Lesson of the Day: ‘A Day In the Life of the Ballet Dancer and Choreographer James Whiteside’

Lesson of the Day: ‘A Day In the Life of the Ballet Dancer and Choreographer James Whiteside’

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Featured Article: “A Day In the Life of the Ballet Dancer and Choreographer James Whiteside” by Arden Fanning Andrew with photographs and video by Melody Melamed

James Whiteside is a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater in New York City. In this lesson, you will follow Mr. Whiteside, via photographs and videos, through a day in his life as a dancer. Then, you will write your own “day in the life” — either for yourself, or for someone whose career you admire.

What do you know about what it’s like to be a professional dancer? Before you find out what Mr. Whiteside’s day is like, watch at least two minutes of his performance in “Beauty and the Beast,” for which he was both a dancer and a choreographer:

Then, make some predictions:

  • How might a ballet dancer prepare for a performance?

  • What special equipment might he or she need?

  • What might a dancer’s daily schedule look like?

  • What do you think would be exciting about this kind of work? What would be challenging?

  • What questions would you ask Mr. Whiteside about his routine if you could?

The article includes vocabulary that you might be unfamiliar with. Look at the list below and see how many words you can define and use in a sentence.

1. aesthetic
2. nowadays
3. favor
4. luxury
5. choreograph
6. achieve
7. rupture
8. revoke
9. hyperventilate
10. contractually

You can learn about and review the meanings of all of the words using this Vocabulary.com study guide.

Note: You will also encounter some vocabulary related to ballet and classical music, such as pointe shoe, tutu, adagio, pirouette and fondu. You can find the meaning of those words in the American Ballet Theater’s dictionary.

Read the article, also available as a PDF, then answer the following questions:

1. How does Mr. Whiteside define his personal style? How would you describe yours?

2. When did Mr. Whiteside begins his training as a dancer?

3. What are the elements of a dance class at American Ballet Theater?

4. What does Mr. Whiteside mean when he says “his life is his body”? What does he do to take care of his body?

5. Write a numbered list that summarizes the steps in Mr. Whiteside’s day. Include at least five things he did.

6. Was there anything about Mr. Whiteside’s daily routine that surprised you?

Option 1: Write About a Day in Your Life.

You might not be a professional dancer, but your day is still unique and special.

Look at the question 5 in the section above where you summarized Mr. Whiteside’s day. Using this same structure, write about a typical day in your life. Here are some prompts to help you structure your writing:

  • What is the first thing you do in the morning? How do you get ready for school?

  • How do you get to school? What do you do when you arrive? What classes do you have during the day?

  • What do you do after school? How do you wind down or relax each evening?

Option 2: Research a Day in the Life of Someone in a Career That Interests You.

You just learned about what an average day is like for a professional dancer. What is your dream job or career? What do you know about the daily responsibilities and tasks of that job?

Spend some time researching your dream job. Be sure to answer the following questions:

  • What does a person in this job need to know to be successful? What education, skills, talent or expertise might be necessary?

  • Who is someone who is successfully doing this job? Learn about three tasks that person does on daily basis.

  • What is one step you could take today to get closer to that career? For example, could you interview someone currently working in the field? Can you apply for an internship or take a specialized class?

Finally, share your findings with your peers by creating a slide show, one-pager or poster with facts about this job. You can make your project visually appealing by including photographs, drawings or quotes from people who are in this profession.

Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.