Christopher Wheeldon (AKA The Genius) at Guggenheim, and Ballet Makes an Appearance on Dancing With the Stars!

I had such a great dance-watching night last night! First I went to yet another of the Guggenheim’s Works & Process events, this time to hear choreographer / artistic director Christopher Wheeldon talk about his new company, Morphoses, which, I know, I just can’t shut up about and am likely driving everyone crazy with! (But at least I’m not the only one! Also, Philip has an interview up with Morphoses choreographer Edwaard Liang, who was supposed to dance last night but unfortunately did not.)

I just think Wheeldon is such a genius, at least in terms of his choreography. His head may be a bit in the clouds as an artistic director regarding what the company may be capable of in terms of all the visual artists / musicians, etc. etc. ETC. he wants to collaborate with (especially in light of last week’s huge news about corporate giant Altria’s pulling the plug on crucially-needed dance funding in NYC), and executive director Lourdes Lopez told a funny story about his extremely last-minute, day-of-performance, without-a-care-in-the-world wish that she locate a violinist in rural Colorado to play live. But one thing is for sure: as a creator of dances he is brilliant; he is a contemporary Kenneth MacMillan, I do believe.

So, we saw a solo excerpt from “Elsinore,” an abstract, mesmerizing feast for the eyes (which I usually don’t say about either abstract ballets OR solos) danced by Russian ballerina Anastasia Yatsenko. And that was preceded by this absolutely beautiful bittersweet pas de deux called “There Where She Loved,” which tells the story of a woman trying in vain to make herself believe she doesn’t love her cheating husband, and which contained some of the most inventive, gorgeous partnering I think I’ve ever seen. It was danced by NYCB ballerina Maria Kowroski and Ballet Boyz danseur Michael Nunn. It seriously nearly made me cry, a sentiment expressed as well by a woman I met afterward waiting in line for the bus.

They also showed a short documentary-style film about the troupe’s world premiere in Vail, Colorado this summer which was really cute. An excited Tyler Angle exclaimed that you don’t even realize how hard you’re working because of all the excitement of being part of something fun and new. Wendy Whelan sweetly remarked that it was clear Wheeldon had taken pains to assemble a group of dancers who got along so well together, which was a part of the joy and success of working with him. There was no studio in Vail so they brought barres out onstage and took class there. (I always love watching professional dancers take class; I once watched an instructional tape of Fernando Bujones doing the same and it was so unbelievably thrilling just watching a master execute beyond perfection everything you try so hard to do.) Illustrating his charmingly goofy sense of humor, Wheeldon, raising a cup of coffee to the camera man, said, “Okay, I’m ready to run a company now, I’ve had my morning coffee.”

Wheeldon told us his artistic vision and reasons for starting the new company were twofold: to take ballet in new directions by creating fresh programming that would both draw new audiences and re-invigorate current ones; and to give dancers as fulfilling a career possible by allowing them to broaden their training in new dance styles and to share in the creative process by collaborating on the pieces. He believes the old way of running a company top down doesn’t work anymore: dancers are intelligent, they juggle college courses now with their full-time dancing, they don’t need to be lorded over and their minds can and should be used in the artistic process. You can always tell when a dancer had a part in creating a role, he said.

Wheeldon is such a little cutie — a genuinely wonderful, warm, happy guy with a very cheery outlook. I can’t wait to see their first full program, on tomorrow night!

Then, I came home and watched Dancing With the Stars. I was very happy to see Jonathan Roberts convince his celebrity student Marie Osmond to take a ballet class in order to get down some dance fundamentals, such as finding her center. “I don’t know what a core is!” she screamed, like a typical beginning adult. How much can I relate to that, and to her complete inability to do those grand jetes!!! Too funny :) I loved to see her trying though, and realizing how very hard it is.

But more: ahhh, how much do I love watching all those amateur men try the tour jetes in Paso!!!! This is by far my favorite Paso Doble step for the men, of course being the bravura-loving balletomane that I am 😀 It’s really the one ballet step that is used in a Latin dance and it’s so gorgeous of course when executed properly, balletically, as Slavik Kryklyyvy, my favorite, does! Looks very Don Quixote. I’d always get very annoyed at competitions when there wasn’t at least one big huge tour jete in each Paso routine. But those amateur men last night! They were so cute trying to get it right! The boxer guy dancing with Karina Smirnoff jumped quite high, but kicked his feet together then lifted both legs in back instead of only one; I thought he was going to come down right on his knees. Fortunately he fixed it mid air and did what looked like a spiffy Jive bent-knee jump instead, but with a bull-fighter Paso attitude. But it was cute! And another guy just jumped forward with the one foot and turned around in the air and came down on the other, but without gaining any height or even trying to bring his legs together, so looked very squat! Still, definitely better than I can do and I found it all a thrilling blast to watch. I think Karina and the other pros should send their students to Vladimir (I don’t know how to link to that specific step in ABT’s dictionary, but go here, scroll down to jete entrelace and watch Vladimir Malakhov execute the perfect balletic tour jete). Actually wouldn’t it be awesome to have a ballet dancer come on the show and teach!!!

And how cute is that Helio! I love him so much I am already worrying myself sick over him getting injured in a car accident. Be careful, Helio! Judge Carrie Ann said, “Watching you makes me happy to be alive, Helio.” Exactly. That’s precisely the way I feel about Marcelo. It’s a Brazilian male dancer thing, quite obviously. Brazilian male dancers make you happy to be alive :)

Speaking of which… it’s just one week now!!!

7 Comments

  1. Just curious, how does one pronounce “Kryklyyvy”?

    Selly

  2. helio makes me melt into a puddle on the living room floor

  3. Hahah, Jennifer — good, I’m glad it’s not just me! He is the cutest, has the sweetest personality and he’s always so happy and excited!

    Selly, I’ve heard it pronounced “Krickleevee” — I don’t know if it’s right, but that’s how the judges from last year’s competition said it — as well as one of my friends who seems to know everything! He spells it so oddly — two y’s in a row :)

  4. Thanks! I’ve seen him dance (youtube) and seen his name written down a lot but never heard it said out loud and trying to pronounce his name makes my eyes hurt reading it.

  5. Tonya, I just want to tell you that I absolutely ADORE your blog. I have been reading it all summer, and I just find it extremely charming, and informative. You have been an integral part of my reignited love for dance (along with “So You Think You Can Dance?”, Shahrukh Khan, Angel Corella, ABT, and many more). I always loved dance and ballet ever since I was a little kid, but my parents never had the money to send me to classes so I decided to love it from afar. I kind of forgot about it all in the midst of graduating from college, and then getting into the MFA writing program at CalArts and moving to Los Angeles, but now I’m crazy about it all over again and more than before. Sadly my life isn’t as eventul as yours, but you’ve inspired me to try to partake in the dance world out here in Los Angeles. Thanks for your lovely writing, being so awesome, and indulging in my gooey saccharine comment!

  6. Oh my, thank you so much, Salmeen, for the wonderful compliments on my blog! I’m so happy I’ve been able to rekindle someone else’s passion for dance the way mine was first through ballroom and Pasha, then by watching Alessandra Ferri and Marcelo Gomes and my other favorite ballet dancers, and now through reading blogs and other writing on dance and connecting with other dance lovers that way. We have a similar path: I also took ballet as a child but when my parents divorced my mom couldn’t really afford the lessons, so I kind of dropped it, then later returned in adulthood through ballroom lessons. Thank you so much again for your comment — that’s just about the nicest thing anyone could say :)

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