Six Reasons To Love Olivier Wevers
Olivier Wevers is a man with a mission—and a serious love of dance. Earlier this year, Dance Magazine followed the Whim W'Him director though a day of tech rehearsals at Seattle's Cornish Playhouse for our latest episode of Behind the Curtain. While we'd long admired Wevers' choreography, getting up close and personal gave us a whole new respect for the man. Why?
1. He's found the secret to success. Rumor has it that Wevers recently expanded his seven-year-old company from a pick-up troupe to a serious employer for dancers: They were put on payroll as employees (rather than independent contractors), which came with a significant raise and the establishment of a new healthcare fund.
At an audition, PC Kyle Froman
2. He treats his dancers as true collaborators. One of Whim W'Him's annual concerts is curated by the dancers themselves. Called "Choreographic Shindig," the program—playing at Seattle's Erickson Theater September 9-17 this year—includes works from three emerging choreographers that the dancers chose after reviewing around 100 applications.
3. He gives his all. About that "secret to success": Wevers is a plucky, tireless spirit whose life is devoted to his company. In our Behind the Curtain episode, he works from 8 am until midnight, fitting in administrative work at home, cutting dancers' costumes, overseeing rehearsals, giving notes. No, it's not an atypical schedule for a director/choreographer. But he also finds time to extol the talents of the choreographers and dancers he hires while fitting in everything else.
Ah, Seattle real estate
4. He lives in a lake house. And we're very jealous.
5. He's not afraid to admit his shortcomings. A creative workaholic, Wevers admits he has trouble getting rest. "Sleep is rare. It's a big problem for me," he tells us. "And right now when I'm in the theater and I have 16 and a half hour days...shutting down my brain is mission impossible."
6. His choreography looks like it'd feel amazing on your body. His partnering sections in particular have an organic, natural feel to them that never looks forced or awkward. The ooey-gooey twists and turns of his imaginative contemporary work is like candy for dancers. More, please!
Olivier Wevers as a student, photo via whimwhim.org. (Sorry, it was too cute not to share.)
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
It's a much-repeated part of Francesca Hayward's origin story that she discovered ballet at age 3, when her grandparents bought a video of The Nutcracker to keep her occupied and she immediately started dancing around the room. What's less well-known is that there was another video lined up next to The Nutcracker that Hayward liked to dance along to: Cats. "I really just did the White Cat bit and fast-forwarded the rest," she remembers. "I'd make my friends who came around be the other cats."
Twenty-four years later, she's not only become a Royal Ballet principal, but has been cast as Victoria the White Cat in Tom Hooper's new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out in theaters on December 20. "I remember the director telling me I'd got the part: 'Just to let you know you're the lead in a Hollywood film,' he said." Hayward laughs. "This is crazy!"
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.