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What it Takes to Be a Dancer

Wheeldon: Well, I look for obviously a great physical presence. I'm often drawn to dancers who are not necessarily the kind of standard, or what would be considered to be kind of the standard perfect ballet dancer. I like them to have a very distinct personality, and not just, you know, in their everyday personality, but in, you know, their movement personality as well. I love collaborators. I love people to kind of feed back and forth on my ideas. I never go into the studio assuming that I know everything, and that I can make this piece on my own. I have strong ideas, but I also like for the dancers to kind of feed off of those and challenge me in some way. But, you know, in general, I love working with dancers, and they're cool people, and I really get to see how their personalities as people relate to the way that they move, because I go through this intense process with them where we go on a journey, we discover things together. We discover new things that they can do that they didn't know that they could do before. They teach me new ways of approaching what I do, and that's what's kind of cool about sometimes having these videos and these short films within performance, because I feel like I just want to stand up in front of an audience and say, "You guys have no idea how hard this was to put this together, or how many tears there were, or how much we laughed over this moment." For me, the process is so valuable and so important, and an audience doesn't get any of that, and some people would say, "Well, it's not meant to be about that. It's about, you know, the finished product, what you have on stage," you know. "You've got a consumer, they pay their money, they buy the ticket, they sit down. They either like it or they don't." But, for me, so much of what is up there is the story that you create around the finished product, so anyway that I feel that we can realistically show some of that to the audience, you know, we try to incorporate into the performance.

Question: Which choreographers currently inspire you?

Wheeldon: Well, I’ve been in Europe for the last six months working with several ballet companies, so I’ve been exposed to a few choreographers over there. There’s a fantastic, a couple of fantastic people working in the UK right now, a young man called Hofesh Shechter. I got to see Ohad Naharin, who worked with Batsheva, a dance company, excuse me, in Israel. He was working in Denmark with the same company, with the Royal Danish Ballet, that I was working with, so I was exposed to some of his work, and seeing him work, and that was really cool. I mean, he’s very much a contemporary dance choreographer, but, man, his work is seriously powerful, and very, very human and urban, and totally, I think, totally resonant to us as human beings, and sometimes I wish I could be more like that. I mean, ballet, it is a strange kind of ethereal art form, and it’s very hard to look at a ballerina as a person, just because of the way the body moves again on the point shoe. Yeah, so Hofesh, Ohad, fellow Brits, Paul Lightfoot who works out of the Netherlands Dance Theater. He collaborates with his wife, who’s actually from Spain, Sol Leon, so they have like a choreographic partnership, and their work is probably more ballet based than the other two, but still pretty out there, pretty wacky.

Recorded on: 5/22/08

Christopher Wheeldon elaborates on the art of dancing as well as choreography.

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