glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Wheeldon, Christopher (b. 1973)  
page: 1  2  3  

His talents were immediately recognized and Wheeldon was encouraged to attend regular classes. Soon after, Peter Martins, Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet, invited Wheeldon to become a member of the corps de ballet. "He had great feet," Martins recalled.

Wheeldon accepted the offer and danced in the corps of New York City Ballet for five years before being promoted to Soloist with the company in 1998.

Wheeldon also continued to hone his skills as a choreographer. As he later recalled, "I walked into Peter Martins' office with a videotape and said, 'By the way, I also choreograph.'"

"[He] showed an immediate ability to create pictures," Martins observed about Wheeldon's initial choreographic efforts. "Each work got better and better."

In 1996, Wheeldon choreographed Danses Bohémiennes, set to music by Claude Debussy, for eight students at the New York City Ballet-affiliated School of American Ballet. Anna Kisselgoff, dance critic for the New York Times, praised Wheeldon's "pure classical dancing that finds expression in the exuberance that erupts from the dreamlike tone of his ballet."

That same year, Wheeldon won the Mae L. Wien Award for Young Choreographer by the School of American Ballet. While several students annually receive the award for their outstanding promise in dance, only occasionally, when deemed appropriate by Peter Martins, is an award given to a choreographer. Wheeldon was only the third recipient of the Young Choreographer award since its inception in 1987.

Wheeldon retired from the stage as a dancer at the end of the spring season in 2000 in order to concentrate his attention and energy on choreography. He remained with the New York City Ballet and was named their first Artist in Residence. In 2001, he was named Resident Choreographer for the New York City Ballet, another position created solely for him.

His first ballet as Resident Choreographer for the New York City Ballet was Polyphonia, set to the atonal music of the twentieth-century Hungarian composer György Ligeti. The ballet received its world premiere in January 2001 and garnered outstanding reviews.

Wheeldon won the London Critics' Circle Award for Best New Ballet in 2001 for his work. A production of Polyphonia in 2002 also earned Wheeldon the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production.

The piece was originally performed by the New York City Ballet principal dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto.

By this time, Wheeldon had been in a long-term relationship with Soto. The two men shared a weekend home in Connecticut, as well as a beach house in Barcelona, Spain.

Although the couple eventually separated, the two men continued to collaborate professionally. In total, Wheeldon choreographed seven ballets with Whelan and Soto, including After the Rain (2005), with music by Arvo Pärt. It was the last piece Wheeldon worked on with Soto shortly before the dancer's retirement from the New York City Ballet in June 2005.

Wheeldon has called After the Rain a "love letter," and said the piece touched on his personal relationship with Soto, as well as his professional relationships with both Whelan and Soto.

"Jock offered me the courage to develop something that was very much my own," Wheeldon later noted in an interview. "He was more than a muse, he was a mentor--because he was there encouraging and guiding me as well as being there as a body. There'll certainly be a 'Jock Soto period' for me, and I'll be very lucky to come across that kind of experience again."

Other works Wheeldon created for the New York City Ballet include An American in Paris (2005), set to the 1928 orchestral composition by George Gershwin, and The Nightingale and the Rose (2007), a retelling of Oscar Wilde's fairy tale, with a commissioned score by Bright Sheng.

At the end of the 2007 dance season, Wheeldon announced that he would be stepping down as Resident Choreographer from the New York City Ballet in order to form his own classical dance company, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. The announcement became a major event in the dance world.

He co-founded the dance troupe with Lourdes Lopez, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer and former Executive Director of the George Balanchine Foundation.

Wheeldon remarked that in forming his own company he was taking inspiration from the Russian homosexual impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who had created the legendary troupe Ballets Russes in 1909. The Ballets Russes was famous for its gracefully athletic, and sensual, male dancers, most notably Vaslav Nijinsky, as well as its collaborations with such prominent artists as Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau, and the composer Igor Stravinsky.

Wheeldon presented an ambitious vision for his dance company. His purpose, he explained, "was to present his own pieces and new works by young and foreign choreographers. "He also stated that he wanted to "create a collaborative atmosphere with dancers," and to "work with artists from other fields," such as theater, film, photography, and design. Additionally, he wanted to "make ballet more accessible to audiences."

In an interview with Roslyn Sulcas in the New York Times, Wheeldon memorably explained that he wanted to show that ballet need not be "a big, puffy, pink, glittery nightmare."

The company debuted in August 2007 at the Vail International Dance Festival in Colorado, with additional performances later that year in London and New York.

In its first three years, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company presented 33 ballets, 15 choreographed by Wheeldon himself. However, in February 2010, Wheeldon resigned as the company's Artistic Director, citing the lack of a corps of full-time dancers to work with.

"If I have to consider a new crop of dancers for each tour, then the conditions aren't much different from what I have elsewhere as a freelance choreographer," he explained. "As a freelancer you fly in, you choose your dancers, you make a ballet, you fly out, then you do it all over again with a different company. The beauty of having a permanent company is to have dancers who know just how you like them to move, the way you want them to cut shapes in the space, the way you ask them to respond to the music."

Morphoses continues to produce ballets, without Wheeldon's name attached as the ensemble's subtitle, however, and with Lopez remaining as Director of the company.

Wheeldon also continues to create ballets despite the end of his involvement with Morphoses. In 2011, he premiered a new full-length narrative ballet, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with an original score by the British composer Joby Talbot. The work was commissioned jointly by the National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Ballet. It was the first full-length ballet commissioned by the Royal Ballet in over 20 years.

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3   next page>  
Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts
Popular Topics:

Social Sciences

Stonewall Riots
Stonewall Riots

Gay Liberation Front

The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980
The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980

Leather Culture

Anthony, Susan B.
Anthony, Susan B.

Africa: Sub-Saharan, Pre-Independence



Computers, the Internet, and New Media





This Entry Copyright © 2012 glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.