The Power of Ballet

Christopher Wheeldon on the spirituality of the creative process.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: Does your work hold spiritual significance for you?

Wheeldon: That’s a very good question. I don’t know. I think it goes back to, I mean, I’m not trying to sort of opt out of this answer, but it just feels very much like it’s what I’m meant to do. I don’t really approach my work on a spiritual level, but somehow, I’m always left in awe of what comes out of me, good or bad, and there are times when I make work that profoundly affects people, and people have been moved to tears by one piece in particular that I have choreographed, and I remember the process of choreographing it, and I’m thinking, “Oh, well these steps are linking together really quite beautifully, and I’m really enjoying this. It feels like it’s flowing really easily,” and then we performed the piece for the first time, and people started to cry, and I was like, I don’t get it, really. I can see that I’ve done good work, but I think, I guess that’s the most, that’s the closest I guess I’ve come to having a kind of a spiritual epiphany, I guess, as far as my work’s concerned. Because to see that I can actually create something that’s beautiful and powerful enough to really move people, but not really know how I did that, it’s kind of an amazing thing.

Question: Which piece moves people the most?

Wheeldon: It’s a pas de deux called After the Rain, and it’s a duet that I made for Jock Soto, who was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for many years, a very famous dancer.  I mean, he was retiring, and for Wendy Whelan, who is a principal ballerina with New York City Ballet who I worked with on a pretty regular basis.  She and I really work very well together.  She’s inspired me so much over the years, and I think, you know, we go pretty well hand in hand, and, yeah, it just kind of happened, and it ended up being very much, I guess, a meditation on how I felt about the two of them as dancers together, how I felt about them as personalities, as people, as friends, and I think what started out as being something very personal suddenly was very, became very resonant to a lot of people.  People were seeing different things in it, which is why I’m often more attracted to the abstract rather than narrative work, because I like for the possibilities for individual interpretations to be there, and some people see it as a duet of love and longing.  Some people see it as, you know, death, of loss, and it’s just very interesting to get the different perspectives.

Recorded on: 5/22/08