Acclaimed dancer Soto—a principal for the New York City Ballet for 20 years (1985–2005)—writes about his career, his Native American heritage, his homosexuality, his passion for cooking, his struggles to find a family and his discovery of love.
Now a teacher at the School of American Ballet, the author is not a talented writer—few pages pass before the clichés begin arriving (he was “determined to hit the ground running” and to avoid “falling between the cracks”)—but as his story, a true nowhere-to-somewhere tale, gathers momentum, it achieves a narrative power and an essential sweetness that is never cloying or annoying. The son of a Navajo mother and a Puerto Rican father, Soto recalls dancing native steps with his mother before he was 5. After seeing a ballet on the Ed Sullivan Show when was about 10, he fell permanently in love with the art. His parents—to their eternal credit—encouraged his passion (his macho father, though skeptical, drove him to countless lessons in the Southwest). It was soon evident to his teachers that his was no ordinary talent, and his career accelerated at warp speed. By his mid-teens, he was living on his own in New York City, working ferociously hard at the NYCB, developing relationships—colleagues, choreographers, lovers—and fashioning for himself an record. He has few unkind things to say about anyone and praises heavily his mentors (Balanchine, Robbins, Martins) and dancers (Heather Watts, Wendy Whelan). His kindest words are for his partner, Luis Fuentes. We learn, too, about his efforts to reunite his mother’s family, to exorcise a disturbing ghost and to find peace once his dance career ended.
A powerful story, affectionately told, about the demands and dimensions of personal and professional success.