The "Artist" Question
What is an artist? It’s one of those questions where few agree on the same answer. I probably change my own definition of the term every other week whenever I see something new that stretches my perspective.
Nonetheless, three top dancers from American Ballet Theatre—Misty Copeland, Marcelo Gomes and James Whiteside—will attempt to shed some light on the topic in a special event presented by Youth America Grand Prix next Monday at New York City Center studios. In addition to a discussion about what goes into the making of an artist, Gomes will also choreograph a new piece in real time on Copeland and Whiteside. In the meantime, we caught up with Whiteside to get his take on the topic.
In your view, what makes a dancer an artist?
Any dancer is an artist because we create something from nothing. Using only our minds and bodies, we become gods.
How have you worked to develop your own artistry?
Artistry is like a personal timeline: There are events, relationships and experiences that get injected into my work. The result is that my dancing becomes infused with life experience.
What do you admire in other dancers?
I’m inspired by those who make their own way and have high dreams. The ones who aren’t waiting for life to happen, but making it happen.
How do you feel YAGP helps young dancers explore their artistry?
YAGP was never just a competition, but a catalyst for an aspiring artist. It helps students explore the reality of life as a dancer: There’s art, there’s pressure, there’s triumph, there’s disappointment. You become part of an elite network of past, present and future artists. That experience is priceless.