James Whiteside is an acclaimed ballet dancer, born in Fairfield, Connecticut, James began his training at age nine. In 2002, Whiteside joined Boston Ballet II and in 2006 James became a second soloist. Whiteside joined American Ballet Theatre as a Soloist in September 2012 and was named a Principal Dancer in October 2013. Since then he has performed in countless stage pieces and has taken his career from strength to strength. We spoke to Jame to try and find out what it would take to tick this item off our Bucket Lists, this is what he said:
- James, what does your love of ballet come from?
I believe that my love of ballet comes from an overwhelming love of music. Even when I’m sitting in silence, I see the rhythms in which people move. Each person’s specific gait, a telling dance all their own. Music gives momentum to my inner desire to move, to never sit still. Music has power, manipulative power, and when combined with dance, I feel I’m home.
- Is ballet as competitive as people say to become part of?
Like any niche market, ballet is extremely difficult to be successful in. It’s wildly unlikely that your average dance student will be deemed good enough to be employed by a dance company, let alone a prestigious one. As in any field, competition at the top is fierce, but who’s to say it’s any fiercer than the competition at the bottom? My drive, focus, and eager-beaver mentality was paramount to getting opportunities as a young, aspiring ballet dancer. I’m sure those same qualities alienated me from my peers as well. My idea of competition has changed over the years, and I’ve found that even though competition is fierce, it’s important to be supportive of those around you, and to learn from those who inspire you to be better.
- What gave you that competitive edge to form a career out of it?
It’s hard to say. Perhaps it’s that I have a large family, and I had to vie for attention. Or maybe it was starting at a small dance school in Connecticut, specialising in jazz, tap, acrobatics, and ballet. We were a youth company that competed nationally. My competitive nature didn’t show itself in all areas of my life. School for instance, wasn’t something I felt competitive about. However, if there was a particular subject I truly adored, I’d give it my all. Even as a child I was very selective of the things that I gave my focus to. It seems I haven’t changed.
- What’s been your proudest moment as a dancer?
I can’t believe I’m a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. I always thought it was some fanciful dream… until it wasn’t. I’m proud to learn from others, simply by watching, listening. I hope future me will find beautiful new ways to be proud, of myself and those around me.
- What obstacles have you faced on your way to the stage?
At times, ballet feels hopeless. There is no feasible way to become the idea of perfection you have living in your mind. The ideal ballet dancer is a myth. Individual dancers are special not because of their perfection, but often times because of their quirks, their daring, and their choices. Learning to accept myself is an ongoing battle; one I’m doing my damnedest to win.
6.What’s your favorite film, book or mantra that keeps you focused when times are hard?
When times are hard, I rifle through my “clippings” in my Kindle reading device. I save passages from the books I read, as I’m reading them, for later perusal. If something strikes me as poignant, funny, ironic, or simply resonates with me, I highlight and save it. When I look back at these passages, it strikes me as funny that they all have recurring themes. It’s not that these words keep me focused, it’s that they remind me who I am and what I believe is important, without even being aware of it at the time as a “clipping”.
Lastly, what’s next on your Bucket List?
I’d like to dance as a guest with New York City Ballet. I miss dancing Balanchine works, and ABT has limited access to those masterpieces. I find myself and my dancing to be “A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll”. A little bit City Ballet, a little bit ABT. What can I say? I’m greedy.
And that was the end of that. If you’d like to follow the rest of James’ career check out his Twitter: @JamesBWhiteside.