BWW Interview: A 'Prolific' Summer: Catching up with James Whiteside
To leave a permanent mark on the cultural landscape is a lifelong motivation for any artist. But for accomplished American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer James Whiteside, one medium simply can't contain his high-watt creativity. As a pop singer, choreographer, and storyteller, James seems to find inspiration wherever he goes.
When he was a kid, James' love of sound helped to fuel his early passion for movement. "I've always been really inspired by music. I would make up dances in my room. So, my mom tossed me a phone book and I found an ad for a dance studio. The photo was of a man holding a woman over his head with one hand and I thought that was really cool." After a few weeks of trial classes, James was hooked, and after years of training and hard work, he landed acceptance into the Boston Ballet in 2003. But a desire for something new brought him to New York and into American Ballet Theatre in 2012. "One of the reasons I wanted to move to ABT was to work on the classics, on my theater aspects, my acting, and my whole classical dancing. I feel like I've learned so much from watching my colleagues."
And the proof is in the pillow - Jacob's Pillow, that is. As the second stop on his international summer tour, James will be producing and premiering "5 Dances" on the famed Inside/Out stage with help from a fellow company member, Soloist Cassandra Trenary. "I'm obsessed with Jacob's Pillow as a place ... and I thought, 'Why don't I just bring a bunch of stuff I've made over the years?' It's a visual history of my creation." Accompanied by comedic narration from actor and show maker, Jack Ferver, "5 Dances" will offer audiences a peek inside James' psyche. "I hope everyone has a great time, because I know I will."
The following week, his fellow company members will join James to perform Gemma Bond's "Impressions" at the Joyce Theater. "I really like working with people I like, and I'm very fortunate to have a lot of people that I work with that I genuinely enjoy. I believe [Gemma] has a voice that should be heard and I'm happy to lend my being to it."
But aside from the travel and dancing that propel his summer plans, it's the art of variety that interests James the most, as he continues to push boundaries artistically. "I appreciate a whole world of things that aren't just dance related ... If I think something's cool, I'm going to find a way to ... let people know that this is important." A perfect example of this? He recently shot another music video entitled "The Vault" as JbDubs, his pop singer persona. "JbDubs came about from my fascination with music production. I write all the time ... it was just sort of a natural progression. I'm not classically trained but I can put together a song."
Because really, this is only the beginning. For James, this summer is an opportunity to share his creativity and passion with the world; something he plans on doing for as long as he can. "I wish to have a joyful time. [I] want to use this time to explore beyond my realm and meet new fans of dance.
Check out a full list below of James' summer tour dates:
July 16 - Fire Island Dance Festival, Fire Island: How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore? by Al Blackstone
July 19 - Jacob's Pillow Dance's Inside/Out, Becket, MA: James Whiteside Presents 5 Dances
July 25-26 - Joyce Theater, NYC: Impressions with Gemma Bond
July 28-30 - BALLETNOW, Los Angeles CA: Romeo and Juliet and Rubies Pas de Deux
August 4-5 - Vail Dance Festival, Vail, CO: International Evenings of Dance
August 22-24- Ballet Sun Valley, Sun Valley, ID: Romeo and Juliet pas de deux, You Rascal You
August Dates TBD - Tokyo Disney, Japan: Beauty and the Beast
Photo Credits: Ballet Zaida & Nisian Hughes