Cover Story

5 Reasons We're Obsessed With James Whiteside

James Whiteside is known for being something of a fashionista. Here, he wears pants and boots by Prada, belt by Jean Paul Gaultier and a vintage jacket styled by Brandon Veloria. Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine.

James Whiteside isn't your typical American Ballet Theatre star. So when we asked writer Brian Schaefer to write a cover story on him for our August issue, we knew we were in for a treat. But the piece ended up making us fall in love with Whiteside even more.

Here are a few of our favorite excerpts from Schaefer's story:


He's a Master of Super Smash Bros

Right away in the first paragraph, Schaefer shares this fun insight:

At a bar in New York City's East Village, where a Wii system is set up, Whiteside easily beats me in a series of matches. (Even during interviews, he insists on having fun.) At work, he's gotten many of his fellow American Ballet Theatre dancers hooked on the game—which seems like an apt metaphor for the way he has brought a bit of playfulness to a company best known for its serious and refined stagings of classical ballets.

He Has Redefined The Modern Male Principal By Simply Being Himself

James Whiteside as Espada in Don Quixote. Photo by Marty Sohl.

Since joining ABT in 2012, Whiteside has gained a large flock of fans for both his princely roles and for his extracurricular pursuits in contemporary dance and fashion, as well as for his outrageous (and hilarious) personas as the pop star JbDubs and the drag queen Ühu Betch."I'm just doing whatever the hell I want to do on a daily basis, and it feels good," he says.

Later in the story, Schaefer writes:

Audiences have come to embrace him in all his quirks and color, though not necessarily right away. "It takes time to build a relationship," he says, "and I feel like I've finally built a relationship with the New York audience." For some, that required getting past an initial hesitation that he attributes to his not fitting the mold of more genteel colleagues like David Hallberg and Roberto Bolle. "I'm not like them," he says. "I never was, I never will be."

As Bold As He May Seem, Whiteside Still Gets Embarrassed

Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

Schaefer tells this adorable anecdote from a rehearsal he visited:

To his embarrassment, Irina Kolpakova, the ABT ballet mistress running the rehearsal, dramatizes Whiteside's development over the past six years, first taking a shy, stiff walk before opening up with grace and confidence. Whiteside blushes.

Whiteside's own retelling of his progress to an ABT principal goes something like this:

"I learned everything off the videos before I got to work. I pretended I wasn't injured when I was. I got in line because I wanted it so bad." As much as Whiteside gives the impression of always having a good time, his discipline is undeniable. "I'm very good at pushing through," he says. "I'm very persistent."

He May Be Insta-Famous, But He Questions Social Media

On Instagram, where Whiteside has over 165,000 followers...his high profile has also become a source of income, helping him build relationships with brands like Marc Jacobs, Capezio, Koio shoes, MAC and Glossier. (Whiteside is represented by the modeling agency Wilhelmina.) But to hear him talk about it, social media seems more a duty than a hobby. "I think we're all going to feel really silly in a decade," he says.

Today, Whiteside Is Experimenting With Dance Theater

Whiteside channeled Judy Garland in Jack Ferver's Everything Is Imaginable. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy Ferver

This fall, Whiteside will partner with choreographer Arthur Pita in a new work based on The Tenant, a psychosexual thriller inspired by a 1964 novel and 1976 film. Early press materials describe the dance drama as "gender-fluid, rich in narrative, disturbing." Pita had been wanting to tell the story for years but needed a fearless and technically ferocious dancer to bring it to life. Whiteside was a perfect fit.

"James is so finely tuned-in with his body that he can explore so many ways to move," Pita says. Perhaps even more important is White­side's willingness to be seen in an unflattering light to serve the story. "He doesn't really care what people think," says Pita, who notes that some dance stars insist on feeding their fans a familiar, polished image. "James isn't attached to any of that. That's very liberating."

To read Dance Magazine's full cover story on James Whiteside, get your copy of our August issue.

The Conversation
News

Last night, longtime theater legends (including Chita Rivera herself!) as well as rising stars gathered to celebrate one of Broadway's danciest events: the third annual Chita Rivera Awards.

The evening paid tribute to this season's dancer standouts, fabulous ensembles, and jaw-dropping choreography—on- and off-Broadway and on film.

As usual, several of our faves made it into the mix. (With such a fabulous talent pool of nominees to choose from, we're glad that ties were allowed.) Here are the highlights from the winner's list:

Keep reading... Show less
Hive by Boston Conservatory student Alyssa Markowitz. Photo by Jim Coleman

The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Lorenzo Di Cristina/Unsplash

When you're a foreign dancer, gaining legal rights to work in the U.S. is a challenging process. It's especially difficult if you're petitioning to work as a freelance dancer without an agent or company sponsorship.

The process requires professional muscle along with plenty of resources and heart. "There's a real misnomer that it's super easy," says Neena Dutta, immigration attorney and president of Dutta Law Firm. "People need to educate themselves and talk to a professional."

Here are four things every foreign dancer who wants to work in the U.S. needs to know to build a freelance dance career here.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Quinn Wharton

What does it take to "make it" in dance? It's no secret that turning this passion into a profession can be a struggle. In such a competitive field, talent alone isn't enough to get you where you want to be.

So what kinds of steps can you take to become successful? Dance Magazine spoke to 33 people from all corners of the industry to get their advice on the lessons that could help us all, no matter where we are in our careers.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by McCallum Theatre
Last year's winner: Manuel Vignoulle's EARTH. Jack Hartin Photography, Courtesy McCallum Theatre

It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.

Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance History
Still of Fonteyn from the 1972 film I Am a Dancer. Photo courtesy DM Archives

On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance As Activism
Courtesy #Dance4OurLives

Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.

When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.

The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.

Keep reading... Show less
Rant & Rave

A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.

I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.

There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.

While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?

Keep reading... Show less
What Dancers Eat
Getty Images

Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.

"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.

The key is choosing your loaf wisely.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending

It can be hard to imagine life without—or just after—dance. Perhaps that's why we find it so fascinating to hear what our favorite dancers think they'd be doing if they weren't performing for a living.

We've been asking stars about the alternate career they'd like to try in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and their answers—from the unexpected to the predictable—do not disappoint:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance in Pop Culture
Unity Phelan in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Photo by Niko Tavernise, Courtesy FRANK PR

"New York City Ballet star appears in a Keanu Reeves action movie" is not a sentence we ever thought we'd write. But moviegoers seeing John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will be treated to two scenes featuring soloist Unity Phelan dancing choreography by colleague Tiler Peck. The guns-blazing popcorn flick cast Phelan as a ballerina who also happens to be training to become an elite assassin. Opens in theaters May 17.

News
Walsh's Moon Fate Sin at Danspace Project. Like Fame Notions, the title was derived from Yvonne Rainer's "No" manifesto. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Danspace Project

The Brooklyn-based choreographer Gillian Walsh is both obsessed with and deeply conflicted about dance. With her latest work, Fame Notions, May 17–19 at Performance Space New York, she seeks to understand what she calls the "fundamentally pessimistic or alienating pursuit" of being a dancer. Noting that the piece is "quiet and introverted," like much of her other work, she sees Fame Notions as one step in a larger project examining why dancers dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Via YouTube

What does Mikhail Baryshnikov have to say to dancers starting their careers today? On Friday, he gave the keynote speech during the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

The heart of his message: Be generous.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox