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American Ballet Theater principal dancer James Whiteside details his rise to fame and his life beyond ballet in this energetic and humorous memoir. Knowing he was gay at an early age, Whiteside thought that ballet “was doing something super gay” only to be disappointed by the heteronormative roles that male dancers were cast in. While keeping up with the demands of ballet, he also ventured out into becoming a New York drag queen and breaking into the pop-music scene in order to stay connected to his true self. While Center Center doesn’t delve into the details of dance technique or the wonders of performances, it’s a fun read detailing the flair and determination it takes to reach the top.
“James Whiteside is an electrifying performer, an incredible athlete, and an artist, through and through. To know James is to love him; with Center Center, you are about to fall in love.” —Jennifer Garner
“A frank examination and celebration of queerness.” —Good Morning America
A daring, joyous, and inspiring memoir-in-essays from the American Ballet Theatre principal dancer-slash-drag queen-slash-pop star who's redefining what it means to be a man in ballet
There's a mark on every stage around the world that signifies the center of its depth and width, called "center center." James Whiteside has dreamed of standing on that very mark as a principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre ever since he was a twelve-year-old blown away by watching the company's spring gala. The GLAMOUR. The VIRTUOSITY. The RIPPED MEN IN TIGHTS!
In this absurd and absurdist collection of essays, Whiteside tells us the story of how he got to be a primo ballerino—stopping along the way to muse about the tragically fated childhood pets who taught him how to feel, reminisce on ill-advised partying at summer dance camps, and imagine fantastical run-ins with Jesus on Grindr. Also in these pages are tales of the two alter egos he created to subvert the strict classical rigor of ballet: JbDubs, an out-and-proud pop musician, and Ühu Betch, an over-the-top drag queen named after Yoohoo chocolate milk.
Center Center is an exuberant behind-the-scenes tour of Whiteside’s triple life, both on- and offstage—a raunchy, curious, and unapologetic celebration of queerness, self-expression, friendship, sex, creativity, and pushing boundaries that will entertain you, shock you*, inspire you, embolden you . . . and maybe even make you cry.
*THIS IS NOT A BOOK FOR CHILDREN.
About the Author
James Whiteside (alter egos JbDubs and Uhu Betch) is a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, a pop star, and a member of the NYC-based drag posse the Dairy Queens, which also includes RuPaul's Drag Race alum Milk. He has choreographed for music videos, commercials, film, and ballet, and in 2018, he starred in Arthur Pita's dance/theater work The Tenant at The Joyce Theater in New York City. Whiteside also hosts his own popular podcast, The Stage Rightside with James Whiteside. His song and music video "I Hate My Job" has been featured in The New York Times, Huffington Post, MTV, Billboard, and more.
“James Whiteside is an electrifying performer, an incredible athlete, and an artist, through and through. To know James is to love him; with Center Center, you are about to fall in love. Hilarious, vulnerable, raucous, kind—James is all of that and a bag of chips, and it shows—in his photography, as his alter egos Ühu Betch and JbDubs, as a ballerino at the top of his profession, and in this all-out-on-the-table memoir.” —Jennifer Garner
“A thoughtful collection of essays that gives readers insight into what it means to be the kind of creative who can’t be pigeonholed into one genre and is determined to constantly question the status quo . . . It’s a refreshing break from the dusty past of ballet divahood, one that caters to a new, more open-minded generation of ballet fans. . . . We finish “Center, Center” with a better understanding of the dynamic nature of this specific creative person — and, perhaps, with a refreshing outlook on our own complex individuality.” —The Washington Post
“James Whiteside leaps through his life in this collection of essays about what he has twirled through on his own life stage. The book is a frank examination and celebration of queerness.” —Good Morning America
“A delight. And one chapter, simply titled ‘Nancy,’ is an absolute gem: an essay about his ‘brilliant, complicated, unicorn of a mother’ . . . [that is] an affectionate and honest portrait of a unique, flawed and remarkable woman’s adventurous life and too-early death.” —Seattle Times
“Drifting between fantasy and real life, James’s story reads like a beautifully twisted ballet with an exquisitely raw, hilarious, and fresh perspective. Center Center shows there’s a place in the world for anyone who’s ever felt lost, misunderstood, or outrageously passionate.” —Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre principal dancer and New York Times bestselling author of Life in Motion
“Charming, funny, and insightful . . . This isn’t your average memoir, instead it’s a frank, fascinating look at the singular life of a creative powerhouse who paved his own road and proceeded to dance his way along it to stardom.” —Town and Country
“Center Center fabulously combines playfulness and profundity in telling the story of a talented, driven dancer who pursues life to the fullest.” —The Gay and Lesbian Review
“Quippy, decidedly NSFW, and occasionally breathtaking in its matter-of-factness, [this] ‘almost-memoir’ offers a portrait of an artist caught in the process of unearthing and understanding new facets of himself.” —Dance Magazine
“A witty, vivacious, introspective work discussing [Whiteside’s] life and the ballet world with rare candor.” —Pointe Magazine
“Center Center is a glittering, poignant, sweetly funny ode to queerness, dance, drag, sex, partying, and pain. Every triumph, failure, and moment of expression stems from Whiteside's tendency to ask that most essential and dangerous of questions: ‘Why not?’” —Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez, authors of Legendary Children
“An unapologetic celebration of queerness, self-expression, friendship, pushing boundaries and more.” —PureWow
“This witty and compelling memoir is a celebration of self-expression, queerness, and chasing your dreams . . . that will leave you feeling inspired and laughing out loud.” —PopSugar
“A great read. Like his dancing, Whiteside’s writing has style, a sense of irony, humor, and total frankness.” —Fjord Review
“Wry and poignant.” —The Dance Journal
"A funny, frank, and sometimes raunchy ‘almost memoir' in which no topic is off-limits, and all are presented with wit and style . . . Whether navigating through the hallowed halls of classical ballet or tracing his journey to full and free self-expression as a gay man, Whiteside is disarmingly honest as he writes about failures as well as triumphs. Teddy O’Connor’s quirky line drawings add just the right flourish to this singular book.” —Booklist
“A debut that’s deeply resonant—but no less raunchy for it. . . . The emotional core is firmly located in 'Nancy,' a novella-length biography of Whiteside’s 'brilliant, complicated, unicorn of a mother' that is breathtaking in its vulnerability and tenderness. . . . This entertaining account is easy to devour.” —Publishers Weekly
“Teems with humor and pathos . . . Readers will enjoy this entertaining romp behind the curtain of professional ballet.” —Library Journal