This craft-beer drinking, boxing cross-training, raven-haired dancer is changing what people think it means to be a prima ballerina.
When you imagine a classical ballerina, odds are you might envision a mild-mannered (albeit physically strong), elegant young woman with a headache-tight hair bun and a pink tutu. While there's nothing wrong with fitting that dancer profile, 28-year-old Dusty Button is one ballerina who's out to prove there's so much more to this art form than sequins and perfect posture.
Basically, she's the punk rock Black Swan ballerina who is crushing any preconceived (and misguided) ideas of what a prima ballerina is "supposed" to look like. (Something professional ballerina Misty Copeland knows a lot about.)
And don't even think about second-guessing her talent. With 21 years of dancing experience under her belt—her mom enrolled her in classes when she was 7 because "she wanted me to develop an interest in activities that were healthy for my mind, body, and soul," says Button—the South Carolina–born athlete was training at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre before she was even old enough to drive. At 18, she received a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London, and eventually went on to be a principal dancer in the Boston Ballet company. From there she evolved into a renowned dance teacher and choreographer and participates in educational events such as International Ballet Workshops.
Throughout this evolution as a ballerina is a slew of high-profile choreography, television, and modeling work. Her edgy look and movement style even caught the attention of action sports brands Red Bull and Volcom—companies that traditionally sponsor gritty X-Games athletes, adventure sports pros, and, well, the opposite of a ballerina. (Related: This Plus-Sized Model Is Redefining What It Means to Have a 'Runner Body'.)
But one scroll through her Instagram and you'll immediately realize two things: This girl is insanely talented (OMG, flexibility), and she's a refreshing change of style and attitude (T-shirt, shorts, and pigtail buns, yep). If you weren't convinced this woman is badass, check out her Instagram profile image, which is her name written in the same font as the rock band Iron Maiden, as well as her dance uniform, which consists of Nike running shorts, jet-black eye makeup, and yes, the occasional tutu...done her way. From incredible leg extensions to her genius blend of contemporary and traditional choreography, we just had to learn more about this rock-star dancer, and what she has to say about dancing to the beat of her own drum and forging a new path for young dancers. (Ah, heck, for all women!)
"I have always been the black sheep of ballet," says Button, with pride. "We live in a world where the people who know the least about us somehow always have the most to say." And even after two decades in the professional dance industry, she isn't letting beauty or weight standards affect her. "There are some strong stereotypes within my industry, but I consider them challenges and I become stronger with every challenge."
She admits that the pressure to be thin is a very real thing in her world, which can be damaging for both current and aspiring dancers. But things are looking up. "There is a history of eating disorders within my industry that are both physically and mentally unhealthy, but the world is evolving and over the last decade I've seen a diversification of hired dancers," she says of a new wave of professional dancers breaking the mold in both style and body type. "It's a refreshing sight, to say the least."
Button says she fights the ballerina stereotype by staying true to herself and believing that success isn't defined by appearance. "My advice for myself is the same for all women: to dig deep, prepare yourself for judgment, and give a middle finger to anyone who tells you that you can't do something." (Related: Weightlifter Morgan King Defies Stereotypes.)
And this "eff you" attitude must be working, because it's helped Button become not only a successful dancer but a woman who knows how to enjoy a good craft beer and as much sushi as she can get her hands on. #Balance. She's been known to kick back with a brew after an intense performance for some much-needed mental and physical relaxation.
That pour is well-deserved. Most days, Button spends six to eight hours in classes and rehearsals and still makes time to lift weights at the gym with her husband. The pair is total business-meets-love #relationshipgoals, as Button says her husband (who travels with her on tour around the world) inspires her to really immerse herself in her passion for dance and embrace her unique style. Fittingly, they even came up with a word to define it: antistereotypologist.
When Button isn't lifting, dancing, or stretching, you can find her jabbing in the ring. "I find boxing to be my favorite workout because it's such a contrast to ballet," she says. So the next time anyone thinks about calling this badass babe just another prissy ballerina, they better be prepared to take a fierce right hook.