Wendy Whelan announces her retirement from New York City Ballet

Take a video journey through Wendy Whelan’s 30-year career at New York City Ballet and beyond

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Wendy Whelan

Wendy Whelan Photograph: Nisian Hughes


It’s no surprise that, after 30 years dancing with New York City Ballet, Wendy Whelan has announced that her final performance with the company will be on October 18. It’s a long time to stand on your toes. But just because she’s hanging up her pointe shoes doesn’t mean she’s giving up dance. Following in Mikhail Baryshnikov’s footsteps, she’s taking the plunge into contemporary dance. As she said in an interview with Time Out New York last summer, “There’s a weird sexuality that’s really strong and potent that I feel and I want to put it out there.”

At the moment, Whelan is recovering from hip surgery—she was forced to postpone her Restless Creature tour because of it—but plans to perform with NYCB this spring. Later she will begin a collaboration with Edward Watson of the Royal Ballet; the result is set to premiere in London in 2015. But even as she branches out, Whelan will always be a hometown girl. Here are some moments from her career that show what a singular ballerina she is.

In this video from 1993, Whelan performs the role of Coffee in the sensuous Arabian dance in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Balanchine choreographed it for “daddies” in the audience.



At NYCB, Whelan—through her artistry and work ethic—is the dancer most company members worship. Here, she helps principal dancer Megan Fairchild fix her pointe shoes (advance to 2:52 minutes in).



Check out a sneak preview of Restless Creature, which will be performed at the Joyce next year. We’ll pass on the dates once we have them:



For the true bunhead, Nancy Reynolds interviews Whelan as part of the Speaking of Dancing Oral History Project at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in New York City. It's amazing.




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