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The past few months have been super tough for most, but especially-so when it comes to the queer community; many of us have historically relied on physical spaces to be able to tap into a sense of family, home and identity, but with new safety restrictions, many are feeling isolated. Queerantine Check-Ins are designed to find out how LGBTQIA2-S+ people are staying connected during these challenging times, what sorts of things they’re doing to maintain self-care etc.

We’re kicking things off with Nicholas Cowden of The Washington Ballet (presented by Jeté Society), who’s been riding out the pandemic with his boyfriend. He gives us some great movie picks, tells us about his shift to a plant-based diet, talks about how performing in drag helps to break up the daily monotony and more:

What do you miss most about pre-pandemic life? Any spaces/places/things in particular?

The primary space I miss during the pandemic is the ballet studio. After being in the studio practically everyday for most of my life, its eerie to have such a sustained period away. I have transformed my dining room into a functional home ballet studio, but nothing compares to the sprung floors and vast space of a real studio. 

Otherwise, I’ve wholly adapted to living 24/7 at home. I am lucky to be living with my boyfriend in my grandma’s 2 bedroom colonial townhouse (g’ma is in Florida). If we didn’t have the space, it would certainly be a different story. I am grateful to be able to quarantine with with my partner, but I am also grateful that we have an understanding of personal space. We’ve really been mostly alone the last few months. Sometimes we’ll Zoom with friends to play drinking games, or have socially-distanced picnics, but I’m just happy me and my main squeeze don’t get too tired of being together. (It’s also a perk that he is a ballet pianist and can play class for me at home.)

I’ve also enjoyed the time to be able to expand my other interests. As a side hustle I perform in drag, and the pandemic has given me ample time to play with makeup and sew new costumes. It’s just fun to paint your face to break up the monotony of being in quarantine, and to be able to be someone different for a day. 

How have you been practicing self-care lately?

As far as self-care, my boyfriend and I have recently made some major dietary changes. Somehow we got on a kick of watching various food documentaries starting with Forks Over Knives, then In Defense of Food, and finally The Game Changers. For the last six weeks, we have switched to eating a plant-based diet, and there’s no end in sight. Health has always been important to me because my body is my instrument, but with the pandemic we took an even bigger look at what we were really consuming. Food is medicine if you are eating the right things, and when it comes to protecting yourself against this virus, the best thing you can do is eat plants, lots of them! There’s never been a better time to experiment in the kitchen and challenge yourself with a plant-based diet.

Obviously streaming has sky-rocketed since March; what’s your favorite LGBTQIA2-S+ movie or series of all time, and/or what have you watched lately that you love?

My partner and I are proud that we have finished watching the entirety of Desperate Housewives. Everyone needs a good soap-operatic drama to whisk them into some other reality, and DH most definitely fits the bill.

My personal favorite movie of all time is All About Eve. Its not necessarily a LGBTQ+ film, but it does star Bette Davis and is all about the New York Theatre scene in the late 40s…so you can decide if its gay or not. Other must see films I love, Bringing Up Baby (1938), Some Like it Hot (1959), and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). I can guarantee some good laughs with all of these films. 

What about music? Anything you’ve had on heavy rotation these days (or always)?

If you’re looking for a good cry, there are several great film versions of operas on Youtube including Rigoletto, Lucia di Lammermoor, and La Traviata. I know opera can be intimidating, I really did not know anything about it until I met my boyfriend. He is an opera fanatic and plays a lot of opera tunes when he accompanies ballet class. There is such a depth of emotion in the music that is overwhelming and timeless. It’s a genre that I feel is underappreciated in the same way that ballet is. A lot of people are intimidated by opera and ballet, but if you just start exposing yourself to them I think you’ll discover they are simply beautiful forms of human expression. There’s really no secret to understanding them. 

And how can people support you and/or a cause close to your heart during this time? 

The Washington Ballet is always looking for people to buy tickets! We may not be onstage anytime soon, but being a ticket holder or subscriber is the best small thing you can do for the organization. Even if you’ve never seen a ballet, the variety of programming that TWB offers in a traditional season is worth checking out.