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Wendy Whelan in New York Times Magazine


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A really nice article -- a tribute to the dancer and the human being.

I was interested by the author's comment about the paradoxes of aging for the dancer:

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QUOTE:

"Now 38 years old, in her 20th year at the New York City Ballet, Whelan has attained that rare high plane of soul-and-body synchrony where command of technique serves the spirit of a performer with something to say. Often in ballet the soul begins to wax only as the body starts to wane, and many dancers ready to converse with God find they are physically unable to keep from mumbling. But Whelan has mastered the archetypal ballet themes of Beauty, Time and Death while still in her prime."

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It is wonderful that Whelan has been given this gift and can pass it on to the audience and her fellow dancers.

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There's a lot of good stuff in this piece, particularly in the reported quotes. However perhaps I am the only one who thinks the author's presence is a leetle overbearing? I mean, do we really need to know Whelan's & Michalek's cat is "unobtrusive"? If it is unobtrusive, why mention it? That's just fussy writing.

The thing is this need of Brown's to put his stamp on even the tiniest detail makes me wonder if all this stuff about the soul and death and God is authentically Whelan, or whether this is how he feels about her.

I like to hear dancers talk about what they do. The God stuff can wait. I love those comments WW makes watching the old Sym in C tape. That's a dancer talking. Otherwise it's remarkable that the best material does not come from the person interviewed but from people who worked with her. Perhaps this is another indication that the writer wanted something from Whelan she wasn't really giving.

The "deep" question I missed is this: WW is introduced as a "post-Balanchine virtuoso". She spotted Mr. B only once. And yet she thinks about him "almost every day." This is where a reporter / wroter is supposed to ask "Tell me more" rather than ask "Is your cat unobtrusive by any chance?"

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The "deep" question I missed is this: WW is introduced as a "post-Balanchine virtuoso". She spotted Mr. B only once. And yet she thinks about him "almost every day." This is where a reporter / wroter is supposed to ask "Tell me more" rather than ask "Is your cat unobtrusive by any chance?"

I agree with you Herman. And you're right, the writer missed a chance at something interesting with that part about Whelan and Balanchine. In other interviews, she's discussed her feelings about Balanchine. In Time Out New York she said that while working with Jerome Robbins on Balanchine's Firebird, there was a moment when she looked out from the stage at Robbins in the shadows sitting in the theater. She mused that she pretended for a bit that Robbins (as an old man) was Balanchine. It was either in this interview or another that she said she tries to ask anybody who ever worked with Mr. B about him, so he can become more real to her. (I tried to find a link to the interview in the TONY archives, but their new archives are useless)

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This article made me want to pick up an editorial pencil. For instance, a couple of sentences after "the legendary ballerina Suzanne Farrell" we are let down with "the well-known ballerina Karen Von Aroldingen." Still, there's a lot to like. "Often in ballet the soul begins to wax only as the body starts to wane, and many dancers ready to converse with God find they are physically unable to keep from mumbling." But I was unprepared for the last sentence, a quote presumably uttered by Wendy: "Every life is a death." What are we meant to think?

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I would have enjoyed reading more of Whelan's feelings about Balanchine and about specific ballets. And the writer does try too hard at times: that bit in the very first sentence about "virtuoso motions of the soul" strikes me as overwrought and pretentious. But overall I think the article is an unexpected gift, a portrait that's warm and illuminating, touching and amusing. Now I can't wait to see "Klavier."

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The newly arrived Pointe Magazine (Feb/March 06) has a longish article on Whelan, "Fair and Wendy," by Astrida Woods on the occasion of her 20th anniversary with NYCB.

There's a sharp Erte-ish fashion cover photo by Sarah Silver and other photos inside by Silver (another fashion shot, on pointe) and Paul Kolnik.

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