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Christopher Wheeldon & 'Morphoses'New Company ????


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#31 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 09:06 AM

There are a lot of intentions there. Now he needs the money.

#32 dirac

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 04:04 PM

There are a lot of intentions there. Now he needs the money.


Robert Weiss is quoted in today's NYT article as saying that there tends to be a lot of money and enthusiasm at the start - but things become more difficult over the long haul. I imagine that will be true even for someone commanding as much attention as Wheeldon.

#33 leonid17

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 08:18 AM


There are a lot of intentions there. Now he needs the money.


Robert Weiss is quoted in today's NYT article as saying that there tends to be a lot of money and enthusiasm at the start - but things become more difficult over the long haul. I imagine that will be true even for someone commanding as much attention as Wheeldon.


Yet more on Mr. Wheeldon in yesterdays UK Guardian newspaper:
http://arts.guardian...1985101,00.html

#34 sandik

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 10:18 AM

Like many people in the dance world, I've been mulling this over since the official announcement last week, and I'm still grappling with what I think this might lead to. The previous comment (that Wheeldon, along with other ballet colleagues in his generation, seem to be using the traditional modern dance company as a model for their own independent ensembles) seems to have a great deal of truth and the choice will, I think, have a significant influence on his development as a dancemaker over the next several years. The kind of work that he will best be able to make inside this structure is chamber theater in size and scope -- the internal references will be between individuals and little groups -- the architecture of the space will live most clearly on a smaller scale. Part of what classical ballet has been able to do is illustrate geometry in space using large groups of people. I'm not sure that Wheeldon has been especially interested in that aspect of the art form (even his Swan Lake uses a relatively small group of swans) but he certainly won't have that as an easy choice in this new venture.

#35 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:03 PM

I'm not sure that Wheeldon has been especially interested in that aspect of the art form (even his Swan Lake uses a relatively small group of swans) but he certainly won't have that as an easy choice in this new venture.


Regarding this detail, I'd have to disagree. I think that spatial geometry is Wheeldon's strength as a choreographer. He's shown a gift for it from Mercurial Maneouvres on; Evenfall is another example. Working with the geometry of the corps is the main way Wheeldon approaches classical choreography. Even the Swan Lake you mention, though it doesn't have a massive corps (it couldn't at Penna Ballet) shows a constant experimentation with formations and space - sometimes to the detriment of the story itself.

This doesn't affect the rest of your argument, of course - it's just a detail.

#36 bart

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:27 PM

Thanks, leonid, for the article from the Guardian. It makes Wheeldon seem like an attractively thoughtful artist and an extraordinarily wide range of interests, ideas and plans.

The scope of his ambitions is striking. New bits and pieces seem to be revealed each day.

-- New work, "most ... on pointe."
-- Revivals, including McMillen's Las Hermanas and Van Manen chamber pieces.
-- Commissions from other contemporary choreographers.
-- Collaborations with Bjork !!!
-- A tie-in with City Center and Sadler's Wells.

If even a fraction of this actually works out, it should be impressive.

I was especially touched by this insight into the creative process as experienced by Wheeldon:

One of the problems for Wheeldon at NYCB has been the enormous shadow of George Balanchine, the company's founder: "Everyone there is still completely under his spell. Even though I've never seen my feet filling those giant footprints, there were always expectations that I should try." The other problem has been creative loneliness, although it was only when Wheeldon was back at the Royal working on DGV, with Wayne McGregor in the next studio, that he grasped how much more fun he should be having. The competition was fierce between the two but also fantastically enjoyable: "There was a really charged energy in the building that both Wayne and I fed off."


Interesting, too, is his comment that Monica Mason has been supportive at the London end. There is no parallel mention of support from anyone at Wheeldon's former NYC base.

#37 SanderO

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:36 PM

OT...

As an architect I see ballet very much related to architecture... space, form, symmetries and experienced in time... In that sense, some of the larger productions evoke grand buildings. All the steps and so forth are almost like the classical elements of style... you see them repeated in great buildings and great classical ballet choreography.

So smaller productions might be "less" architectural... just a thought

To me opera performance lack this sort of form and space making experience of classical ballet.

#38 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:41 PM

I'm going to hell for this one (again) but I can't help noticing as time goes by:

At an NYCB talk Jock Soto told a story about the impetus for Polyphonia. He had been pushing Wheeldon to move away from classical vocabulary for a while.

Per the NYT Wheeldon gets the idea to have a company after having a beer with William Forsythe.

Per the Guardian he sees Wayne MacGregor in the other room and it dawns on him that he should be enjoying the process.

Obviously, these are selectively chosen examples - I doubt he's that "other-directed". Still, I've felt this in his choreography as well, which feels (with the exception of After the Rain) more and more like he is either holding back on his own thoughts, or is presenting us with what he thinks we want to hear. And this has become moreso with time, rather than less as is usually the case with artists who develop their voice with experience. What does Christopher Wheeldon actually want - or have to say?

#39 richard53dog

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:51 PM

To me opera performance lack this sort of form and space making experience of classical ballet.


I can see your point. Unfortunately an awful lot of opera singers, particularly chorus members, don't move very well so forming changing patterns of figures tend to be less than crisply formed. (forget about complex movement)


On the other hand, opera singers... sing.....so there is that whole element added to the mix

#40 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:11 PM

This would make a great general discussion (and feel free to start it, or I'll do so if we continue the topic) Bessie Schonberg, who taught at Dance Theater Workshop, said that "choreography begins at the trio" for similar reasons. Geometrically a solo might be compared to a point, a duet to a line, and a trio starts making designs on the stage. She was simplifying something that has exceptions, but it's a good point.

#41 SanderO

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:29 PM

My post was mostly a reference to large ballet format as opposed to smaller ones and how it reminds me of architecture.

Though I love opera.. it is never architectural and formal (for me), though some stagings (at the Met) have literal architecture in them.

I suppose that is one of the interesting aspects of classical ballet to me, a complete novice, uneducated lout that I am... it's use of formalism (what I call it) to carve out form, space and so forth in time on a stage. Ballet resembles moving architecture or living sculpture... opera does not.

So for me new choreography, is like experiencing new (classical) buildings and the element of scale applies. So I look forward to creative people using classical language to create the experiences which are so precious and fleeting in a ballet performance...

This is another precious aspect of the ballet... and all performances... they pass by like a river... the same but always unique. Rant over

#42 sandik

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:30 PM

This would make a great general discussion (and feel free to start it, or I'll do so if we continue the topic) Bessie Schonberg, who taught at Dance Theater Workshop, said that "choreography begins at the trio" for similar reasons. Geometrically a solo might be compared to a point, a duet to a line, and a trio starts making designs on the stage. She was simplifying something that has exceptions, but it's a good point.


Bessie was, as you well know, an extremely smart woman about dancemaking.

#43 sandik

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:35 PM


I'm not sure that Wheeldon has been especially interested in that aspect of the art form (even his Swan Lake uses a relatively small group of swans) but he certainly won't have that as an easy choice in this new venture.


Regarding this detail, I'd have to disagree. I think that spatial geometry is Wheeldon's strength as a choreographer. He's shown a gift for it from Mercurial Maneouvres on; Evenfall is another example. Working with the geometry of the corps is the main way Wheeldon approaches classical choreography. Even the Swan Lake you mention, though it doesn't have a massive corps (it couldn't at Penna Ballet) shows a constant experimentation with formations and space - sometimes to the detriment of the story itself.

This doesn't affect the rest of your argument, of course - it's just a detail.


You've certainly seen more of his work than I have, but this actually clarifies for me what I think I was trying to say -- is he, in this new situation, going to have the resources to work with the geometry, or is it going to be even smaller groups? Thanks again for helping iron out my wonky thought processes.

(I know that Pennsylvania Ballet doesn't have a huge roster, and although there were things about Wheeldon's Swan Lake there that made my forehead wrinkle, his use of the ensemble wasn't one of them.)

#44 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 01:49 PM

Interesting point, and I agree. Bringing in other choreographers, something I don't like about Cranko's Onegin is that it's a series of pas de deux with the corps for decor rather than meaning. Contrast that with Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream which uses the corps dances in Act II to reinforce its point. Wheeldon knows how to use and especially move a corps de ballet; but what does the corps de ballet mean to him - are we on the same wavelength here?

#45 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 02:06 PM

Re Wheeldon and the corps: I gather I was one of the few people whose response to Evenfall was entirely positive. Yeah, there was kind of a hole a the center where the male principal should have been, but I found the corps so engaging and affecting that I just didn’t care. It even occurred to me that the hole in the center might have been the point. In any event, I left the theatre wishing that Wheeldon would take a crack at something along the lines of Le Tombeau de Couperin, which is one of my very favorite ballets. (Martins’ crack at it in Friandises – make that two cracks – didn’t really work for me, which was a shame because the dancers in the cast I saw were clearly giving it their all.) Lately, I’ve found that Wheeldon’s work for groups of dancers is more expressive and emotionally immediate than his work for soloists or couples – After the Rain and Quaternary being the exceptions. Let me hasten to add that I don’t think emotional immediateness is a necessarily a requirement of a good ballet. It just struck me that Wheeldon’s choreography for couples placed in the context of a corps is somehow more “effaced” than the choreography for the corps itself or for couples dancing alone. An American in Paris is another example – I can barely remember the central couple (which is a genuine issue in that case, I think).

I loved the look of Evenfall, by the way – it reminded me of one of those fabulous deco ocean liners or grand hotels that feature in early Fred Astaire movies.

Anyway, I'm interested to see what Wheeldon gets up to in his new venture. I just wish it were in a venue other than City Center. I don't think I've ever had a clear view of the stage there, even in the allegedly good seats. I long for a NYC dance and opera venue akin to the Juilliard Theater, and I promise to build one if I win Lotto.


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