Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Wheeldon Leaves His Own Dance Company


  • Please log in to reply
71 replies to this topic

#31 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,466 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 09:48 AM

I've been thinking hard about these things since one of the better choreographers to come out of Pacific Northwest Ballet is starting up a company, and saying many of the same things that Wheeldon did when he began this new enterprise. (wants to work on own interests rather than fitting commissioned works into other reps, wants to work with dancers of own choosing, wants to encourage collaboration and collegiality among artists...)


He never really had his own dancers. They were always from NYCB, the Royal, SFB and ABT. He played at City Center and Sadler Wells. Building a company takes time. It takes developing dancers. Again, I hate to use Balanchine as an example, but I will. When he first started working in the U.S., he used students, he used dancers who had gigs at musicals and films. He made do with who he had when he had them. The Four Temperaments premiered at the Central High School of Needle Trades - not a grand theater. Same with Tudor and Ashton in the beginning. Or look at the New Chamber Ballet.

So far Olivier Wevers has succeeded: he's chosen a group of artists that he wants to work with, and the piece was a collaboration with a composer and three designers. I listened to Robert Lepage speak after "The Blue Dragon", it sounds like a similar collaborative experience, if without the time or financial backing that Lepage had. (Although Lepage's projects are often postponed as his collaborators have other contracts to fulfill.) He also took Balanchine's approach in using dancers who had other jobs to support them and working around their schedules, and he had nine dancers in "3 Seasons", the size that Lopez cited as feasible for "Morphoses", and remember reading that one of them, Hannah Lagerway, is joining a company in Europe.

I would love to see Wevers take some commissions like Wheeldon has, so that his work is more widespread and better known, but he's chosen another course. Wheeldon has many choices and can write his own ticket, and it takes great focus to be committed under those circumstances.

#32 Kathleen O'Connell

Kathleen O'Connell

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 818 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 09:51 AM

I think Deborah Jowitt's article in the Village Voice puts several fingers on some of the salient points (as she usually does), especially in the cultural differences between ballet and modern dancers and their expectations about choreography. Whether it's hard wired into people drawn to modern dance, or inculcated in the training, there is an expectation that everyone in the field will at least try to make their own dances as well as performing the works of others. This makes the founding of another ensemble more of an evolutionary step and less of a battle -- it's less fraught. Many, if not most, fail -- that's the nature of attrition in dance, but if there are more people trying, there are more groups that do have success.

Ballet doesn't necessarily have this freedom anymore. It seems to me, looking through old newspapers and magazines, that there were more little startup groups in the 40s and 50s, and even into the 60s, that wanted to be what Wheeldon seemed to be hoping for -- a chamber sized ensemble with a mixed repertory. At that point, though, the whole regional ballet movement seemed to shift the attention to community based groups with larger ambitions, and things evolved as they have.


Sandik, are you saying that ballet no longer has the freedom to start smaller touring ensembles - either focused on the work of a single choreographer or on mixed rep -- because regional companies now fill the space that a smaller touring company might? In other words, if you want to see the latest from a given modern choreographer, you pretty much have to wait for his or her own company to come around since there aren't regional mixed rep modern companies that mount works by many choreographers in the way that, say, PNB does? It's an interesting thought.

From Morphoses' 2008 Form 990:

Accomplishments from the past two years include fostering collaborations between the world's finest dancers and important artists from numerous disciplines; commissioning new works; presenting nine world premiers; and serving as a platform for existing works from other choreographers.


Aside from the sheer number of world premiers (we can leave aside the matter of quality for now) and the fostering of dancer / artist collaborations (and I'd be interested to know how deep that collaboration actually was at the dancer level), this description sure sounds like an ambitious regional company; in fact, it sounds like a major company.

Here's the organizational mission, just for the record:

Dancers collaborating with important artists from all relevant disciplines. To be an innovative, multi-disciplinary dance company infusing the art form with vitality, energy, and vision.


Sigh - I know it's a function of having to put stuff on grant proposals and the like, but change just four words and I could have written this as my departmental mission statement when I worked for a big multi-national corporation ...

#33 Dale

Dale

    Emeralds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,078 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 11:10 AM

Just released:

Morphoses Announces Plans for Resident Artists to Curate Programming on a Seasonal Basis

New York - Lourdes Lopez, co-founder and executive director of Morphoses, announces a new direction for the company following the departure of founding artistic director Christopher Wheeldon, effective February 18, 2010. The company will now be known simply as Morphoses.

"Morphoses will adopt a curatorial model in which the company will invite artists from various disciplines to take on the role of resident artist for one season, leading the company's artistic vision for that year," said Ms. Lopez.

The embrace of a curatorial model is a natural evolution and expansion of the company's mission and vision. To date, more than half of the company's repertory is comprised of works by a diverse group of emerging and well-known choreographers that include Michael Clark, William Forsythe, Tim Harbour, Adam Hougland, Lightfoot León, Edwaard Liang, Pontus Lidberg, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Liv Lorent, Emily Molnar, Alexei Ratmansky, as well as Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins; the balance of the works were created by Christopher Wheeldon.

Morphoses has become a robust platform for some of the most talented choreographers in contemporary ballet, enabling them to create work with a versatile company of dancers. Collaborators have included such artists as Los Carpinteros, Francisco Costa, Hugo Dalton, Narciso Rodriguez, Joby Talbot, Isabel and Ruben Toledo, and Martha Wainwright.

"Christopher's artistic vision and talent has helped make Morphoses one of today's most important dance companies," said Ms. Lopez.

By adopting this curatorial model, the company will afford artists the opportunity to use Morphoses as a stage to forge dynamic creative partnerships that will produce innovative works for the dance world. This model will enhance the company's capacity to reach out to a larger, broader audience and engage a younger generation. The company has begun the process of identifying the roster of resident artists for the upcoming seasons and will be announcing plans in the near future.

"In addition to its artistic achievements, Morphoses has established a successful business model and self-sustaining administrative structure that allows the company's resources to be focused on its artistic goals, bringing forward a new generation of talent to younger audiences," added Ms. Lopez. Since its founding, Morphoses has achieved artistic and financial success through annual seasons in New York and London, domestic and international touring, and private and institutional support.

"The company has built up a reserve of funds to support the curatorial model," stated Catherine Gildor, a member of the board of Morphoses. "We see this as validation of the crucial role that Morphoses has taken on in the world of contemporary ballet and are therefore committed to building upon our success."

Morphoses' mission is to broaden the scope of classical ballet by emphasizing innovation and fostering creativity through collaboration.

#34 Quiggin

Quiggin

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 852 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 12:11 PM

The initial expectations were far too grand -- Wheeldon anticipated dancers leaving City Ballet to join his company and thought that the new company would perhaps be one of three in New York -- as you can see from the initial outline he described (below).

Lourdes Lopez's idea about using Morphoses as a curatorial company could be a great thing. One of her choices, Michael Clark, is a brilliant and very musical choreographer, at least in You Tube snippets. It's totally irreverential and disheveled stuff but underneath he has a fine almost classical sense of counterpoint and bringing dancers on and off stage.

from "Wheeldon Forms a Company" NYT, January 4, 2007, Daniel J. Wakin & Roslyn Sulcas.

Inevitably Mr. Wheeldon's company will compete for attention, donations and dancers, something Mr. Wheeldon indirectly acknowledged.
He said Mr. Martins gave his blessing, yet ''he understands also that this may mean some dancers will decide to come to me,'' Mr. Wheeldon said. ''That's just the way life is and the way things go.''

He continued, ''I'm sort of stepping into an area where people might think, 'Why does New York need another ballet company when we've already got two?' '' (In addition to City Ballet, New York is home to American Ballet Theater.) Answering his own question, he said, ''Maybe it doesn't, but I'm going to do it, and we'll see if I'm foolish or not.''

Mr. Wheeldon said he wanted to give dancers a greater voice, which is sometimes difficult in large companies like City Ballet. Referring to leaders of large companies in general, he said that casting decisions were not ''always handled in a perfectly sensitive way.''

''My mission is to create an environment that is collaborative in all respects,'' he said.

In an earlier recent interview he said he could make a ''change for the better in the ballet world'' by starting a company from scratch.
''I want to be in complete control of my personal artistic vision and goals,'' he said, ''and am not really interested in inheriting a legacy, but rather taking the opportunity to forge my own.'' Starting fresh also meant bypassing the ''big politics'' and bureaucracy of a large company, he said.



#35 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,951 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 12:35 PM

The initial expectations were far too grand -- Wheeldon anticipated dancers leaving City Ballet to join his company and thought that the new company would perhaps be one of three in New York -- as you can see from the initial outline he described (below).


Grand, but not seemingly impossible, not for Wheeldon in 2007, anyway. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big short of delusion, (although Wheeldon’s apparent fixation on New York probably did not help matters and neither did a colossal economic recession).

#36 justafan

justafan

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 112 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 02:20 PM

I think Wheeldon leaving also sends a message to potential dancers for any company Wheeldon might have in the future. Why sacrifice to work with a choreographer who might bail? Think of those dancers who left companies (one left ABT) to work with him and now he's gone.


It also sends a message to potential donors to any institution he is tied with in the future.

I'm sorry, I like a lot of Wheeldon's choreography but it seems to me that this move demonstrates a lack of leadership qualities. His statement is all about how difficult things were for him. Whether they should have been expected or not is besides the point, I think. When you form a company and make your vision central to the endeavor, you need to go down with the ship -- finding some way to either make it work or fold up shop without rancor or embarrassment. To manage a ballet company requires an incredible amount of leadership -- you need all sorts of people to follow you (artists, dancers, donors, politicians, administrators.) Certainly, it reflects poorly on Wheeldon to make makes public statements reflecting an essential unhappiness with what what's been built by those who threw in with him.

If I were on the board of the Royal Ballet I would look askance at his resignation, if the whispers of a hoped-for appointment to the Royal are correct.

#37 miliosr

miliosr

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,611 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 04:13 PM

Over this side of the pond there are whispers that he may have been freeing himself up to take on Ms Mason's job when she retires: but that's the cynical Brits for you.


If I were on the board of the Royal Ballet I would look askance at his resignation, if the whispers of a hoped-for appointment to the Royal are correct.


Oh God -- let's hope he doesn't go to the Royal! He could barely manage his little boutique company!!

#38 Dansuer85

Dansuer85

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 172 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 04:51 PM

The other thing too, is there are wonderful dancers he could have hired on a full time basis. Just because they would perhaps not be from NYCB, ABT or The Royal Ballet, that doesn't mean he couldn't have created wonderful works and been successful. Working with dancers you aren't used to working with could also have pushed him as a choreographer. I hope both the company and he continue on a path of creative success!

#39 carbro

carbro

    Late Board Registrar

  • Rest in Peace
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,361 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 05:32 PM

The other thing too, is there are wonderful dancers he could have hired on a full time basis. Just because they would perhaps not be from NYCB, ABT or The Royal Ballet, that doesn't mean he couldn't have created wonderful works and been successful. Working with dancers you aren't used to working with could also have pushed him as a choreographer.

Excellent point! And I couldn't help but notice your signature line and how apt it is to this thread. :)

#40 Dansuer85

Dansuer85

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 172 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 07:14 PM

:) very true!

#41 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 07:36 PM

Oh God -- let's hope he doesn't go to the Royal! He could barely manage his little boutique company!!

I fear your are correct. Perhaps Wheeldon needs to find his own version of Lincoln Kirstein, someone who will devote himself to the artist devotedly, selflessly and with great skill. Such people are very rare, unfortunately. Almost as rare as great choreographers. :)

#42 Quiggin

Quiggin

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 852 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 08:41 PM

Perhaps Wheeldon needs to find his own version of Lincoln Kirstein


But didn't Lourdes Lopez sort of serve as his Lincoln K? -- the company it seems was at least financially viable. Are there lines somewhere to be read between?

#43 ViolinConcerto

ViolinConcerto

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,030 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 10:03 PM

Perhaps Wheeldon needs to find his own version of Lincoln Kirstein


But didn't Lourdes Lopez sort of serve as his Lincoln K? -- the company it seems was at least financially viable. Are there lines somewhere to be read between?


Lincoln poured oodles of his own and his friends' money into all the joint ventures he had with Balanchine from the tickets that he bought for Mr. B to come to America in 1934 through his last will and testament. He also used his contacts to help the company procure bookings or tours (Nelson Rockefeller and the South America tour in 1941).

While Lourdes has many connections in the dance world, her contacts in the world of major donors and the funding world are not as solid as Kirstein's were.

I think her most recent statement shows a lot of guts and foresight. It also seems to me from the comments here and in the press, that Wheeldon could be seen as coming off as a bit spoiled and temperamental. To make the best out of a bad situation, they should have made a joint statement, so that it didn't smell of a feud, and that he didn't seem impulsive and uncomitted. That would affect his chances at many opportunities in the future. I hope that this current division does not result in the failure of anyone's creative venture.

There are two other dance companies that I just remembered formed in the recent past of former NYCB dancers: The Daring Company (Valentine Kozlova) and the ??? Company (Judith Fugate and her husband).

#44 sandik

sandik

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,832 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 10:38 PM

I think her most recent statement shows a lot of guts and foresight. It also seems to me from the comments here and in the press, that Wheeldon could be seen as coming off as a bit spoiled and temperamental. To make the best out of a bad situation, they should have made a joint statement, so that it didn't smell of a feud, and that he didn't seem impulsive and uncomitted. That would affect his chances at many opportunities in the future. I hope that this current division does not result in the failure of anyone's creative venture.


This is my concern as well. The shifting messages over the last couple of days make everyone look amateurish.

There are two other dance companies that I just remembered formed in the recent past of former NYCB dancers: The Daring Company (Valentine Kozlova) and the ??? Company (Judith Fugate and her husband).


Is that Dance Galaxy?

#45 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,466 posts

Posted 25 February 2010 - 10:44 PM


There are two other dance companies that I just remembered formed in the recent past of former NYCB dancers: The Daring Company (Valentine Kozlova) and the ??? Company (Judith Fugate and her husband).


Is that Dance Galaxy?

Yes, and here's a danceviewtimes interview from 1999 with Fugate about the company:

http://www.danceview...ews/fugate.html


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):