Wendy Whelan's Farewell
Everyone came prepared with tissues or hankies. But in the end, there weren’t many tears—at least not as many as predicted—because Whelan herself projected such joy.
I was very moved by her during the first ballet, Balanchine’s Sonnambula. It was an eerie choice for a farewell because the Sleepwalker seems to be a ghost who has come back to life. Whelan’s timing, especially in the moment when she ducks under the Poet’s (Robert Fairchild's) arm, reflects her intuitiveness. The Sleepwalker doesn’t see him, but feels his presence. That’s when I teared up. Like the Sleepwalker, Whelan’s dancing is so much about intuition, about knowing something from the other senses beside sight. Yes, she uses her intelligence to think through every move, but onstage it’s a matter of instinct.
When she reappeared as the girl in apricot (yellow, really) in an excerpt from Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering, she lifted and opened her arms with a fullness that spoke of her joy. The radiance in her face gave off sparks of happiness, making the five other dancers more buoyant than usual. Her jump may not be as high as it once was, but she spread sunshine all over the stage.
In Wheeldon’s After the Rain, Whelan’s attention to every small movement equals the delicacy of the pianist and violinist playing the spare notes of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel. There is something spiritual about that kind of attention; it pulls the audience into a welcome quietness every time. When Craig Hall lifts her, she has a special kind of lightness. It’s not the ethereal, fluttery lightness of a romantic sylph; it’s the lightness of a mind with no baggage, a mind that’s active and at peace with itself. Air is her element.
And yet she can be close to the earth too. In the pièce d’occasion for the evening, she stooped to the floor in Ratmansky’s section (which I believe she does in both his Russian Seasons and his recent Pictures at an Exhibition). He also choreographed her being lifted by Tyler Angle and Craig Hall, her two regular partners, in a way that allowed her to recede upstage…a poignant fading away that was exquisitely right for the occasion.
Because of her Restless Creature project and other plans for the future (see my “10 Minutes With…” in the September issue) the modern dancers in the audience were less weepy than the ballet-only crowd. We know we will see her in the future. As I wrote in Dance Magazine in March 2003 (it’s in my book too), “Wendy Whelan is the ballerina modern dancers love.” Now of course the whole ballet world loves her—for her generous nature as well as for her era-defining dancing.
As is the custom with farewells, fellow principals and others of note walked onstage to pay their respects. Whelan hugged or kissed each one, or was lifted and twirled. Legendary ballet star Jacques d’Amboise started waltzing with her. Graceful and gracious in her spontaneity, she gave the love back to each person. (Her graciousness was also pointed out by Jennifer Stahl in this posting last week.)
If you haven’s seen it on Facebook yet, below is a clip of Wendy's accepting a hug from her husband David Michalek, then jumping/lilting for joy, and you will see why she changed the mood in the entire Koch Theater from sadness to laughter. I think everyone felt glad to be living in the time of Wendy Whelan.
Booking a gig on a cruise ship can feel like you're diving into the unknown—dropping everything to live in the middle of the ocean without family, friends or cell service. But cruise jobs can also offer incredible rewards, like traveling the world for free and delving into a new style.
Is ship life the right fit for you? Here are some elements to consider.
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine she'd show up in a Jay Z video, along with flex dancer Storyboard P. Though we're slightly less surprised to see Storyboard in Jay Z's "4:44" video than we were to see Okpokwasili, we're jazzed that two of our favorites are featured on such a huge platform. (We're also feeling #blessed that we didn't have to subscribe to Tidal to watch this.)
Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."