What a happy, positive energy-filled, forward-looking Farewell Evening to Wendy Whelan it was. A local Haglund’eeler spotted this clip of the last few minutes of Wendy’s actual dancing on the NYCB Facebook page which you can access here.
The first two sections of the Piece d'Occasion, By 2 With & From, were created by Christopher Wheeldon; the second two sections by Alexei Ratmansky. The music source was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons but it was recomposed by Max Richter who created that wonderful mash-up with Dinah Washington for Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth. This whole collaboration was curated by Wendy. She chose the music; she chose the choreographers; and she assigned the musical sections to each choreographer.
For this final tribute, Wendy shared the stage with her most frequent partners of the last several years, Tiler Angle and Craig Hall, and it was a mutual expression of generous thanks and love and of serving the art.
Over the years, Wheeldon and Whelan – even the phonetic similarities of their names suggest an organic connection – have had what amounts to a warm, ongoing conversation through their collaborations. The ballets didn't frequently repeat themselves but seemed like a continuation of their long artistic conversation. Last night, that conversation came to a natural pause – not Au revoir, but À la prochaine. This artistic relationship will go on; it will evolve and move into other realms. Despite this event of retirement, both individuals are still very young and have decades of creative growth ahead of them. We'll just have to hang out around them and see what happens. One doesn't just waltz out of NYCB with thirty years of institutional knowledge in her back pocket and not look back – not if one loves ballet, which we know Wendy does.
We have a 2015 documentary on Wendy’s life and career to look forward to. Clips of it were shown between ballets, and it reflects not only her positive, grateful, and dedicated sides, but also her great humor and down to earth sensibilities. In one scene, Wendy was shown sitting on a bench in Central Park reading the New York Times' article which announced her retirement. She says something to the effect, I guess I really have to go now; it's in the paper.
Also on the program were the complete La Sonnambula, and excerpts from Dances at a Gathering, Concerto DSCH, and After the Rain – Wendy danced in all of them. The theater was as full as it could be and there were many who could not get tickets or afford the premium tacked onto the prices by NYCB. So here's a look at the Playbill:
While freshest in our memories may be her collaborations with Wheeldon and Ratmansky, our everlasting memories of her will be in the Balanchine and Robbins reps - Concerto Barocco, Mozartiana, The Cage, among others.
Our H.H. Pump Bump salute to Wendy, the one who has made us think about what we are seeing on stage: