ABT's Principal Dancer James Whiteside: Making Bold Moves
In the dance-theater piece “The Tenant,” which had its premiere last fall at The Joyce Theater in New York, James Whiteside played a stressed urban dweller who transforms himself into the persona of the woman who lived and died in the apartment before him.
It was just one of many mesmerizing identity shifts that the handsome 34-year-old dancer with the striking jaw, glistening body, and chiseled legs has made since he was a free- spirited boy growing up independent and gay in Fairfield.
“I understand the idea of having many people living inside you,” he says. “Something I’ve thought about for ages is, ‘Who am I choosing to be?’ ”In “The Tenant,” based on the 1976 Roman Polanski film and 1964 Roland Topor psycho- sexual novel, Whiteside was the epitome of contemporary angst, performing wildly expressive modern dance moves – including full-frontal nudity – that was far removed from his roles as principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre (ABT)Since 2012, Whiteside has dazzled audiences and critics at ABT with his graceful lines, stunning technique and breathtaking partnering that defines what it is to be a leading man in classical ballet – while at the same time re-defining it as an out-and-proud star.
But the formal world of performing at ABT is just one of the many Whiteside lives in, and his roles in each artistic genre vary wildly. They include being a drag performer, electro- pop composer, model, choreographer, podcaster, and sneaker and ballet shoe designer (his shoes are size 9). Last fall, in the midst of rehearsals and performances for “The Tenant,” he also completed a course at the Harvard Business School while choreographing a new piece at an ABT lab. He also has an outline for a book he wants to write and if an acting gig comes along, he wouldn’t necessarily say no.