Reviving a Classic Art Form

Christopher Wheeldon describes his young company, Morphosss.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Describe your dance company, Morphoses?

Wheeldon: I’ve been sort of the product of big companies, big ballet companies all of my career as a dancer, and for much of my career as a choreographer, and still, you know, benefit greatly from being asked to work for the Royal Ballet in London, or San Francisco Ballet, or the New York City Ballet, which is where I was based for many years. I think part of it is borne from the desire to want to help my art form in a way become more accessible, perhaps more resonant to a younger generation. It is a classical art form. Classical art forms tend to be given sort of the stigma of being, you know, dusty and old fashioned, and, you know, I’ll admit that it is hard in many ways for ballet to be relevant to, you know, to a younger generation because there’s so much other stimulation out there that, you know, who thinks to buy a ticket to go to the ballet to see Swan Lake? It’s not exactly always the kind of music that young people listen to, so I guess with most of this what I’m trying to do is find ways to break down some of the barriers, retrain the beauty and poetry of a very classical art form, and to also combine that with elements of popular culture, finding interesting music to use that might be a little bit more resonant with a younger audience member, working with fashion designers to design costumes, getting my dancers kind of out there in a way so that the public can get to know them, because I think often there’s this mystery, there’s this maybe perhaps this preconceived idea that dancers are in some way aloof, and not young people of today, and it’s kind of crazy, because they are. Like, basically they’re 18 to 28, 30 year olds, who are, you know, really great, smart, beautiful kids, yet they do this thing that kind of elevates them to this strange mystical plane that people are a little bit afraid of, and often they don’t go to the ballet, because they think, “Oh, well, I don’t understand this. I don’t know what I’m supposed to think.” So part of what we’re trying to do with Morphosis is to try to encourage people that it’s not about necessarily having to always understand what it is that you’re seeing up there. It’s just about kind of surrendering yourself to watching something really, really beautiful, that can be very moving if you’ll just kind of relax and not freak out because you think you’re supposed to be understanding the story, or...

Recorded on: 5/22/08