Every Step You Take
Jock Soto with Leslie Marshall
New York: Harper Collins, 2011
271 pp, $24.99
Review by Brittany Fridenstine-Keefe
Jock Soto's memoir, written with Leslie Marshall, comes out today. Entitled, "Every Step You Take," the book is a charming homage to an inspiring male dancer who dedicated more than two decades dancing at the New York City Ballet.
Jock Soto is part Navajo Indian, and part Puerto Rican. His first encounter to dance was in the form of Indian Hoop dances. After seeing Edward Villella on the Ed Sullivan show, Mr. Soto was determined to learn more about formal western dance genres. His family is an inspiration in the sacrifices and support they offered to enable his study of dance. Mr. Soto’s pursuit of training led him to the School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet's official school, and a separation from his parents at a young age.
Much of the book is Jock's tribute to his deceased mother. Perhaps this is the meaning behind the title. Perhaps he still feels a connection to her as he serves dance. His family was a part of his dance despite distance. Although positive in his reflections, his separation from his roots is an underlying theme. Simultaneously, he acknowledges his need for space and a connection to who he is.
Personally, he recounts growing up in the gay community in the 80s. Mr. Soto reflects on his growth as an individual through each of the relationships; doubly as he witnessed the AIDS epidemic tearing apart his community. Working hard and playing hard, Mr. Soto ran in the circles of many prominent art figures, including a close relationship with Andy Warhol.
Mr. Soto’s career was an embodiment of the American dream; he was quickly and easily promoted to a leading dancer at NYCB. He shares his is appreciation of his many ballerinas including: Lourdes Lopez, Heather Watts, Wendy Whelan, Stephanie Saland, and Miranda Weese. As he recounts these relationships, he shares numerous human moments from behind the scenes. Mr. Soto worked in a magical time when the work of George Balanchine, Lincoln Kirstein, and Jerome Robbins was well established and inspired. The New York dance scene was supportive and at the nexus of the form.
Throughout the book, Jock presents himself humbly. When People magazine voted him one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World", he shrugged it off stating his merit was merely to fill a performing arts quota. But he doesn't take himself lightly; he remains focused on his mission as a dancer. Mr. Soto recounts the fleeting moments of a life onstage and the struggle to keep each performance alive. Before each performance, Mr. Soto would say, "it is going to be a different story tonight." Therein lies his dedication to "every little step" he took.
Throughout the book Mr. Soto shares recipes, which correlate to his growth. He keeps his aplomb as he comically recalls using Gorgonzola in a tiramisu, but clearly cooking has become a new creative passion. A vehicle to meld his creativity with entertainment and invest in the people he cares about. He continues to service the field as a teacher at the School of American Ballet.
Jock Soto is an important male figure in the ballet world. As such his memoir, "Every Step You Take," is a refreshing and inspiring account for any artist living their mission.