James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)
Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.
Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.
[Light spoilers for Us ahead.] Jordan Peele's bonkers/genius horror film Us uses dance in a terrifyingly effective way: Peele intercuts the big final fight scene with snippets of teenage Adelaide and her Tethered doppelgänger, Red, performing to music from The Nutcracker (specifically, the andante from the Sugar Plum Fairy's pas de deux). As choreographed by Madeline Hollander and danced by Ashley McKoy, the twisted ballet is chilling—even when seen in chopped-up bits.
But now Us is out on DVD and available on demand, and fans have been offered the complete version of Hollander's choreo as a bonus feature. Take a look:
The dark, deeply personal video is Yang's coming-out moment. We see Yang being rejected by his family, condemned by a preacher, and attacked by a hostile mob after attempting to express himself as a gay man. Though not a professional dancer (as we found out in "The Try Guys Try Ballet"), Yang is a gifted mover; he choreographed the project himself, and gathered a group of talented performers to bring the story to life.
There are some dancers who impress in easy-to-articulate ways: They've got the extension, they've got the feet, they've got the technique. Then there are dancers like Diego Pasillas, whose virtuosity isn't as easy to wrap your head around. Not that Diego doesn't have the extension/feet/technique; that's all there, too. But it's his creature-ness that sets him apart, making his smallest transitions as compelling as his most over-the-top tricks. He's a dancer from a different movement universe—the best kind of alien.