Dancer Voices

"I Realized the Power in Loving the Dancer I Am by Loving the Man I Am"

Palmquist performing a self-choreographed solo at the Monterrey International Ballet Gala. Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Palmquist

My parents felt it was important to give each of their six kids a place in the world. For me, my mom sensed that place might be hip-hop class. In the very safe space that was the dance studio, I was able to express more emotion than in any other part of my day. It was a training ground for how to exist in a small town with a passion that colored outside the lines of a Midwestern male archetype.


Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Palmquist

I took as many styles as were offered and spent weekends in hotel ballrooms full of young, like-minded dancers. The pressure rose for my parents. How to pay for such an expensive hobby? How to teach me that winning competitions wasn't the most important part while also knowing it would go a long way toward building a confidence I didn't yet have?

After leaving home, I started to feel less and less like-minded among dancers who were perfectly happy to do as they were told, never finding it at odds with their sense of self. I was wispy and subtle and felt connected to music from my hips and neck. I sensed I wasn't quite the dancer that directors were looking for. Yet I wanted my parents to feel reassured that I had a place.

Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Palmquist

It wasn't until I was learning A Chorus Line from Donna McKechnie and Wayne Cilento, for American Dance Machine for the 21st Century, that I realized the power in loving the dancer I am by loving the man I am. I was struck by how they left room for dancers' instinctual flair inside the blueprints of eight-counts.

I am so grateful to my parents for giving me access to my own place in the world. In a way, they taught me everything I know about dance by teaching me everything they know about unconditional love.

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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Health & Body
Getty Images

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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