This past weekend Wendy Whelan, one of the most iconic dancers in recent Ballet history took her final bow.
Wendy Whelan will forever be considered an icon in Ballet history. This is partly due to the fact that Ms. Whelan’s career spanned three decades; nearly unheard of in an art form that takes such an athletic toll on the body. Her status is also due to Wendy’s iconic presence as a Principal dancer with the New York City Ballet – one of the world’s most prestigious companies.
As The New York Times art critic Alastair Macaulay wrote in his recent review of Ms. Whelan’s final performance:
“I’ve noted before that the finest ballets since 2000 have been created for City Ballet. It’s no accident that Ms. Whelan originated roles in most of them: notably Mr. Wheeldon’s “Polyphonia” and Mr. Ratmansky’s “Russian Seasons” and “Concerto DSCH.” Has any dancer in history been involved in more world premieres? It’s easy to imagine the stimulus of collaborating with her. (From the only time I’ve met her, I recall that big smile and how quickly she made me laugh.) And though she has certainly brought refined technique to the process, you can’t help thinking that what must most inspire choreographers has been her spirit, her mind and her sheer will.”
For me, however, Wendy Whelan’s iconic status lies more than in her monumental career as a Principal dancer. For me, Ms. Whelan is an ideal role model for aspiring dancers everywhere. Though she may be leaving the stage, her legacy of humble kindness will remain. And in today’s culture, it is critically important for aspiring dancers to have a role model with character traits they can emulate.
Since embarking on my Podcasting journey in December, I’ve had the privilage to interview over 100 amazing artists and professionals who have made dance and ballet a part of their lives. MANY of these professionals are personal friends of Wendy – a friend they not only look up to, but someone they can reach out to for a variety of reasons. Some of these professionals have known Ms. Whelan for years, and others have just met her recently. Yet, somehow Wendy seems to have a magical way of making everyone feel like a good friend. I also interviewed dancers who responded to my question, “If you could share the stage with anyone, who would you most like to dance with?” Over and over the immediate response was “Wendy Whelan.” The dancers proceeded to tell me that this was not only because Wendy is an amazing dancer, but because she is one of the nicest people they had have ever met.
In my experience, one thing that remains consistent ~ when I mention the name Wendy Whelan, it is ALWAYS followed by the highest of accolades…..and not just about her dancing. When I mention the name Wendy Whelan, each and every person speaks of her character ~ how “kind” she is and what an “amazing” and “approachable” person she is to everyone she encounters.
Wendy Whelan is ranked as a true “super star” in the world of Ballet…..about as famous as you can get in this world ~ and yet she is deemed approachable, kind and a friend.
What could be a better legacy to strive for?
As a mother of a 15 year old aspiring dancer, I would simply love a chance to speak with Wendy, her mother and her father to learn more about what helped mold her into such an amazingly kind and approachable person ~ a person much bigger than the ballet stage and career she retired from. I would love to learn how to help guide my daughter and encourage her to remain approachable, humble and a person that everyone considers a “friend”.
Whether or not I ever speak with Wendy ~ I know that she will continue to be a role model for aspiring dancers everywhere!
Congratulations Wendy Whelan on your amazing 30 year career and
THANK YOU for your legacy.