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Wendy Whelan in Chaconne

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I gather Wendy Whelan has danced Chaconne during past seasons, but I saw her dance it for the first time at tonight's performance (6/16). Since Farrell's retirement I've seen several excellent ballerinas dance Chaconne -- excellent, but not (in my opinion) at all effective at capturing the full range of its qualities. I have always especially loved and admired the ballerina role, and simply mourned its flattening in the versions I was seeing. Well, Wendy Whelan wasn't a Suzanne Farrell -- she was entirely Wendy Whelan and as Wendy Whelan she has restored (in my eyes) a piece of Balanchine I had given up hoping to see again. With Philip Neal (also quite wonderful) she brought back the whole range of the ballet's dynamics, moods, lines, shapes, wit. I'm a pretty wordy ballet-alertnick -- but I haven't the words.

I've praised a number of performances this season, so I hope it's clear that I mean this as praise of an altogether higher order. An extraordinary performance...(The evening as a whole, by the by, also included Peter Boal's equally remarkable performance in Square Dance. Should I add that up until about an hour and a half before the performance, I had pretty much decided not to go? Where's Alexandra's "Chinese gentleman" when you need him?! Fortunately, I changed my mind.)

[ 06-17-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

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Drew, I also thought it an extradordinary performance. Having already seen Whelan do the piece before, I wasn't even looking forward to it that much. But, last night was amazing. She was a real ballerina last night. As someone who has always preferred her in *unitard* ;-) ballets, it takes an amazing performance to push me to be more open-minded about her. She was so musical, flirtatious, brought your attention to each detail. I felt like I was seeing the ballet anew. I guess that's what people mean by a *revelation*.

Alas, I only wish I could have the experience with the female role in Square Dance. Please let me see Somogyi in that role someday!


[ 06-17-2001: Message edited by: AmandaNYC ]

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I'm sorry I missed it, too, as my kids and I had a date with Angelina Jolie.

If there's one NYCB dancer who can consistly astonish me, it's Whelan. I've learned never to underestimate her, or sell her short. I remember when I first started watching her, she was so unusual and unlike any other dancer I'd ever seen, it took me awhile to get a handle on what she is all about. Obviously leotard ballets. And while she's good in allegro parts, she's not the killer allegro dancer one might think she'd be given her amazing musculature.

It was when I saw her dance Spring in The Four Seasons, a role of hers I hadn't been looking forward to with much eagerness, that I realized she's a great lyrical adagio dancer -- one of the greatest I've seen. It's worth a trip to Midsummer Night's Dream just to see her dance the Divertimento in the second act. And as far as I'm concerned she owns Dewdrop, but that's a tutu of a different color...

Having said all this, I've always had a bit of a problem with Whelan in Farrell's roles, and that goes back to Whelan's amazing physique, which is about as different from Farrell's as one can imagine. Farrell's lushness came, in a sense, from her center, the softness and strength of her hips and thighs. Whelan's lushness is in her extremeties -- the sweep of her magnificently long arms and legs. I think this is one reason her dancing in Chaconne, 2nd movement of Symphony in C or Diamonds never really clicked for me the way it did in so many other roles.

However, I have infinite faith in Whelan's abilities, and I'm not at all surprised to read that she appears to have taken her Chaconne to a new level. I'm only sorry I missed it.

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