Monday, 21 January 2013

Margaret Fuhrer from Dance Spirit Magazine asks her readers to "take a moment to recognize the amazingness that is Wendy Whelan."

Read her article here.

She is pointing out the great work of the Kentucky Educational Television Channel, who recently aired a great video profile of Wendy. 

See the full video on Kentucky Educational Television here

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

One of the many characteristics that makes Wendy Whelan a supreme artist isn't her willingness to take risks. Rather, it's her complete joy in riskiness. At this point in her career, Whelan can do anything-- and the most amazing part is her excitement-- "I absolutely feel a freedom, immense amounts of it!," she says, "... almost too much since it's all new to me, and I am feeling so game to try anything. It's a wonderful, empowering, scary and extremely joyful place to be."  

Her freedom shines while she rehearses a new pas de deux, set by her dance partner,  Brian Brooks.  Brooks, a celebrated contemporary choreographer, has been working with Whelan on the work's development for several months. Their connection seems authentic, fluid, and easy. "We have an awesome chemistry," says Whelan. " I believe and hope this connection translates to the work. I've always been labeled a contemporary ballerina because of my angles and my energy and quirks. I also think ... my way of thinking and how I make my way through the world, adds to this. I have a modern sensibility.  I love to dig, I love grit, and I love to explore."   

Their connection absolutely does translate into the work. The chemistry between Whelan and Brooks looks as natural as any I've seen, and makes for an energy that exudes delicious, lyrical, tensile movement rarely seen on the American stage. 

This section the two rehearse is from a larger work in progress, an evolving, evening-length dance. One of the challenges Whelan welcomes is the work's newness, its unfinished-ness: "The partnering in this piece is definitely still in a developmental phase, mainly because I am not used to Brian's style as a partner. I'm not even used to the design of the piece -- because it's so new.   It's extremely complex with fast partnering, so we are constantly challenging ourselves each time we attempt these new phrases. Many people have compared the first movement of the piece to body-weaving, as that's literally what we are doing with each other physically. We really have to try to be single-minded with two bodies during this section. This challenge takes time when a partnership is new, so we're really trying to think at the same level of intensity and musicality throughout."  

This is just one example of the many nuances that make watching the rehearsal process of this work so exciting and invigorating. We hold our breath as the dancers move together and apart. We let it out because we trust them to exceed our hopes. And they will. Certainly, they will. 

As Whelan tells us-- "Brian has brought new breath and energy to my body, and a new kind of dance puzzle to my mind. It's been one of the most joy-filled and challenging experiences I have ever experienced as a dancer.  To me, as a dancer, there's nothing as delicious to me than a joy filled challenge."   

Don't miss this New York premiere of Wendy Whelan's exciting new project, with a sneak preview at Guggenheim's Works & Process. Is this what balletomanes might expect from Wendy Whelan?  "My hope is to surprise people, and I hope to surprise myself as well," she says. What wonderful, ambitious, inspiring surprises are in store for us!    

--Marika Brussel

Monday, 7 January 2013

We are thrilled to introduce a new collaborator to the blog, Marika Brussel. 

Marika Brussel trained on scholarship at the Joffrey Ballet School and at the High School of Performing Arts in NYC. She performed with companies around the country, including Joffrey Concert Group. She has worked with students from 2-101, and has taught at the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, and in the public schools in New York, New Mexico and in Berkeley.  She earned an MFA in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and taught college writing at Hunter College, the College of Santa Fe and the University of New Mexico. She currently teaches ballet at ODC Dance and dance to people with Parkinson's Disease through Berkeley Ballet Theater. 

Here is what Marika had to say as she was attending a rehearsal in New York in December. 

Rehearsal with Wendy and Brian at City Center: December 20, 2012

Philip Glass emanated from the laptop in the corner, as Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks knit themselves together through the center of the studio.
        Music stopped.  
        “Hey!” Brian said.  “Thanks for coming.  I’m Brian”  
        “And I’m Wendy,” she said with a little jig, and a smile that made her look like a teenager.
“Risa.”  An elegant woman in street clothes said.  Risa Steinberg is the special coach working with Wendy and Brian for this duet
        A few minutes later they started working on the piece again. The fluid connection between Brian and Wendy set the tone for their work—easy, easy.  They seemed to read each other’s movements like a first language.  
        Having never seen Wendy in a purely contemporary piece, I was delighted, but not surprised, by the ease and beauty with which she approached and enveloped the work. Bare-footed, in a green leotard—Brooks’ unique choreography moved through her naturally.
        “Sorry, sorry,” each said when a movement was awkward, didn’t work. And went back.
        Each subsequent time the piece grew deeper. Steinberg suggested subtle, brilliant changes, demonstrating her ideas. And the piece connected more.
        Wendy’s face lit in a smile as they serpentined through the room.  Her passion for dance and for this partnership shone with a bright clarity.  She is exquisite.

--Marika Brussel

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Don't miss Fall Falls with Brian Brooks and Wendy Whelan on January 9 and 13, 2013 during FOCUS Dance at the Joyce Theatre.

They'll be performing on Program B with the Brian Brooks Moving Company.!focus-dance/vstc18=program-b