• Michael Mahany

Whiteside, Peck, Boylston, & Fairchild Inspire During Quarantine

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

James Whiteside, Tiler Peck, Isabella Boylston, and Megan Fairchild.

The creativity pouring out of dancers and performers during the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the few highlights in the daily social newsfeeds of fans and supporters. In a time where news reports are filled with terrible tragedy after sad story after misinformed press briefing, many in the arts community have opted to use their platforms for sharing inspiration and positivity.

And, four of the biggest names in ballet Tiler Peck, James Whiteside, Isabella Boylston, and Megan Fairchild have been leading that charge.

Peck the subject of Hulu's 'Ballet Now' and a star principal at New York City Ballet has been using her own individual Instagram account to offer a free streaming ballet class each day, called "Turn It Out With Tiler".

"I have always found it helpful to have a routine and things I look forward to in my day anytime I am facing fear, challenges or uncertainty," Peck told Dance News & Culture. "I recently had a serious injury that I had to work hard to overcome and the one thing that kept me going some days was the structure I had put into place for myself.”

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Peck, prior to the pandemic shutdown, had recently returned to performances with City Ballet after a year-long rehab of a severely herniated disc in her neck.

Tiler Peck teaching a "Turn It Out With Tiler" class.

An Unprecedented Time

Whiteside and Boylston, both star-status stand-out principal dancers with American Ballet Theatre, have also been offering a co-taught class series they're calling #TheCindiesBalletClass via IG Live to their respective followers.

"This is an unprecedented time for the arts community," Whiteside told DN&C. "As theaters, studios and arts organizations were forced to close their doors, it became clear that we would have to be resourceful in the ways we continued to move and train on our own."

Whiteside and Boylston's resourcefulness has also been on display by the often costume inspired themes to their IG Live sessions, prompting fans and dancers to post photos of themselves to the class' hashtag.

Whiteside's post for his 90's themed #James90sJazzClass. Photo credit: Nsian.

"By nature, dancers are resilient and nimble", Whiteside said, "and the fact that so many dancers have taken to social media to call on dancers all over the world to join them for class shows how special, committed and supportive our community really is.”

The New Virtual Frontier

Megan Fairchild, also a star principal at NYCB, recently dedicated her personal YouTube channel to both teaching classes and hosting a new series of podcast-style interviews with colleagues. Fairchild explained to DN&C that gathering together for class even virtually can be therapeutic for dancers.

"Normally, I really enjoy company class for myself, because as a principal dancer, it’s one of the rare times we connect as a company," Fairchild said, "and because of social distancing, this could be a really isolating time. So for me, connecting through ballet class is not only for physical maintenance but emotional morale."

Megan Fairchild's most recent intermediate ballet class available on her YouTube channel.

A Community Event To Look Forward To

For all four of the elite ballet celebs, the classes and interviews have become an event that many in the dance community have come to look forward to.

"In teaching this class I thought I could give people some structure, some endorphin producing exercise and something fun to look forward to," Peck said. "The class has become a way to keep everyone connected and dancing together it is one hour where we are all listening to the same music and moving our bodies in sync."

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Joy > Challenges

Whiteside explained that while teaching outside the traditional studio space presents some small obstacles, his classes with Boylston have been quite successful. 

"While online classes have their challenges — our NYC apartments offer a small kitchen counter at best(!) — it has also given people a bit of courage to join in and try something they might not have the courage to do in a studio with a room full of people. It is also a welcome reminder that though we are all isolated physically, we aren’t alone — we are all in this together."

Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside. Photo credit: James Whiteside/Instagram.

Overwhelming Love

Challenges aside, however, the reactions have been off the charts.

"The responses I have received are completely overwhelming to me. I hope my classes continue to be an outlet for individuals to keep their sanity while staying physically healthy," Peck said.

"At times we are dancing with more than 25,000 dancers from all over the world and the love is real!" Whiteside said. "We have also identified a few causes that are near and dear to our hearts and have made each class donation-based for those who are able to spare some extra change. It makes us feel so good to do our part by staying home and raising money for causes that really need our help during this uncertain time.”

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Special Guests

One of the commonalities among many of the online classes has been the stars who seem to pop through.

On Fairchild's interview series, for instance, she's spoken with former NYCB Soloist and current Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan, ABT soloist Skyler Brandt, and fellow NYCB principal Sara Mearns.

Fairchild interviewing colleague, Sara Mearns.

"For the interviews, I really like to know what other dancers are experiencing and going through, and with this extra time I thought it would be a great opportunity to connect with people," Fairchild said. "I like to center my interviews based on what a young dancer might like to hear for advice. I know that being a dancer can be overwhelming, and when we realize we are all in the same boat, it takes a lot of pressure off."

Viewers who've tuned in for "Turn It Out With Tiler" have had the opportunity to hear from and dance with special guests like Grammy winner Jennifer Nettles, ABT’s Misty Copeland, former NYCB dancer Heather Watts, Broadway stars Leslie Odam Jr., Sierra Boggess, Laura Osnes, and even Peck's physical therapist, Marika Molnar.

Maria Kowroski, Lauren Lovette, Tiler Peck, Kelly Ripa, Ryan Seacrest, Isabella Boylston, and James Whiteside after breaking a Guinness World Record in September. Photo credit: Tiler Peck/Instagram.

Back in September, Whiteside, Boylston, Peck, and a few other well-known dancers — namely, NYCB principal and choreographer Lauren Lovette and NYCB principal Maria Kowroski — garnered national attention when they joined hundreds of dancers to break the world record of the most people “simultaneously en pointe”. The dancers, along with Kelly Ripa, appeared on ABC’s LIVE With Kelly And Ryan standing on their toes for one minute.

Wanna join a class?

#TheCindiesBalletClass is available live on Instagram three days a week Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 2 pm ET. Whiteside and Boylston have suggested viewers make a class donation to the New York City Foodbank.

Fairchild posts intermediate and advanced level class videos and interviews directly to her YouTube channel.

Tiler Peck’s, #TurnItOutWithTiler, takes place daily via IG Live at 10 am ET.

Michael Mahany serves as NYC Dance News & Culture’s founder and Editor-At-Large. Additionally, he is a professional actor, singer, dancer who appears nightly in the 10th Anniversary production of 'Rock Of Ages' in New York City. He's also a co-host of the 'Pod De Deux' dance podcast. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter, or visit www.michaelmahany.com for more. Story tips? Email: michael@nycdancenews.com.

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