Photography lesson

Lesson of the day: “A day in the life of ballet dancer and choreographer James Whiteside”

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Featured article: “A day in the life of ballet dancer and choreographer James Whitesideby Arden Fanning Andrew with photography and video by Melody Melamed

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

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

Next, make some predictions:

  • How can a ballet dancer prepare for a performance?

  • What special equipment might he 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 difficult?

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

The article includes vocabulary that you may not be familiar with. Take a 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. choreography
6. achieve
7. Breakup
8. revoke
9. Hyperventilate
10. contractually

You can discover and review the meaning of all the words using this Vocabulary.com study guide.

Note: You will also encounter vocabulary related to ballet and classical music, such as pointe shoe, tutu, adagio, pirouette and fondue. You can find the meaning of these words in the Dictionary of American Ballet Theater.

Read the articlealso available in PDFthen answer the following questions:

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

2. When did Mr. Whiteside start training as a dancer?

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

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 milestones of Mr. Whiteside’s day. Include at least five things he has done.

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

Option 1: Write about a day in your life.

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

Look at 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’s the first thing you do in the morning? How do you prepare for school?

  • How do you go 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 unwind or unwind each evening?

Option 2: Find a day in the life of someone in a career that interests you.

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

Spend 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 needed?

  • Who is someone who is doing this job successfully? Find out three tasks this person does every day.

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

Finally, share your findings with your peers by creating a slideshow, page, or poster with facts about that work. You can make your project visually appealing by including photographs, drawings, or quotes from people in the profession.


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