Ballet Stars

ABT's James Whiteside Heads to Jacob's Pillow with His Own Show

Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy James Whiteside Presents.

On Wednesday, June 19, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival welcomes James Whiteside Presents to the outdoor Inside/Out stage. This will be the American Ballet Theatre principal's fourth time at the Pillow. He first came to the Massachusetts–based Dance Festival as a corps de ballet member of Boston Ballet in 2004. ("I was struck by the beauty of the place," he recalls.) Whiteside returned in 2010 with Avi Scher & Dancers and most recently with Daniil Simkin's Intensio in 2015.

Now, Whiteside is bringing a program of his own work, performed alongside muse and fellow ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary and actor/show maker Jack Ferver.

Whiteside explains: "The works I'm presenting range from ballet, to contemporary ballet, to ballroom, to theater jazz, to hip hop. They are a selection of dances I've made over the past 10 years or so. My fascination with varied styles of dance will be very apparent. Most of all, it'll be fun!"

Whiteside, who moonlights as pop-artist JbDubs, has been collaborating with Fervor on projects since 2012. "He will be narrating the show as Madame M, a crotchety ballet mistress. I have great admiration for Jack and his ability to make fun of society while making you feel like you're in on the joke."

The works Whiteside will be presenting include Zero Hour, set to Vivaldi's classic "Winter," which he originally co-choreographed with Norwegian National Ballet soloist Melissa Hough; On the Water, a pas de deux to Schubert's "Auf Dem Wasser zu Singen"; and an adaption of Wallflower performed with Trenary. Whiteside will also be performing an adaption of You Rascal You a solo to Louis Armstrong's song of the same name and described as "a murder mystery of a jazz dance."

When asked what it is like to be bringing his own work to the Pillow, Whiteside replied: 'I want to offer people a chance to smile and laugh, to be moved, and hopefully be wowed by the diversity of the program. I want to do commercial choreography in the future, and I believe this program will confirm that I'm up to the task.'

One challenge for Whiteside has been making some of his work "kid friendly" for the Inside/Out stage. "I'm very outspoken and unconcerned with society's judgment," explains the openly gay artist, "so it's an interesting task to show my work in a 'family friendly' way, but I love a challenge! I'm so ready for this!"

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