When did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was 9 years old.
Why did you start dancing?
I started dancing because I was driving my mom crazy. She wanted to get me out of the house and into an after-school activity. I had an appalling amount of energy and I absolutely hated every “normal” sport. My mom chucked the phonebook at me one day and said, “Pick something!” I thumbed through the yellow pages and found an ad for a local dance studio. At the time, I didn’t realize it was for a dance studio. I just saw the incredible photo, of a man lifting a woman over his head with one hand! Next thing I knew, I was enrolled in jazz, tap, and acrobatics. Ballet came a wee bit later.
Which dancer inspired you most as a child?
Initially, it was my teachers and some of the older students. Janet Jackson had a huge impact on me as a teenager. I loved her music (still do!), her energy, and style. Other influences were Britney Spears and *NSYNC. I willingly knew nothing about Nureyev or Baryshnikov, but those superstars of the late 90’s TRL age had me shaking my rumplestiltskin* in my metallic flares and Sketchers. Rough stuff, I know.
Which dancer do you most admire?
I admire loads of dancers! I’d be a fool to just pick one to steal secrets of the trade from. To name a few: Vera-Ellen, of the MGM days; Marcelo Gomes, of ABT fame; Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty); Rudolf Nureyev (love that queen!)… and many more!
What’s your favourite role?
All of them! Lies. Prince Albrecht in Giselle is one of my favourites. Walking around with a cape and flowers is something I like to do on an almost daily basis. Oh, the glamour.
What role have you never played but would like to?
Dr Frank N Furter, of The Rocky Horror Show.
What’s your favourite ballet to watch?
My favourite ballet to watch is George Balanchine’s Serenade.
Who is your favourite choreographer?
George Balanchine. Also referred to as Him.
Who is your favourite writer?
Jules Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mysterious Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and many more!
Who is your favourite director?
Hayao Miyazaki. My favourite film of his is Howl’s Moving Castle. Close seconds are Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, The Cat Returns, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Spirited Away… so, pretty much all of his films.
Who is your favourite actor?
Who is your favourite singer?
My favourite male vocalist is Seal and my favourite female vocalist is Toni Braxton. Prince and Stevie Nicks are also favourites.
What is your favourite book?
The Bible! Just kidding. I adore sci-fi/fantasy. Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle is incredible. It’s such a poignant mix of imagination and literature! The first two books are titled The Name of the Wind, and A Wise Man’s Fear.
What is your favourite film?
As far as impact on my life, I’d have to say Tina Fey’s MeanGirls. When I was a teenager, it taught me how to be mean while at least knowing I’m being mean.
Which is your favourite city?
I have three. New York City (duh), Tokyo, and Paris. The trifecta.
What do you like most about yourself?
My imagination! It’s crazy in there!
What do you dislike about yourself?
My inability to cope with large dinner parties. Table for eight? No thank you.
What was your proudest moment?
When I was promoted to Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theatre.
When and where were you happiest?
I was naïve and complacent in my early twenties. I had incredible friends, family, really. We drank and smoked a lot, and work was secondary to the time and experiences we shared. They’re all still my best friends. As the rapper Drake once rapped, “No new friends”, just old friends.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I have so many great loves. Music is the earth I stand on. I’d absolutely wither away without it! Dance, literature, food, coffee, video games, films, and let’s not forget Dan Donigan and my cat, Ms Bit!
What is your greatest fear?
I’ve never lost anyone truly close to me. I’m terrified of how it will affect me. However, I don’t fear my own death.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would change my inability to cope with large dinner parties. Le winke .
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Somehow, I became a ballet dancer! I had no interest in becoming a ballet dancer until my mid to late teens. I never thought I’d be a Principal Dancer in a major ballet company, let alone ABT!
What is your most treasured possession?
Can I say my cat? My cat.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My Manhattan apartment is easily the most expensive thing I own.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. Sometimes, you just gotta tell somebody what’s what.
On what occasion do you lie?
Sometimes, I tell people it’s good to see them when it’s not.
If you hadn’t been a dancer what would you have liked to be?
I would have swindled my way into the arts come hell or high water. I’d be a musician, or an actor, or a cartoonist… you name it!
What is your most marked characteristic?
I like to make up words. People who know me can vouch for that. If you know me long enough, you’ll be fluent in my made up language.
What quality do you most value in a friend?
Humour. If you don’t make me laugh, begone!
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
Kindness and respect. I have no time for evil divas.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
The scientific geniuses of the past: Einstein, Copernicus, Galileo, Curie, Planck, Tesla, etc. Talk about changing the world! It all started with curiosity and a little imagination.
Which living person do you most admire?
To stick with the scientist theme, I choose Stephen Hawking. If you haven’t read any of his books, do it! Reader, that’s your homework.
What do you most dislike?
Oh you know, useless killing and the like, but on a more personally relevant scale, gigantic strollers. It drives me insane when people traipse down the sidewalk with a baby stroller the size of Texas. Often, the children are entirely too old to be wheeled around. Get out and walk!
What talent would you most like to have?
I wish I was the best singer in the universe.
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness is contentment with one’s life. Enjoying the people you love, achieving one’s goals, and laughing often are just a few things that are important to me.
How would you like to die?
Quickly and not so old that I’m a pile of goo on polyester sheets.
What is your motto?
I’m still working on one. I always cop out and use this quote from Rocky Horror Picture Show: “Don’t dream it. Be it.” Good, right? Mine’s not so good. It goes something like, “Use logic and don’t be an asshole.” I guess I still have some work to do.
James Whiteside – a biography
Born in Fairfield, Connecticut, James Whiteside began his training at age nine at the D’Valda & Sirico Dance and Music Centre, where guest faculty included Charles Kelley, Franco De Vita and Raymond Lukens. He continued his training at the Virginia School of the Arts for one year under the direction of Petrus Bosman and David Keener. In 2002, Whiteside joined Boston Ballet II, where he continued to train under the tutelage of its director Raymond Lukens, now director of ABT’s National Training Curriculum. Whiteside joined the corps de ballet of Boston Ballet in 2003 and became a second soloist in 2006. He was promoted to first soloist in 2008 and to principal dancer with Boston Ballet in 2009.
Whiteside joined American Ballet Theatre as a Soloist in September 2012 and was named a Principal Dancer in October 2013.
Whiteside’s repertoire with Boston Ballet included Principal roles in George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Coppélia, Ballo della Regina, Rubies, The Four Temperaments (Sanguinic), Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Who Cares?, Serenade, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Symphony in 3, and La Valse; Maina Gielgud’s Giselle; Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker and Swan Lake; John Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet; Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda Act III; Antony Tudor’s Dark Elegies; Jirí Kylián’s Sarabande, Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze; Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room; Mark Morris’ Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes. He created roles in Jorma Elo’s Brake the Eyes, Plan to B, Carmen, Slice to Sharper, and In On Blue; Helen Pickett’s Eventide and Etesian; Mark Morris’ Up & Down and Heather Myers’ Gone Again.
His repertoire with the American Ballet Theatre includes Ali, the Slave in Le Corsaire, Basilio and Espada in Don Quixote, the Nutcracker Prince in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, Prince Gremin in Onegin, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty, Prince Siegfried and von Rothbart (Ballroom) in Swan Lake, Orion in Sylvia, Caliban in The Tempest, Lescaut in Manon, and roles in Bach Partita, Gong, Theme and Variations, Chamber Symphony, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, In the Upper Room and Symphony in C.
* Rumpelstiltskin – The practice of aggressively shaking a can of beer and then smashing it against your forehead until a hole is formed from which you suck out the remaining beer inside the can as fast as possible. This is usually performed with others in a circular formation. It is common to repeatedly chant “Rum-pel-stilt-skin” as the beer is being shaken. eg Peter and Luke Rumpelstiltskined so many beers in the hallway last night their heads were still ringing this morning.
– from the Urban Dictionary
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.