After the year we have been through, we could use a little delicious distraction to get us through the holidays. This December, Netflix gives us the gift that keeps on giving with a ten-episode run of Tiny Pretty Things, based on the popular young adult book by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. The series showcases the lives of young performers, following their dreams far from home, at the crossroads of their career – will they sink or swim in these shark-infested waters? The show takes place in Chicago’s only elite dance school, the Archer School of Ballet that serves as the city’s renowned professional company, City Works Ballet. The students are comprised of young adults from all different walks of life with one goal – to succeed at all costs. It is “Black Swan and Pretty Little Liars” with even more drama and even more hot actors in tights – we’re in.
Rounding at the cast is LGBTQ+ real-life dancer Brennan Clost. Brennan is no stranger to the competitive dance world, having competed from the age of seven, earning a series of accolades including the World Silver Medal in the International Dance Organization for junior soloist in Germany and being named as one of the Top Senior Male Dancers at The Dance Awards in New York City.
I don’t remember much from my early days of dance competitions, partly I think I blacked them out; my first dance teacher was a major bully. One memory I have from my first-year competing was getting off-stage after performing and my dance teacher grabbing my arm so hard, she injured my wrist. Fun times.
Choosing a life in competitive dancing at such an early age is kiss goodbye to any attempt at leading a normal life. In addition to the physical demands of dance, the idea of any free time spent outside of dance is non-existent.
I really did not have a social life through any of high school. I would wake up at 6am to do homework, go to school from 9am to 3pm, get home and scarf down dinner, then be at dance from 4pm till 11pm, do homework until 1am or 2am, and then get up to do it all over. At one of my dance studios, even on weekends, I was training from 9am till 6pm both Saturday and Sunday. I would go home after that and sit in my bedroom to study.
In Tiny Pretty Things, Brennan plays Shane, the show’s hothead, who grew up in a small town and dealt with aggression for his love of dance. Besides the isolation of pursuing a dance career, the ideas of dancing and masculinity make a boy (gay or straight) an easy target for ridicule from peers. As if the competition world on someone’s psyche was not damaging enough.
I was bullied all through elementary and high school by the boys in my grade for being a male dancer. It got so bad at my first school that I convinced my parents to let me start French Immersion in Grade Seven and move to a new school. However, when I reunited with those boys in high school, the bullying started again.
Brennan is an anti-bullying advocate as well as an activist for LGBTQIA+ rights and representation. He regularly gives talks at local schools to encourage and support, using his own life story as inspiration.
Speaking to youth has reinforced to me how much I needed a role model to look up to when I was growing up. When I speak to youth and reflect on my years growing up as a young, impressionable male dancer, I try to convey my message of following one’s dreams and pursuing happiness. I feel that sharing my story might help someone who may be looking for that same reassurance and guidance.
His message to LGBTQ youth is the same everywhere he speaks:
Follow your passion and your dreams, support and celebrate each other, and never give up.
Brennan’s initial self-tape audition for the show consisted of an extensive ballet sequence and scenes from the show, with a call back lasting almost an hour and a half. He was slightly familiar with the book with a crash course from friends and even his grandma. But his biggest YA book infatuation?
I was obsessed with the Twilight series all through middle school, so I guess I would thank Twilight for my attraction to toxic men.
It is still unclear whether he is Team Edward or Team Jacob. Since filming, he has become ingratiated with the book version of the show, preparing for the throngs of uber-fans that will be grilling him on his character. Given the chance, Brennan would pen his own YA series.
I would write an LGBTQ Superhero YA novel, with the intent to produce it into an epic trilogy of films!
In real life, Clost has lived in the world of dance school as one of only 12 male dancers accepted into Juilliard, the world’s leader in performing arts education. His top and bottom class?
One of my favorite classes at Juilliard was Anatomy. Irene Dowd (our professor) is hilarious, kind, and a GENIUS. How she connected it to dance was so beneficial to us. I have become the unofficial physiotherapist for my family and friends thanks to her class. The worst class in my opinion was music theory in my first year, not because I didn’t think it was valuable, but because the teacher treated us like absolute idiots.
Not only did attending Juilliard shape his education and skill as a dancer, but it was also a turning point in his personal life.
I came out to my friends and classmates at University before my family. Not because I wanted to, but because they caught me sneaking out of the dorms to my secret boyfriend’s apartment. When I went home for Spring Break during my sophomore year of Juilliard, I borrowed a beautiful blazer from my boyfriend to wear to a red-carpet event. My parents asked where I had gotten this expensive jacket and I told them I borrowed it from my boyfriend. My dad’s reaction was the best. All he asked was, “How old is he? Where is he from? Is he a nice person?” All my family wants for me is to be happy. I don’t know why I waited so long to come out. Well, I have some theories, but they are too long to divulge here. My family and friends constantly impress me with how open-minded and loving they are, which I know is not the norm and I feel extremely grateful.
The biggest thing he learned about dancing from Juilliard?
Dancers with good technique can let it go on stage and truly just be in the moment performing. If you must think about your technique, you do not have it.
We cannot wait for the juicy love stories in Tiny Pretty Things. Is there time for love and dating in the dance world?
I always dated people at school or at dance, and we rarely went on “dates” because I did not have time. I am extremely picky, and I prioritize my career over dating. My philosophy is that if someone is special and they are worth it, then I will make the time for them.
Is Brennan a real-life dancing diva?
Well if you ask my mom, the biggest backstage diva is probably me. Back when I was competing, my mom, bless her, would run backstage between dances, and stitch my shirts to my dance belt so they would not come untucked on stage. I would scream at her to be faster. Though in my defense, my dance teachers would have had my head if I were late.
Besides dancing, Brennan has been consumed with writing and producing. He started a YouTube channel with his best friend Brittany Raymond for the debut of their web series AUSTRALIANAIRE$. The mockumentary follows the aftermath of two siblings (both portrayed by the creators) after their parent’s tragic demise.
AUSTRALIANAIRE$ was largely inspired by Summer Heights High, all of Chris Lilley’s work Britt and I find hilarious. I love watching and performing comedy that gets physical, is smart and satirical, and sometimes is a little morbid or absurd.
Is working with a best friend wise?
I had worked with one of my best friends in the past and it went up in flames because we did not communicate. I ended up taking on 99% of the workload and she reaped 100% of the benefits. My current producing partner and one of my best friends, Brittany Raymond, has also had experiences like that in the past with former business partners. When we decided to start producing content and developing projects together, we made a pact to be SO OVERLY communicative with one another, even if it is something silly. I think it works so well because we’re really good at showing up for each other, we don’t judge each other, and we have similar work ethics in that we can trust that the other person will get their work done and to the standard that we would do it ourself.
With the premiere of Tiny Pretty Things, life will no doubt change for Brennan. The guilty pleasure drama of the show with the aesthetically attractive cast is a formula for success. With so much content being watched during COVID, this is a fun breath of fresh air. Is Brennan ready for life to change?
I’m excited of course for us to share Tiny Pretty Things with the world, it’s been our little secret for so long. I’m also excited that if it does well, we would get to be back together to film more. Or that if people love it, I could acquire more acting work from it. On the flip side, I started seeing a therapist through quarantine because I am really overwhelmed by how much public exposure, and potential criticism, might come from it. The internet can be a scary place.
What is Brennan’s most treasured “tiny pretty things” in real life?
My entire apartment is filled with inherited furniture from my grandparents. They had this glass shelf in their old home (they are not dead, they just downsized) with trinkets and tiny sculptures. A lot of those have ended up in my place, most recently my grandparents gifted me a tiny white porcelain duck from their old house, for my birthday.
You can follow Brennan on Instagram: @BrennanClost.
Last modified: December 8, 2020