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 Post subject: Christopher Wheeldon's Dance Company - Morphoses
PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 8:03 am 
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After a brief mention in the Vail Festival announcement, the official announcement of Wheeldon's company:

Quote:
Wheeldon Forms a Dance Company

NY Times
By DANIEL J. WAKIN and ROSLYN SULCAS
Published: January 4, 2007

Christopher Wheeldon, one of the world’s most sought-after choreographers, who recently announced an end to his residency at New York City Ballet, has formed his own company, a major event in the dance world.

The company, Morphoses the Wheeldon Company, is to make its debut in August at the Vail International Dance Festival in Colorado, followed by four to six performances at the Sadler’s Wells Theater in London in September and roughly the same number at City Center in New York in October. The company is named after a 2002 dance that Mr. Wheeldon created for City Ballet.

In an interview yesterday Mr. Wheeldon said performances would include a mix of his own choreography and works by others, performed by stars on loan from City Ballet and the Royal Ballet in London.


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Last edited by ksneds on Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 10:40 am 
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I have such mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am thrilled that a choreographer with such a strong track record is taking this kind of risk. Change is good, and I applaud Wheeldon for attempting to control his own destiny.

On the other hand, though, I worry that in order to survive, ballet is shifting to a smaller, decentralized, more star-based system. What will that do to the legacy of large-cast story ballets? I'm sure there will always be a system to deliver the big productions somewhere, but will that only in occur in the mega-cities of the future? And how will younger dancers be developed if they don't have the experience to join these All-Star companies, yet there are fewer big companies where they can pay their dues and climb the ranks?
Ultimately, though, I do think that Wheeldon deserves all the support he can garner. The system as it exists is slowly dying, and something has to be done to revive it. Perhaps this is merely one of the ways that resuscitation can be accomplished.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:06 am 
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Quote:
Ballet world abuzz at British choregrapher's huge gamble
by MARK BROWN for the Guardian
published: January 5, 2007

It is the scale of his ambitions that will delight those with a passion for ballet. Wheeldon admits that he is setting the bar extremely high, taking inspiration from Sergei Diaghilev who caused an artistic sensation when he created Ballets Russes in 1909 - the 20th century's most influential ballet company which included Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky and had collaborations with Stravinsky, Matisse, Picasso and Cocteau.
more...


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:11 am 
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Like JaneH, I have mixed feelings, though from the surer-footing (ballet-wise) of Europe.

I'm more disappointed that Wheeldon will likely have less opportunity to work with larger casts. Perhaps he will still be able to do a ballet or two each year as a guest choreographer, but one assumes his pieces for his company will be smaller. But I think he's one of the few young choreographers today who has the pedigree and talent to do the story ballets in an interesting way - I loved his "Swan Lake" as well as his "Carnival of the Animals".

While I do deplore the 'star based' system of companies like American Ballet Theatre, my feeling is that the smaller companies actually provide more opportunities for younger dancers. Many of the smaller companies like Peter Boal's now defunct company, the touring groups run by NYCB dancers, Ethan Stiefel's pick up group, and the RDB touring group almost always include a bunch of corps members and younger soloists. And these dancers benefit immensely by getting to work with more experienced dancers and choreographers, rather than being another body in a corps. Sean Suozzi, for example, is a dancer who I think made great strides via his experiences in Peter Boal's company.

My impression is that Wheeldon's Company is, for now, more a pick up company, and thus is probably starting out with principal dancers most likely because they have more say over their schedule/contracts and so are more likely to be able to take time out to dance in his company.

I would definately agree that big ballets are becoming more and more the preserve of the larger companies in the US. It's a strange situation because story ballets are what companies seem to think draw in audiences, but many smaller companies just don't have the resources to put them on properly. So you get half-witted attempts that probably hurt more than help draw in ballet audiences. One solution is the shared productions which have been successful in the US.

From my perspective I have mixed feelings - here in Scotland, I think going away from a more traditional company was the only way to save the Scottish Ballet. For better or worse, there just isn't the money (or, honestly, enough homegrown talent) to keep a large, classical company going. And the new format has really been excellent, though it's still a work in progress. But at the same time, I often feel starved of traditional ballet here, as I think Scottish Ballet has sometimes moved to far towards contemporary, and relied too heavily on the choregraphy of Ashley Page, the AD, who I think is a great AD, but not a good choreographer. Which would be fine if we got classical companies touring here more than once or twice a year, but we get a ton of excellent contemporary companies (Rambert, Alvin Ailey, NBT's pseudo-ballet story productions, NDT, SDT etc. etc.). Once in a blue moon ENB or BRB come up here, but I think it would take more than a miracle to get the Royal Ballet up here even thought the Scottish Ballet now goes to London. So we rely on the Festival each summer for foreign companies like Pennsylvania Ballet or Het Nationale Ballet. It wasn't until last month when I got to the Royal Danish Ballet and saw two full lengths (Swan Lake, Napoli) that I realized how 'starved' I was for good, meaty classical ballet where there are enough men in a company to do a real corps ballet.

Anyway, I think, however, that the situation is less precarious in Europe. Thanks to government funding, the national ballets in most European companies can still afford to properly put on the classic ballets. Perhaps it is cultural too, for the classical full length ballets were born in Europe, whilst it is Robbins, Balanchine and other neoclassical choreographers who define ballet in the US.

Kate


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 3:27 pm 
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The London press reports, adding more details including Wheeldon's aim to start the permanent company in 2008 with 20 dancers and to have permanent homes at Sadler's Wells and in NYC:

Quote:
Ballet world abuzz at British choregrapher's huge gamble

Mark Brown, arts correspondent
Friday January 5, 2007
The Guardian

Classical dance manages to get along without too many momentous events shuddering beneath its pointe work. Yesterday it emerged that one of the world's most respected classical choreographers is creating his own transatlantic company and the shudder will have been heard in every major ballet house across the world.

British-born Christopher Wheeldon is to go it alone by setting up a new company using, he hopes, the world's finest dancing talent. Not only that, he wants to break down as many artistic walls as possible and collaborate with leading lights from art forms outside dance to bring in new audiences and create a new excitement.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2007 6:17 pm 
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Great points, Kate! I think, though, at least from my perch on this side of the pond, I see these smaller new companies as being the star-heavy organizations -- and I can absolutely see why. They're the names who will sell the tickets. And they're the power players who are in a position to seek out the artistic stimulation they may not be getting in their bigger companies.
Hasn't there recently been another NYCB-based "star" group that was performing out on Long Island? (this is going to bug me until I remember who they were!)

Anyway, perhaps if these all-star teams are to become permanent companies, they will still need young unknowns to fill the ranks, and arguably the young unknowns will be treated better and mature faster than they would in a mega-company. That would certainly be the ideal scenario.

But I agree, Kate, the loss of story ballets, old and new, would not be ideal!


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 5:32 am 
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I think the company out in Long Island is Benjamin Millepied's, which is actually part of a number of cultural activities at a new arts center out there (can't remember where). If my memory is correct, much of the work involves Millepied's choreography and the dancers include members of all the NYCB ranks plus other companies and freelancers. Millepied certainly has hired many NYCB corps members to be part of the groups he's toured in the UK and France, though the "NYCB" tag certainly implies a kind of "stardom" in the ballet world.

However, in all these cases, the groups are very much of a pick-up nature. They tour when NYCB is not performing - the Long Island work, for instance, takes place in the summer off-season - and though Millepied may hire many of the same dancers each time, the group only exists when there are gigs.

Again, beyond the need for a star or two to get the needed publicity, if there is any principal-soloist lean in these groups, it is probably because the more senior dancers have greater freedom in their schedules. A principal may dance only once a week, and perhaps have more say in dictating rehearsal schedules (depending on the repetory and whether he/she has done the role before), while a corps member may be on stage every night and have a plethora of rehearsals.


I do think there is definately an increase in these touring groups - yet another off-season touring group comprised of dancers from medium-large companies including OBT and Boston Ballet was at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. One wonders if this reflects both the increased need for dancers to earn additional money in the off season as well as an increased desire for dancers to work with choreographers and experiment, opportunities which they might not get in the corps of a big company and/or when companies are trying to stick to the classics to draw in crowds.

Kate


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:48 am 
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More from the NY Times (with a completely unrelated photo of Xiomara Reyes, which borders I think on being misleading):

Quote:
Gambler Shakes Up Land of Tutus and Leotards

By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: January 8, 2007

The settled landscape of ballet in New York — dominated by the Balanchine-Robbins shrine at New York City Ballet and the bouquet of Latin and Slavic stars at American Ballet Theater — has been shaken by a minor earthquake.

It comes in the form of Christopher Wheeldon, the 33-year-old wunderkind choreographer. He announced plans last week to form a classical dance company, creating a new potential magnet for donors, ticket subscribers and dancers. It will be called Morphoses, the Wheeldon Company, with a home in New York and a residency in London.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2007 12:59 pm 
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Quote:
'My friends think I'm crazy'
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian
published: January 8, 2007

... this not only represents a dramatic career change for the 33-year-old, but a dramatic event for the profession. As he cheerfully acknowledges, it would have been embarrassing if DGV had been anything less than brilliant. "I need to be shouting at this point," he grins bashfully, "not whispering."

...

Wheeldon hopes to create a "gorgeous great big mixing bowl" of creative talent, whose inspiration, he admits, has been nothing less than Diaghilev's legendary Ballets Russes.
more...


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2007 2:11 am 
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Greetings
Christopher Wheeldon is now blogging at TheWinger.com. His first (long) post contains lots of juicy tidbits about his currents works and the dancers who will be in the current pick-up version of his dance company.

He seems to be a great writer, and I hope he's able to post on regular basis!


http://thewinger.com/words/2007/morphoses-et-al/


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 1:29 am 
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Thanks for finding this for us, Kate - well worth a read and it will be fascinatinf to follow the development of Morphoses. The very talented Mr Wheeldon is blessed with a modest nature and I was impressed that the initial programmes for his new company will feature a range of other choreographers alongside his own work. Can't wait!


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 4:27 am 
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Thanks a lot! I have read Christoph Wheeldon post with great interest and what surprised me more was the dancers he will be touring with this summer

Quote:
Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company is still quite a long way in coming, although we will form as a pick up group for performances this summer. Our goals are longevity and a permanent company, which requires some serious time for planning and building a secure infrastructure.

I have an awesome roster of dancers including Wendy Whelan and Maria Kowroski from City Ballet. Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg from Royal. Angel Corella from ABT .The Ballet Boyz from the UK and Anastasia Yatsenko from The Bolshoi. She was in my recent ballet ‘Elsinore’ and is absolutely beautiful . I was so impressed by her commitment to my work that she is coming to New York for our City Center season. We also have Gonzalo Garcia from San Francisco, Laeticia Guiliani from Florence, Helene Bouchet and Thiago Bourdin from Hamburg and Carla Körbes and Miranda Weese from PNB. In London Alexandra Ansanelli dances with Angel Corella in Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante. The rest of the rep is some my work including ‘After The Rain‘ and ‘Polyphonia’ mixed with some Forsythe , Michael Clark and Liv Lorent. It’s going to be really exciting. I have also asked ex-City Ballet dancer Edwaard Liang to make a new duet. This along with two brand new works of mine will make up the world premieres for this season. Of course these dancers are on loan for the summer but we hope that sooner rather than later we will be able to hire some permanent members of Morphoses.

Will some of them be in the Morphoses staff? :shock:

I guess not Angel Corella as with the ABT and his Company in Spain he probably will not have time for more, isn’t it?

Unfortunately there is no plan for coming to Spain but September in London can be a good option :)

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 6:16 am 
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I would guess that Corella's participation will depened on his ABT contract - i.e. when and which seasons/tours/rehearsals he is contracted for - and how much he will actually be personally involved in the new spanish company (and whether or not it succeeds).

Given that Corella, while a spectacular dancer, has little to no experience in the artistic/choreographic/organizational side of dance companies (that I know of...), I suspect he will leave the majority of the running of the company to people with more experience, and use his reknown and dancing abilities to help the company in publicity and fund-raising.

It could also be that, if he does intend to spend more time in Spain, Morphoses which will be part based in London, might be a very attractive option for him.

Kate


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 7:49 am 
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Looking at that list of star dancers, it's clear to me that they are all simply queuing up to work with Christopher Wheeldon. After all what dancer would not like the opportunity to appear in works by a choreographer of Wheeldon's standing?

Perhaps Angel Corella feels he’s ready to spend more time in Europe after all the years spent stateside and as Kate points out its only a mere hop from Madrid to London. As he's rationed his UK appearances in the past, I imagine there are quite a lot of ballet goers that would welcome the opportunity to see more of this dancer.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2007 2:15 pm 
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The company now has a website: www.morphoses.org

Performances:

Vail Valley Dance Festival: Aug 8 and 10, 2007
Sadler's Wells: Sept. 19 - 23, 2007 (with Corella, Ansanelli among others)
Guggenheim Works & Process (NYC): Oct. 14 -15, 2007
New York City Center: Oct. 17 - 21, 2007


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