By Rosine Bena
December 22, 2015
[Reno, Nevada, USA] – This is the season of holiday tradition and Sierra Nevada Ballet celebrates by presenting annual performances of “The Peanutcracker – The Story in a Nutshell” in Reno and Carson City. This year’s production (which ran Dec. 4-15) featured James Applewhite as the Snow Prince/Russian Prince.
Applewhite is a tall, thin, handsome, elegant, African-American dancer well-suited to the title of “prince.” In fact, he said that growing up in middle school, he was affectionately given that nickname by his friends.
|“Performing arts gave me the path to an education and helped me discover my personal light while showing me the path to sharing it with others.”|
In his younger years, Applewhite was the only African-American in his elementary school in Florida and found that he was not fond of school and was not a very good student. One teacher told him: “James, you will never be on the honor roll.”
Then he attended a performing arts middle school in Florida and discovered dance. Students were required to take dance as an accepted part of education. At this institution Applewhite found that his grades began to go up and that he actually liked school. He continued on to a performing arts high school, developing a special aptitude for ballet. In 10th grade, he had great success performing in the Nutcracker and established a fine performance reputation at school, later graduating on the honor roll. “Performing arts gave me the path to an education and helped me discover my personal light while showing me the path to sharing it with others.”
Upon graduation from high school, Applewhite was offered scholarships to the best ballet schools in the world. He continued his ballet training at the JKO School of American Ballet Theater in New York and was then offered a professional contract with the National Ballet of Canada, the Orlando Ballet and later the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Applewhite’s path was not always easy. He found that he continuously fought against being stereotyped, not only as a male ballet dancer, but as an African-American ballet dancer. He discovered that those two labels conjured up a number of preconceived notions that had no relevance to his position in life. Many people were surprised to find that he was “a strong, straight, intelligent African-American man capable of supporting a woman in every way – on stage and off.” Applewhite is a gifted partner and, while he enjoys solo dancing, one of his greatest joys is dancing pas deux, a dance for a man and a woman.
When asked if he has advice for young male dancers interested in pursuing a career in ballet, Applewhite shares, “I do not feel in a position to offer any advice, as I consider myself on an individual path to self-discovery. But I will say that ballet was developed by a man, and that man was a king. Ballet elevates the soul. Anyone who has the opportunity to study ballet should feel fortunate and filled with gratitude. I personally find it an honor and privilege to study such a beautiful, elegant, regal, spiritual art form.”
In Applewhite’s opinion, all children should have the opportunity to learn the arts as part of their regular education. “The arts can help children in so many important ways. Ballet has taught me self-discipline, coordination, honesty, spirituality, a strong work ethic, how to work with others and how to relate to a mentor/teacher in order to absorb instruction without feeling insecure. It has given me self esteem and taught me to find my center, anatomically, emotionally and spiritually. These are things that we can all take with us throughout our lives.”
Copyright 2015 Reno Gazette-Journal