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After a twenty-five year career with Pennsylvania Ballet, James Ihde to retire

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on May 10, 2018 10:30am | comments


An Ohio native, James Ihde came to Philadelphia in 1993, when he began his association with Pennsylvania Ballet as an Apprentice. In 1995, he joined the Corps de Ballet and in 2003 was promoted to Soloist. James Ihde will now retire after a twenty-five year career with Pennsylvania Ballet. This weekend, James will dance his last performances, culminating in his final performance Sunday afternoon in George Balanchines Jewels.

James Ihde took time out recently to speak to us about his career, what he is now planning this week with a library talk and his final performances with Pennsylvania Ballet, and what the future may hold for him. James sounded calm, relaxed and optimistic about his future.

Ralph Malachowski: Can you tell us something about your library talk tonight (which happened later that day, on Monday evening)?

James Ihde: Sure. Ive never done anything like it before, so I have absolutely no idea exactly what it will entail. The broad outlines of it are more or less that Jonathan Stiles (Pennsylvania Ballets Marketing Director and former dancer who retired after a fifteen-year career with the company) will open the evening discussing George Balanchine and his ballet, Jewels, its history and notable facts. Ill probably be asked about my part in Jewels, where Ive danced in Emeralds and will now dance in Diamonds, two of the three parts of Jewels. There should be a question-and-answer component, and well take it from there. I have no idea how large the room will be, but I think the life of a male dancer will not draw an arena-full of inquiring people (laughs).

The information for the discussion is: Behind the Scenes: Conversations with Pennsylvania Ballet, Monday, May 7, 2018, at 6:30 pm, free admission, Philadelphia City Institute Library, 1905 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA.

RM: Tell our readers something about the life of a ballet dancer. What are some of the practical realities of a life in dance; for example, as a career, the schedule, the benefits and challenges?

JI: Well, thats a good question. At Pennsylvania Ballet, which is a large company, we enjoy many benefits smaller companies do not. We have an annual contract, which is usually for 42-44 weeks, the rest of the year is off. Usually, most of the time off falls between June and August, with a few weeks here and there the rest of the year. I have been lucky in that except for a few times Ive had injuries, some issues with my back, Ive enjoyed good health. I keep active when Im not dancing. I do yoga and lift weights. I also teach, so Im always busy with that as well.

RM: It seems to me that dancing for a quarter century is a rare thing in the dance world. How many others from Pennsylvania Ballet have had such long careers?

JI: You know, I have no idea! (Laughs). Ive never even thought about it. There have been a few male dancers who have had long careers with the company. Thats a question that will have to be answered by someone else.

RM: After twenty-five years of knowing where you will be going, and what you will be doing, how do you feel about after Sundays performance, you wont have that home base anymore? Will you be leaving Philadelphia? Will you, like so many other dancers, segue into choreography?

JI: What will I be doing after Sunday, you mean after my last performance with the company? Well, it wont be choreography. I have no special leanings in that direction. I have students, so I will continue teaching. At this point, Im open to anything. Even to a desk job. Ive always been interested in the non-profit sector, as someone in administration, so that could be a possibility. As for staying in Philadelphia, yes, thats for sure. I have no desire to move anywhere else right now. There are so many opportunities right here, so I have no need to relocate.

A year ago, I felt differently. I felt that quitting would be hard, but not now. There is a lot of freedom in the future. As a dancer, youre constantly worrying about the limitations of time and the struggle against time and physical limitations as a performer who relies upon his body. I am excited to try something new with my life. Im confident and upbeat about the years to come.

RM: As you know, this interview will appear in Philly Gay Calendar. Our LGBTQ+ readers would like to know if James Ihde is single or partnered?

JI: Im single.

RM: So you wont be surprised if during your final performances with Pennsylvania Ballet, admirers will clamor about the stage door with gifts, cash money, and keys to brand-new cars?

JI: Now that would be interesting! (Laughing)

RM: Should I wish you well for your upcoming performances by saying, Break a leg?

JI: No. That comes a little too close to home. We often say Merde!

Pennsylvania Ballet presents George Balanchines full-length ballet Jewels at the Philadelphia Academy of Music May 10-13. For James Ihdes final performance at the Sunday matinee, he will appear with Angel Corella at the pre-performance Preludes discussion at 1:00 pm. For more information, visit

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