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In a collaboration with photographer Tom J. Johnson, dance artist Novaya Shey explores gender and authenticity through dance.

“Before I surrendered to my transness, my work felt entirely dishonest and never felt like mine. I often felt like I was carbon copying another style, body or reference in order to fit a mould and to survive.


“At school I was taught to see my body as my instrument, but I would constantly ask myself, how can I play an instrument that is becoming increasingly broken?

I had never seen anyone within the dance industry who in any way represented how I felt or identified, and that scared me to my core. I thought I had no future within dance if I was to choose myself.


“Once coming out as trans, the way I worked with my body completely shifted. Instead of resisting and rejecting what felt natural, I began to investigate and explore a sense of harmony within myself.

I started to navigate through an ocean of internal dialogue to decipher what was authentically me and what was imprinted on me. I’ve learnt that this process is ongoing and ever-changing, and I’ve found peace and beauty in that.


“Gender and identity are sacredly unique to every one of us. There is no wrong or right way to identify and express yourself personally and artistically.

I once didn’t see a future for myself within the dance industry, but now I see a much bigger and magical picture. I’m in that picture, and so are so many other artists who identify throughout the gender spectrum.”

Words by Novaya Shey / photography by Tom J. Johnson @tomjjohnsonphoto / modelling by Novaya Shey @glassofgemini / styling by Thomas George Wulbern @thomasgeorgewulbern / makeup by Chynara Kojoeva @chykapuka / hair by Linus Johansson @hairbylinus / styling assistance by Lisa June @lisajune.96

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