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Soto, Jock (b, 1965)    
 
page: 1  2  

Although his family fully encouraged his ambitions, they could not afford to relocate, and so in 1977, at the age of 13, Soto moved by himself to New York City and began to study at the School of the American Ballet.

In 1981, he was invited to become a member of New York City Ballet's corps de ballet by George Balanchine, one of City Ballet's co-founders.

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That same year he made his New York City Ballet debut, as a last minute replacement, dancing the lead in The Magic Flute, choreographed by Peter Martins. The New York Times praised Soto's "dream of a performance," and his "technical gifts."

In 1984, he was promoted to the rank of Soloist, and one year later, at the age of 20, Soto was named a Principal Dancer.

"At the time I was the youngest principal," Soto reflected. " I was in a shock. It was hard to live up to."

Around the same time, Soto began a long-term relationship with the New York City Ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. The two men shared a weekend home in Connecticut, as well as a beach house in Barcelona, Spain.

Although the couple eventually separated, the two men continued to collaborate professionally. In total, Wheeldon choreographed seven ballets for Soto, including the groundbreaking Polyphonia (2001), set to the atonal music of the twentieth century Hungarian composer György Ligeti, and After the Rain (2005), with music by Arvo Pärt.

Wheeldon has called After the Rain a "love letter," and said the piece touched on his personal, as well as professional, relationship with Soto.

"Jock offered me the courage to develop something that was very much my own," Wheeldon later noted in an interview. "He was more than a muse, he was a mentor--because he was there encouraging and guiding me as well as being there as a body. There'll certainly be a 'Jock Soto period' for me, and I'll be very lucky to come across that kind of experience again."

Although he is highly regarded for his solo work, it is for his superlative partnering that Soto is most renowned. As Astrida Woods noted, in Playbill Arts, "When it comes to partnering, Mr. Soto has no equal. Ballerinas fearlessly fling themselves into his arms, fly over his head, and spin with abandon at his touch; they confidently respond to his capable hands as he twists and folds their limbs like pretzels, and shape their bodies into origami-like sculptures."

"There's a certain trust level with Jock," explained New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan. "He's incredibly sensitive, but he's got brute strength."

After an acclaimed 24-year career, Soto retired from dancing in 2005.

He gave his farewell performance on Sunday, June 19, 2005. The program featured an ambitious suite of five ballets by five visionary choreographers chosen to showcase his versatility: "Dance at the Gym" from Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite; Peter Martins' Barber Violin Concerto; Christopher Wheeldon's Liturgy; Lynne Taylor-Corbett's Chiaroscuro; and the "Royal Navy" section of George Balanchine's Union Jack.

A documentary, Water Flowing Together, by the filmmaker Gwendolen Cates, follows Soto for several months as he contemplates his retirement from ballet and prepares for his farewell performance (the title comes from an English translation of the name of Soto's Navajo clan). The film also looks at Soto's Navajo and Puerto Rican heritage, as well as his coming out as a gay man. It was first broadcast on PBS in 2008.

In an interview, Soto explained that he had asked Cates to make the documentary, in part, to show "how after dance, you don't just die." He also wanted to explore his sexuality in the film. "I obviously was not embarrassed at all of being gay and I wanted that to be noted, and to show how accepted I was in New York and with my family."

Although Soto retired from performing, he has not left the world of dance behind. Since 1996, Soto has been a member of the School of American Ballet's faculty, teaching boys, men's and partnering classes six days a week.

In addition to his full-time position at the School of American Ballet, Soto attended the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. He graduated in 2006 and has since been involved in the food industry with his husband Luis Fuentes.

One June night in 2003, Soto met Fuentes, a wine consultant, at the bar of a Manhattan restaurant. Soto started up a conversation and when he mentioned that he was a ballet dancer, Fuentes replied, "Aren't you a little too old to be doing that?"

"I had no idea what ballet is," Fuentes later explained. "It's surprising he didn't walk away then."

Instead, the two men began dating, and within months were living together in Soto's Greenwich Village studio apartment.

They were married on October 14, 2011 at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau and two days later, exchanged vows at a New York restaurant before the former Massachusetts governor, William F. Weld.

Their wedding was featured in the popular New York Times' "Vows" column.

Soto is the recipient of the Casita Maria Award for Hispanics and The First Americans in the Arts Trustee Award, created to recognize, honor and promote American Indian participation in the entertainment industry. Friends In Deed, a crisis center providing emotional and spiritual support for anyone with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, cancer, or other life-threatening physical illnesses, recognized Soto for his patronage of AIDS research, and in 2002, the School of American Ballet presented him with the Mae L. Wien Award for Distinguished Service.

Soto's memoir, Every Step You Take, was published in 2011.

He currently resides in New York City with Fuentes.

Craig Kaczorowski

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arts >> Jones, Bill T.

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arts >> Lifar, Serge

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    Bibliography
   

Brown, Ismene. "The Superman of Dance." The Telegraph (August 1, 2005): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/3645506/The-superman-of-dance.html

Dalton, Joseph. "A Great Leap Forward." The Advocate (June 21, 2005): 174-176.

Kisselgoff, Anna. "Not Only a Partner, a Dynamic Interpreter." The New York Times (June 18, 2005): http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/18/arts/dance/18soto.html

Kourlas, Gia. "One Dancer's Brave Return, Another's Intense Farewell." The New York Times (June 20, 2005): http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/20/arts/dance/20ball.html?_r=0

Milzoff, Rebecca. "Dancer Jock Soto Looks Back on a Life in Tights (and Fishnets)." Vulture (April 8, 2008): http://www.vulture.com/2008/04/dancer_jock_soto_looks_back_on.html

Shattuck, Kathryn. "Vows: Jock Soto and Luis Fuentes." The New York Times (November 3, 2011): http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/fashion/weddings/jock-soto-and-luis-fuentes-vows.html?pagewanted=all

Soto, Jock, with Leslie Marshall. Every Step You Take: A Memoir. New York: Harper, 2011.

Woods, Astrida. "The Natural." Playbill Arts (June 15, 2005): http://www.playbillarts.com/features/article/2145.html

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Soto, Jock  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2013  
    Date Last Updated April 2, 2013  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/soto_jock.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2013 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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