7 July 2015 at 2.46pm | Comment on this article
A Long Time Coming
Dancers Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson say that they first came up with the idea of collaborating together around ten years ago, when they were both dancing with Christopher Wheeldon’s company Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. It has taken until now for these two internationally acclaimed dancers to be in the same country at the same time long enough for the project to come to fruition. After its premiere in the Linbury Studio Theatre, Whelan and Watson will perform Other Stories on tour, at venues including New York City Center, where Whelan is Artistic Associate.
Portrait of the Artists
Whelan is one of the most iconic American ballerinas of her generation. She has spent most of her career with New York City Ballet, where she danced as a principal from 1991 to her retirement in 2014. Since leaving NYCB she has developed innovative collaborative projects, of which Other Stories is the second, after 2013’s Restless Creature. Watson has been a Principal of The Royal Ballet since 2005. He is highly acclaimed both for his interpretations of the Company’s core repertory, particularly in works by Kenneth MacMillan, and for his role creations for choreographers as diverse as Wayne McGregor and Wheeldon. He was appointed an MBE in 2015.
Though Whelan and Watson come from very different ballet traditions, they share a remarkable ability to inhabit a range of styles – both classical and neo-classical in ballet, and, more recently, contemporary dance. For Other Stories they have refused to rest on their laurels. ‘We wanted to think about what else we could be… We didn’t want to do a vanity project, showing off what we already knew we could do. We wanted to use our experience to try something new.’ To that end they have invited five choreographers to create new works.
Three of the choreographers worked with both the dancers. Javier De Frutos creates First and Wait, a work that ‘very much reflects the spirit of its creation – almost a video diary of the moments we shared in the studio’. In Dance Me to the End of Love, Danièle Desnoyers explores the joint virtuosity of her two dancers, creating a dialogue between the dancers and the onstage musicians. Closing the programme is Arthur Pita’s The Ballad of Mack and Ginny, a tango taking its inspiration from Brecht and Weill’s provocative Threepenny Opera.
… and Apart
Other Stories includes a solo work for each of the dancers. Arlene Phillips creates Dance Me to the End of Love on Watson: ‘A once famous dancer enters an empty ballroom that echoes with memories of the woman he loved. He relives the relationship that destroyed him.’ Annie-B Parson uses Whelan’s virtuoso abilities to the full in the abstract Short Ride Out, a work of complex rhythms and different structures that focusses on ‘what Balanchine called “the fact of dancing”’.