Christopher Wheeldon describes his favorite moments onstage and backstage.
Question: Of your pieces, which are your favorites?
Wheeldon: Favorite pieces I’ve performed. Well, I was lucky enough to dance with the New York City Ballet after the Royal Ballet for about seven years, so I’ve performed in a lot of work. I worked with a great choreographer, Jerome Robins, in the last four or five years of his life, and he gave me some great opportunities. He created new ballet on me and some of the other younger dancers in the company, and we got to work on a revival of Westside Story, which was all of the choreography from the movie, from the stage show, kind of condensed together in one suite of dances, which is now I think performed regularly all over the world. So that was a great experience. I left London partly because I got a free ticket after buying a vacuum cleaner, and also because the great choreographer, English choreographer, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, who was creating at that time, was coming to the end of his life. He passed away, so the lure of coming to New York was partly to work with Jerome Robins, who was kind of the last great choreographer of that generation, and I got to do that the last four or five years of his life. So dancing his ballets were kind of the highlight for me. Fancy Free is another one, which is a great piece which he choreographed quite early on in his career for American Ballet Theater. It went on to become On the Town, which is a great musical that he did with Leonard Bernstein, and it’s a story of three sailors that come on shore, and I was just reminded of it today, because it’s fleet week in New York, and I keep seeing the sailors walking around. So, yeah, so that was a highlight for me as a dancer. And then, I don’t know, there’s something that I love and hate in every piece that I make. There are pieces that I feel are more successful than others, but it’s very hard for me to know how I feel about a work, because I often finish one, and then it’s done, and it’s kind of out there. It comes out of me, and I don’t know where it comes from. I can’t explain that. It comes out, and then it’s done, and I move on to the next, and sometimes I take elements of what I’ve done in the work before into the next one. Sometimes just start over with a clean slate. But it’s very hard to talk about my work. I don’t really ever know what to say.
Question: Do you read criticisms of your work?
Wheeldon: Yes, I do. I used to love it when they were always good. <laughs> As is the tendency, you know, for a young man who is being kind of supported and given opportunities, you know, those are kind of heady, wonderful, innocent days, and then you start to become kind of famous, and everyone looks at you with a far more discerning eye. But I do read the criticism. I think I take less, I give it far less importance these days, because there’s a lot of it, and especially now having formed my own company. You know, you take a step forward, or you try to take a step forward in any established situation, and there’s going to be a lot of criticism.
Recorded on: 5/22/08