When Two Men Fall in Love on the Ballet Stage, and Why It Matters

“The future of ballet is really in the hands of the creators,” Mr. Peck said, “so if it’s something that interests them to push the envelope with gender roles, then I think it will change. But if that’s not of interest to a dance-maker, if their interest is to sort of preserve the way things have been done for the past 200 years, then nothing is going to change.”

For the dancers, the roles feel like opportunities to express themselves in more nuanced ways. “I think for gay ballet dancers, you rarely get to be yourself,” Mr. Stanley said. Mr. Chamblee, his partner in “Not Our Fate,” and Daniel Applebaum, his partner in “Times Are Racing,” are also gay. Mr. Peck and Ms. Lovette are straight.

Mr. Peck has been struck by the way Mr. Stanley and Mr. Applebaum have changed the tone of his pas de deux. “Somehow it feels more romantic to me,” Mr. Peck said. “At one of the early rehearsals, Daniel said, ‘It’s so nice to get to step into a role where I feel I could actually potentially fall in love with the person I’m dancing with, as opposed to pretending to be a prince falling in love with a princess.’”

Robert La Fosse, a former choreographer who danced with both City Ballet and American Ballet Theater, has been active on Mr. Ratmansky’s Facebook feed. In an interview Mr. La Fosse said: “It’s very interesting that we’re looking at it now. And it’s good. It’s a conversation, and I think Justin and Lauren are wrestling with it: How do we become current?”

For his pas de deux, Mr. Peck has made small tweaks so that each dancer takes a turn leading the other; learning how to be the supported one has been an adjustment for both. “There’s a constant exchange of who’s leading and who’s in charge,” Mr. Applebaum said. “So you have to switch on a dime.”

At one point in…

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