"I actually think it’s very funny sometimes, putting on the makeup and then putting on the tights and then putting on your costume and then I look in the mirror and think, 'This is such an odd occupation for a 40-year-old man.'"
WATER FLOWING TOGETHER is an intimate portrait of an important American artist, New York City Ballet’s Jock Soto, one of the most influential modern ballet dancers. Soto graced the stage of the New York State Theater for 24 years, partnering such renowned ballerinas as Heather Watts, Darci Kistler and Wendy Whelan. On the eve of his retirement in 2005, The New York Times wrote: “Ballet is a man called Jock.”
The film introduces Soto when he is 40 and facing the daunting prospect of retiring from the only life he has ever known or desired. While Soto is an artist who found his medium of expression in dance, the film explores more than Soto’s career—it is as much about the complexities of the man, about heritage, family, identity and transition.
Jock Soto was born on the Navajo Indian reservation in 1965, to a Navajo mother and a Puerto Rican father, and raised in a time and place where ballet dancing for boys was virtually unheard of. Following in the footsteps of his mother, he first learned to hoop dance—a complex traditional American Indian dance—which provided an early foundation for his talent. He fell in love with ballet at the age of five after seeing Edward Villella, often cited as America's most celebrated male dancer, on TV and his surprised but supportive parents began driving him to classes. Soto excelled, eventually becoming one of the last dancers to be personally selected by George Balanchine, founder of the New York City Ballet, to join the company, achieving his dream when he was barely 16. He soon became a child of the New York City arts scene, befriending Andy Warhol, and finding his way as a gay man.
Jock Soto became a force of the New York City Ballet that helped define the identity of the prestigious institution as much as it has defined him for more than two decades. Unprecedented access to the company and New York State Theater provides the audience with a rare glimpse into an unseen world.
In WATER FLOWING TOGETHER (the title is the name of Soto’s Navajo clan), filmmaker Gwendolen Cates follows a contemplative Soto as he prepares for his farewell performance, tries to imagine his future and travels to the Navajo reservation and Puerto Rico to reconnect with his heritage. Soto’s relationship to his heritage is one of both detachment and devotion, defying stereotypes in the same way that his powerful, fluid dancing transcends the expected. Told through the words of Soto, his family and his dance colleagues, the film offers a sensitive and unique insight into the influences and adventures of this fascinating artist, and reveals a man at the crossroads of his life.
Filmmaker Gwendolen Cates provided an update in February 2008 on what Jock Soto has been up to since filming ended:
Jock continues to teach at the School of American Ballet. Now he teaches six days a week, and also travels around the country during the winter to audition young dancers for the school. He and his partner, the chef and sommelier Luis Fuentes, have begun a catering company called Lucky Bassett Events, named after their dog Tristan. Jock also stages ballets on occasion, for example the upcoming “Afternoon of a Faun” for the Royal Ballet in London. He agreed to make briefly return to the stage of the New York State Theater, performing the role of Lord Capulet in Peter Martin’s “Romeo and Juliet” in 2006 and 2007. His sport of choice these days is boxing.
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