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James Whiteside Is Collaborating With Disney Japan and It's Just as Magical as You'd Expect

If you love James Whiteside as much as we do, allow us to further fuel your obsession. The ABT principal announced via Instagram that his latest project will be playing the Beast (post-transformation, obv) and choreographing an upcoming extra with Disney Japan's Beauty and the Beast DVD release. While we're still awaiting all of the details, we reached out to Whiteside, who confirmed that he and Boston Ballet principal Misa Kuranaga—who will be dancing Belle—will be recreating the film's ballroom scene.

"I choreographed the pas de deux to a specially arranged piano version of the central theme song, "Tale as Old as Time," and stuck with a very classical ballet structure," Whiteside told us via email. "[I incorporated] moments from the original Disney film, as well as feelings I get while watching classic Disney films. My ballet influences were the very Russian Spring Waters, [Frederick] Ashton's Cinderella and much of Alexei Ratmansky's work."

Courtesy of James Whiteside


If you can't wait to see what the starry pair comes up with (because, same), Kuranaga also shared a little behind-the-scenes look at the pas de deux. Despite the super short slow-mo clip, we can already tell Kuranaga is going to be the most perfect Belle. She even has a spot-on version of Belle's gown with a dreamy gold romantic tutu that she credits Japanese tutu maker Nui with designing.

She and Whiteside both wrote that their dancing will appear as an extra "ballet lesson" on the Disney Japan DVD of Beauty and the Beast, but we wouldn't mind if they staged an entire ballet, TBH.

The Conversation
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)

Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.

Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.

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I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.

I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.

That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?

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