Posts Tagged ‘hoop dancers’

NYC Ballet Principal Jock Soto Visits Idyllwild

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Jock Soto in Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

More than 100 featured ballet roles were written for him.

For 25 years, Jock Soto was the principal ballet dancer for the New York City Ballet, and left when he turned 40 years old in 2005. Since then, he wrote a book about his dancing career (because Random House asked him to), including his mother’s strong influence.

She was the first female Navajo hoop dancer.

“She used hoops to mimic the movements of eagles and horses,” Jock said. ”

Random House asked Jock to write his memoir soon after his mother’s death.

“At first, I didn’t want to do it,” Jock recalled. “But then I realized it would be a nice tribute to her. But I also wanted ballet dancers to know that there’s life after dancing.”

Since he wrote the book, Jock has graduated from culinary school with a business degree. Jock still teaches ballet at the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York where he learned how to dance professionally, but he is at Idyllwild Arts this week teaching Master Classes.

He reconnected with Jonathan Sharp, a dance instructor at Idyllwild Arts, through Facebook, and is now on tour teaching other students about ballet. As a promise to his mother, he went to Canada to teach indiginous students about ballet.

“They know modern, but surprisingly not ballet at all,” he said.

At Idyllwild Arts, however, the 35 or so dancers who live at the boarding school know about ballet. Many of them have been dancing since age 5, like he did. But he went to New York at age 13 to dance at the American School of Ballet (but there were no dorms back then), and ended up living in an apartment with eight other students.

“My parents didn’t want to live in New York, so I stayed and went to school there,” Jock explained. “Our apartment was in a nice area about three blocks from the school (SAB). I had just left Arizona and was pretty naive.”

Did bad things happen to him in New York? Many of them are outlined in his book, “Every Step You Take,” now available for $18.99 new (or $5 used) on Amazon.

Well, he gave up his high school academic studies, but not his dancing classes, and joined the New York City Ballet at age 16. By age 21, he was their principal dancer, the youngest in their history.

On the cover of his book, “Every Step of the Way,” it shows Jock leaping through the air. He was only 16 when the photo was taken. He looks like an angel in flight.

Jock said he became successful as a ballet dancer because he was quick.

“You had to learn about 100 different dances in a year,” Jock explained. “So if you could learn them quickly, people wanted to work with you.”

Over the years, Jock worked with many choreographers, including George Balanchine, who personally asked him to join the New York City Ballet. He said that he toured the world, and never wanted to leave for any other company.

Besides his memoir, Jock wrote a cookbook with Heather Watts, and PBS produced a documentary in 2008 called, “Water Flowing Together,” that takes you from his roots on the Arizona reservation to principal dancer at the New York City Ballet. Peter Martens said Jock had a “natural grace,” a remarkable career who left a terrific impact on the world of dance.

“I think they’re going to show the documentary at Idyllwild Arts this week,” Jock said.

You can view an excerpt of Jock’s video online at www.pbs.org.

As he drove up from Palm Springs to Idyllwild, Jock said that the area reminded him of Taos, New Mexico, where he has a summer home that he rarely gets to visit.

“This is just beautiful,” Jock said as looked down at the creek and up at the 100-foot pines. “I think I’m going to like staying here.”

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