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Flash! Wheeldon appointed NYCB Resident Choreographer

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Press release dated May 1, 2001 from New York City Ballet:




Peter Martins, Ballet Master in Chief of the New York City Ballet, announced today that Christopher Wheeldon has been appointed to the post of Resident Choreographer for New York City Ballet, beginning with the

2001/2002 season. In making the appointment, Mr. Martins noted that the arrangement is very much in keeping with New York City Ballet's long tradition of encouraging new choreography. "This position will provide Chris with an ongoing

relationship with New York City Ballet, and provide a wonderful opportunity for our dancers and audiences alike," said Mr. Martins.

Referring to his new appointment Mr. Wheeldon said, "New York City Ballet is home for me now. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to continue to make ballets for the company I admire and love."

Although New York City Ballet has, throughout its history, invited many

choreographers to create here on a regular basis, Mr. Wheeldon will be the first choreographer to hold the title Resident Choreographer with the Company.

Mr. Wheeldon is currently completing his tenure as New York City Ballet's first-ever Artist in Residence, a year-long residency program initiated during the Company's 2000/2001 season. As part of this residency Mr. Wheeldon has created two ballets for NYCB. The first, Polyphonia, premiered during the winter repertory season, and the second, Variations Sérieuses, will premiere at the Company's Spring Gala on Thursday, May 10.

A native of England, Mr. Wheeldon trained at The Royal Ballet School and began his dance career with The Royal Ballet in 1991. In 1993 he was invited to join New York City Ballet's corps de ballet, and was promoted to

the rank of soloist in 1998. Last spring, Mr. Wheeldon retired from dancing to devote himself to choreography full time.

In addition to his work with New York City Ballet, Mr. Wheeldon has also created ballets for Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and The Royal Ballet and School, among others. In addition, Mr. Wheeldon choreographed ballet sequences for the feature film Center Stage, and will choreograph the stage version of The Sweet Smell of Success, which is scheduled to open

on Broadway in 2002.

New York City Ballet's 2001 spring season opens on Tuesday, May 1 and continues through July 1 at the New York State Theater.

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Congratulations to Chris Wheeldon. I had the honor of meeting Chris yesterday. I walked the stage for lighting for Wheeldon's new piece "The American" which premieres Saturday, May 5 at the Reynolds Theater at Duke University. Carolina Ballet is performing Wheeldon's work along with premieres by Richard Tanner and Tyler Walters.

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I was surprised that this didn't bring more response. I think this was not only an important, but an admirable, move on Martins' part -- whether or not Wheeldon turns out to be The Great Choreographer. Wheeldon is being given a grand opportunity, but he's choreographed enough, and well enough, to have earned it.

I think this goes beyond title and a round of media interviews, and reading reports on Wheeldon's new piece made me raise this topic again. One of the (many) problems today for young choreographers -- or any choreographer not firmly attached to a company -- is that there is enormous pressure to produce a Hit. Especially outside of New York, where ballet is presented in the Program I, Program II variety, each ballet has to be, if not a masterwork, an important one. In a company with a huge repertory, this pressure lessens. One can produce a little ballet -- think, with Balanchine, of "Tombeau" or "Divertimento No. 15" (which is now becoming a repertory staple, but which was, at its birth, considered a bon bon).

A choreographer also needs to be able to work with the same dancers consistently to develop his style, and their response to it. He needs the luxury of being able to fail. He needs to be able to experiment -- not in the adolescent "Eureka!" mold that some seen to expect (that every ballet has to be an "advance," containing something hitherto unseen), but in the sense of trying comedy, trying difficult music, trying to make a classical ballet, a modernist one, all-male, all-female, using dancers he doesn't usually work with -- whatever. It takes 20 years of doing this to produce a great choreographer. There are few alive today who saw Balanchine's early experiments, or even Ashton's. By the 1940s, when their careers began to take off, they were 40.

I don't know whether Wheeldon will turn out to be an Ashton or a Balanchine, but Martins has given him, and us, the opportunity to find out, and I think he deserves a bravo for it.

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I think that this didn't come as surprise to many of us. Maybe that's why it didn't get more response.

I'm very interested in this one's career. I loved "Sea Pictures" which he did here on SFB. I'm looking forward to his being more prolific.

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it's great news i think; the best news being that Martins has the knowing confidence to hire on a young man who's already better than he is. the gala premiere last thursday appeared, from my seat in the audience, to be a rousing vindication of Wheeldon's ability to excite a crowd; the enthusiasm for his lite but interesting "variations serieuses" was realer than the tepid hand-claps that greeted Martins' "Morgen." (the NYT's Kisselgoff disagrees of course.)

everyone knows that NYCB is the greatest company int he world, but what it needs is a fresh supply of great dances that can somehow stand alongside balanchine and robbins; martins is unable to provide these. wheeldon looks like he might. remember also, lest we get too too excited, jerome robbins came and went into NYCB until finally settling down for good when he was almost a half-century old.

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I was just about to post something like that, Juliet :)

Working on Broadway would probably be a good experience -- there's certainly precedent!

I know it's not possible to know everthing about a person after a half-hour conversation, but I did an interview with Wheeldon about a year ago for Interview magazine, and he seemed very serious and level-headed -- as though he actually is interested in choreography and building a career over time. I would imagine he realizes the importance of his position :)

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and again I would remind you of the great Jerome Robbins, who went back and forth between ballet and B'way for years and years, even starting his own company at one point (Ballet: USA) before abandoning it; even trying his hand at straight plays ("Dad Poor Dad" by Arthur Kopit) before abandoning them; even trying films (w/out joy).

he didn't settle down with Balanchine et al until he was pushing 50. I can't imagine at his age Wheeldon would be wise to restrict his stylistic options or collaborative options in any way ...

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