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Internationally acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. A former dancer with The Royal Ballet and soloist with New York City Ballet (where he[…]

How a vacuum cleaner brought Christopher Wheeldon to New York.

Question: How did you arrive in New York?

Wheeldon: I was dancing with the Royal Ballet, I had just secured my contract coming straight out of the Royal Ballet School in London. A lot of the major ballet companies of the world have vocational schools attached to them, I had been a student at the Royal Ballet School since I was eight years old. So I had gone pretty much ten years through the same establishment with the goal of becoming a dancer with the Royal Ballet, and about, I’d say, six or eight months into my contract I sprained my ankle in a performance, which is about the worst thing that can happen to a young dancer who is aspiring to, you know, dance big roles, big, major roles in the company like the Royal Ballet. So I was sitting at home, my foot was up on the couch completely encased in ice, and I was watching TV, you know, as one has a tendency to do when you’re pretty much out of action for six to eight weeks, and a commercial came on TV for Hoover vacuum cleaners, and they were having this kind of special deal at the time where if you bought a particular type of vacuum cleaner, you could get a free round trip ticket to the United States, I think specifically to New York, and so I was, like, well, you know, I’ve got to clean, so why not? It just seemed like a pretty good deal, you know, 60 pounds for a new vacuum cleaner, and then you get, you know, three or four hundred dollars worth of ticket. So I limped out to buy my vacuum cleaner, and sent off my little coupon, and sure enough I got my round trip ticket to New York, and I flew out here really just to have a week’s vacation, but it was kind of towards the end of my rehabilitation program from the sprained ankle, so I called the New York City Ballet to see if I could take a class with them, partly out of interest. The big companies tend to have sort of an open door policy if you’re part of a major ballet company somewhere, you can usually write them a letter, you know, or give them a call and they’ll let you come in and take a company class. So I went into ballet class, and they were auditioning boys for a big upcoming festival, and suddenly at the end of my first day in New York, I had a job offer, which was just completely out of the blue, and now I look back on it, it’s, you know, it was definitely fate. So, yeah, I was like, “Well, I have a job and I haven’t even seen the Empire State Building yet.”

Recorded on: 5/22/08