The Role of Dance in Society
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 served as Resident Choreographer from 2001 to 2008), Wheeldon founded Morphoses in 2007 with the goal of introducing a new spirit of innovation to classical ballet by fostering collaboration among choreographers, dancers, visual artists, designers, composers, and others who can bring new life and perspective to ballet.
Born in Yeovil, Somerset, England, Wheeldon began his ballet training at eight years old and began studying at The Royal Ballet School at eleven. Wheeldon joined The Royal Ballet in 1991 and won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne competition that year. In 1993, Wheeldon was invited to become a member of New York City Ballet, where he was promoted to soloist in 1998. Wheeldon choreographed his first work for NYCB, Slavonic Dances, for the 1997 Diamond Project and, in collaboration with artist Ian Falconer, created Scènes de Ballet for the School of American Ballet's 1999 Workshop Performances and NYCB's 50th anniversary season.
Wheeldon was the recipient of the Dance Magazine Award and the London Critics' Circle Award for Best New Ballet for Polyphonia in 2005; a performance of the work by NYCB dancers received the Olivier Award. In 2006, DGV (Danse à Grande Vitesse) was nominated for an Olivier Award. Additional honors include the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center and the American Choreography Award.
Wheeldon: I think ballet is a sort of-- I might have to talk more in general terms I think about dance, really. Dance is a way, is a meeting place for so much. You know, when you put together a performance, you are bringing in design elements, you’re sometimes bringing in narrative elements, and you’re combining that with music, with lights, and it’s the one art form that really kind of brings all the other art forms together. So it’s a great meeting place. It creates a lot of interesting dialogues between choreographer, composer, designer. So in that respect, it’s kind of, it can be sort of a wonderful kind of meeting point for different minds, and all coming from different disciplines. I think it’s an art form that helps people, if they open themselves to it, to understand how much you can communicate through movements, and it seems, feels to me like it’s a very healing art form. You know, we live in a pretty turbulent time, and there’s just something very delicate and gentle, and gosh, it’s so, you know, I feel so much for it, and I wish I could express more through words, but it’s a very difficult question to answer. I think kids need to be exposed to dance, again, because of how much it combines the different art forms. I wish there was more dance in schools. I wish there was more music in schools. I think one of the big mistakes of this country is to take those things away from the education system just because it encourages the brain to work in a very, you know, in a very broad way. Dance is not just about movement. It’s about music, and music is not just about music. It’s about numbers, and dance is a language, music is a language. Therefore, you know, it’s connected to speech, and to learning languages, and it just seems to me crazy that people don’t see this. People don’t see how kids that are exposed to the arts early on will grow up to be better people. Dance can touch the soul, it can affect you in a way I think that, I don’t know. We’re getting into really deep waters here. I’m getting into deep waters. My Sudafed is starting to wear off.
Recorded on: 5/22/08
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