—they really like it.”

Video via YouTube, originally produced by BBC.

Photos courtesy of Brutal Ballet

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Metalhead Ballerinas Rock the U.K.