Wendy Whelan talks about Restless Creature
Wendy Whelan talks about branching away from ballet for her new evening of duets, Restless Creature
Thu Aug 8 2013
Time Out New York: You can shade it in any way you want forever and ever.
Wendy Whelan: Yes! But until you find it, you’re like how long do I do the jumping and the turning? I’m never going to find that.
Time Out New York: Because some dancers don’t. It’s opportunity and intelligence.
Wendy Whelan: Luck, too.
Time Out New York: Don’t you have to have surgery soon?
Wendy Whelan: I do. I have a [hip] labral tear. A lot of people have it. Some people can continue to dance through it. I’ve tried and tried and tried for the past ten months—I’ve tried everything—and it’s debilitated me to a certain level. I can’t do certain things or else I’ll spur it on and make myself immobile. So I’ve been able to maintain a certain level of physicality and performance to focus on certain things I can do until the premiere happens. And then I don’t have to do Nutcracker. I want to do the fall season, but I have to let it go. I’m having it August 27, a week after the Pillow. But Miranda [Weese] had it, Nikolaj [Hübbe] had it, Stephen Hanna—all these people, and I’ve talked to all of them. They’re like, “It’s the best thing, Wendy—you’ll get back 100 percent.” I hope. The tour resumes in March; hopefully, I’ll be back doing something at City Ballet. I don’t know. January–February. It depends on how I heal. I’m trying to get strong in certain areas and be really ready for the surgery so that when I make my recovery, the body is ready to start, so I’m trying to be wise beforehand to counter a lengthy recovery and to keep it as short as possible, but I just have to listen to my body.
Time Out New York: Do you think about when you’ll leave City Ballet?
Wendy Whelan: Yes. I will be leaving, not too long off. Unless I come back and have bionic-woman hips! Which I might. I think there’s a certain time when you have to accept that it was a gift that you had and that you received so much from that gift and now it’s time for somebody else to have that gift. If I hang around and continue to do the roles, a lot of these younger people won’t necessarily get that opportunity. Maybe—I don’t know. And NYCB is a younger person’s company. That’s the material that Balanchine made. It’s for younger bodies. Certain things I could continue to do forever, but you can’t rely on that, and I want to handle a career with grace. I don’t want to outstay my welcome, which I probably already have. [Laughs]
Time Out New York: Never think that. What does modern mean to you?
Wendy Whelan: I think it needs to have a concept. Maybe a source of inspiration. A thought behind it. An idea, a challenge within it. Modern also seems more mathematical to me; graphic and physics, and ballet is more like writing and poetry and languages and music. The other one feels a little more like science and math. Ballet doesn’t always have to have a concept and usually these choreographers—Brian and Josh have these designs…they all do. They have designs and a physics test that they want to do. An architectural study.
Time Out New York: Are you dancing in ballet slippers or on pointe?
Wendy Whelan: No pointe! Bare feet, maybe socks. I know you don’t like socks so much.
Time Out New York: I hate socks.
Wendy Whelan: I know. I’ve never done it before. Feels good though. And it’s all about feeling good right now! I remember reading that from you. They’re going to be flesh colored. They’ll be, like, naked.
Time Out New York: How high?
Wendy Whelan: Low, low, as low as they can go.
Time Out New York: Okay, you’re selling me a little.
Wendy Whelan: I’m going to try to make them as naked as possible so you don’t see them, but Kyle is making me wear black socks. [She sees how aghast I look and whispers] I’m sorry. I’ve never done it in my life. The bare feet I only did in 2013 with Brian. And then I did a little bit with Graham in “Moon” duet. I was really scared at first to take the shoes off. I think I said something on Facebook about it, and [Stephen] Petronio asked me, “Was it liberating or terrifying?” And I wrote back, “Liberating.” And he was like, “Good answer!”
Time Out New York: It feels nice, right?
Wendy Whelan: I felt like I could really own something rather than ride in something. It’s such a different sensation. And then to get back into the pointe shoes for DSCH was like, Ah! But I can do this on pointe.
Time Out New York: I saw you in that, by the way—it was really amazing.
Wendy Whelan: I love it so much. I feel like a different person from going out and learning this stuff and exploring and being so intimidated. I felt at home to go and do ballet.
Time Out New York: Is there a quality about your dancing that people don’t talk about but that is important to you?
Wendy Whelan: I don’t know. Well, we talked about this before: a spiritual aspect, which I do feel and which I love. It’s something that I feel strongly; it’s weird to talk about or to write about, but it does feel like it’s really there. So that would be one thing. Maybe they talk about what a bad jazz dancer I am, because I’m pretty bad. It was funny when all the Americana things were happening this spring [at NYCB]; none of that stuff was my rep at all. It was just like, No, I don’t fit into that world. There are definitely clothes I don’t wear in the dance world. It’s okay. Other people wear them really well.
Restless Creature is at the 2013 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival through Aug 18.
You might also like
Dance events calendar
57 wonderful things happening in New York City this March
20 super-cool things to do this weekend
The best internet reactions to #TheDress
18 ways to be an a-hole in New York City
These are the NYC Instagram accounts you absolutely need to be following right now
25 awesome things happening in New York this week
Five ways to annoy a New Yorker
Ticket alert: The best New York concerts on sale this week