An interview with Liliana a 16 year old rugby player and ballet dancer

Liliana is a 16-year-old ballet dancing rugby player or rugby playing ballet dancer, whichever way you want to look at it, she has been doing ballet for 13 years and rugby for 2.

Lets start with ballet, how did you get involved?

I was 3 and, my mum took me to a class, I enjoyed it and haven’t stopped since, I’ve been doing it so long it’s a normal thing to do.

As a woman have you found ballet to be beneficial growing up?

It’s been beneficial as it makes me more graceful and makes me think about things more when I do them, like your posture, I don’t always have great posture but when I think about it I can change it

What about the attitudes from people around you?

People think it’s impressive that I’ve been doing ballet this long, if you look at me you don’t associate me with ballet, people are often surprised, it’s not a thing that a lot of people do.

Can you talk about how you got involved in rugby?

I’ve always been interested in it, two years ago one of my PE teachers set up a girl’s team so I joined that. We play full contact rugby just like the boys, with certain age groups it’s different, boys start 15 a side earlier than girls do, that’s the only different between men’s and women’s rugby.

Do you think it’s good they it’s the same for men and women?

Yeah, because rugby is known as a men’s sport so it’s good that we play by the same rules and that things don’t change for us, because there is no difference.

What about the reactions of rugby from your peers?

Girls and adults think it’s amazing that we play contact and boys who play rugby think it’s really impressive and are encouraging but some people who don’t play rugby don’t understand and make fun of you for it, they call you manly or lesbian because of it.

What do you say to those people?

I just ask how is it any different from a man playing rugby? You wouldn’t say it was gay for a man to play rugby.

Are the girls on your team more masculine?

No, not at all, even for a rugby match some of them will put on make-up, if you look at a lot of girls on my team you wouldn’t associate them with rugby at all, but when they are on the pitch they are completely different.

Do you think that either sport has shaped your body physically? And how do you feel about that?

My leg muscles have built up a lot from rugby because I use them so much. It’s improved my fitness a lot. I feel positive about these changes.

Do you think any changes need to be made in the way gender is addressed in sport?

Ballet is seen as a women’s sport. I think men doing ballet is more impressive, as women have the aid of their pointe shoes but men just have their strength and so people don’t appreciate that. But in rugby it’s seen the other way. If a man were to play for their country it can be their full time job and they get paid loads for it, but, for example, for the English women’s team, rugby is seen as a hobby and some of them are vets or teachers.

Do you see the fact that you do both of these sports as special or unusual?

For me, no, because it’s just normal, but when you tell someone that you do both they seem quite surprised.

Do you think it’s getting easier for people to participate in sport not associated with their assigned gender?

I think women’s rugby has grown a lot in the last few years and it’s become more acceptable and that’s why there are so many teams now but ballet hasn’t changed and so it’s still seen as a women’s sport, the men don’t get as much recognition.

Do you have anything to say to other young people about sport?

If you’re interested in it then do it, no matter what other people think, because people are always going to disagree with what you do but at the end of the day it’s your decision to do it

Liliana has recently been selected to play with Somerset under 18s county team and will be taking her grade 7 ballet exam next Easter.

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