Jock Soto partnering Wendy Whelan in “Agon” at New York City Ballet, from the documentary
“Water Flowing Together”
Photo by Gwendolen Cates/ITVS
‘Every Step You Take’
Memoir by Jock Soto (with Leslie Marshall)
HarperCollins, published October, 2011
Hardcover,, including photos
$24.99 (Kindle edition $11.99)
When New York City Ballet danseur Jock Soto retired in 2005, he did not intend to write a book about his life in dance, as he transitioned to a new career as a teacher and chef. Since then, he has been the subject of a documentary called “Water Flowing Together” (by Gwendolen Cates; see video excerpt below) and he has just released “Every Step You Take,” his lively memoir about his years with NYCB and so much more.
It is always instructive to hear ballet dancers talk about choreography, injuries, sacrifices and the demands of performance, all of which Soto makes a very human and assessable story. Take this observation as he is about to go onstage for his farewell appearance in 2005 “performing can be so unpredictable and tumultuous, and so many of the emotions that go coursing through the Bermuda Triangle of body and mind and spirit are unavailable to the tidy world of spoken words.”
Soto’s journey starts with his growing up on Native American reservations to become one of America‘s most celebrated dancers and is just as compelling as his celebrity. His mother was Navajo and his father Puerto Rican, Jock grew up moving on and off reservations and being bounced to different cities. Still, he continued dance classes, his dad sometimes driving him for hours each day and eventually he is standing in front of none other than George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet. Still in his teens, Soto was one of the last chosen by Balanchine himself to join NYCB.
As his life became more entrenched in the dance world, he ended up flopping in an apartment which turned out to be owned by none other than former NYCB star Edward Villella, who let him stay. Soto’s matured quickly and at 20, he became principal partnering many of the era’s greatest ballerinas.
Soto is among the generation of out dancers that is comfortable celebrating gay life in the world of dance. He writes candidly and respectfully about his relationships, including one with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. He is also most intimate about his relationship with his mother — his first dance partner — and about how he worked through his stormy relationship with his father as a gay son.
Soto shares what his life became when he met his partner Luis Feuntes, a sommelier. In fact, through his Navajo heritage, his reputation as a cook in the ballet world and his destiny with his partner, food dominates Soto’s life, spirit and career. After retiring, Soto became a chef himself, and he includes recipes in the book from various important occasions in his life. This clever ruse, to get to create good food, may be some inspirational fuel to keep dancing no matter what.