Jayme Thornton

Watch James Whiteside Work the Thom Browne Runway in a Tutu and Pointe Shoes

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.


"I danced as the character 'M. Brun,' who generously opens his garden to visitors once a year," Whiteside told Vogue. "Thom was very open to whatever choreographic ideas I had and gave me clear references, as far as tone. My character is a proud and artful loner, with a generous spirit."

The Parisian fashion crowd was blown away by Whiteside's impressive skills on pointe (already well-known to dance fans, as are his skills in six-inch heels). Also impressive? The fact that Whiteside jetted to Paris smack-dab in the middle of ABT's epic Metropolitan Opera House season. He danced Lescaut in Manon in NYC on Thursday night, took to the runway in Paris on Saturday, and will be back at the Met as Prince Siegfried tomorrow.

"My friends at Thom Browne contacted me and asked if I was available to go to Paris during June. I said, 'Absolutely not,'" Whiteside told Vogue. "Then they told me what it was for and I said 'Absolutely, yes!'"

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Jason Samuels Smith, photographed by Jayme Thornton

Moving Forward by Looking Back: A Week at the L.A. Tap Festival Online

I turned to tap at the outset of the European lockdown as a meaningful escape from the anxiety of the pandemic. As a dance historian specialized in dance film, I've seen my fair share of tap on screen, but my own training remains elementary. While sheltering in place, my old hardwood floors beckoned. I wanted to dig deeper in order to better understand tap's origins and how the art form has evolved today. Not so easy to accomplish in France, especially from home.

Enter the L.A. Tap Fest's first online edition.

Alongside 100 other viewers peering out from our respective Zoom windows, I watch a performer tap out rhythms on a board in their living room. Advanced audio settings allow us to hear their feet. In the chat box, valuable resources are being shared and it's common to see questions like, "Can you post the link to that vaudeville book you mentioned?" Greetings and words of gratitude are also exchanged as participants trickle in and out from various times zones across the US and around the world.

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