In May, we bid farewell to one of Philadelphia’s favorite dancers, the Alan B. Palmer Soloist Dancer James Ihde, who retired after a 25-year career with the Company. It is a bittersweet moment when a beloved loyal dancer retires – sadness at not seeing them on stage any more, excitement in anticipating their next step in life – and true happiness to hear they are not leaving the profession or Philadelphia. Here are a few unedited thoughts directly from James as he steps down – or aside – or UP!
When asked about his unusually long career…
I started working out lifting weights religiously fairly early in my career and I think that helped stave off injuries for a long time. Eventually I did develop a back injury and when it was at its worst I finally tried Pilates at the behest of a friend and between that and yoga I definitely think that I bought myself a few more years of dancing.
Any favorite ballets or roles?
Some of my favorite ballets and roles have been In G Major (Robbins), After the Rain (Wheeldon) for their beautiful pas de deux; Artifact Suite (Forsythe) because it was such a unique onstage experience; Tybalt In Romeo & Juliet (Cranko) because it is so much fun to play a villain; and Petit Mort (Kylián) because it had been a bucket list ballet that I had hoped to get a chance to dance in for years.
When asked if he ever considered leaving Pennsylvania Ballet…
When I was in the earlier stages of my career, probably like everyone does, I questioned whether I should check out other companies if for no other reason than variety and new experience, but I never had a strong enough urge to seriously pursue it. I was also always reticent to leave the network of friends and colleagues that I had developed here in Philadelphia.
What career might you have chosen if you were not a dancer?
I’m not really sure what career I would have chosen if I wasn’t a dancer, but because I love books I do think I would have enjoyed working in something related to the literary world like publishing.
I read quite a bit and in a way I guess you could say that’s my hobby. It’s something I really enjoy and I prioritize it quite a bit. It’s difficult to pick a favorite book, but I guess I would have to say that The Catcher in The Rye is. It’s the only book that I go back and reread every few years, and I enjoy it as much or more now than I did the first time I read it in high school.
I adopted a dog a few months ago. Her name is Esmé and I’m 99% certain she’s a pit bull/ Italian greyhound mix, but because she’s a rescue I don’t know for sure.
I have been teaching for a few years already and there will definitely be more teaching in the future, but choreography probably isn’t in the cards for me. I’ll be staying in Philadelphia, because besides just loving the city I really enjoy living in a place with so many people that I know, and I love that some of my relationships here go all the way back to my first year in the Company.
We all wish only the best for James.