sun 26/05/2024

Christopher Wheeldon splits with his ballet company | reviews, news & interviews

Christopher Wheeldon splits with his ballet company

Christopher Wheeldon splits with his ballet company

I can't run Morphoses without dancers, says top world choreographer

Christopher Wheeldon: Was it not enough time with his company or not enough dancers?

In a shock that will deeply upset US and UK ballet, leading young British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has abandoned his own company, Morphoses, which he set up in the US less than three years ago as a rare example of a choreographer-led ballet troupe. His former executive director has pledged to continue the company under a series of annual guest curators from different artistic disciplines.

The New York Times reports that Royal Ballet-trained Wheeldon resigned on 18 February after continuing rows between him and his executive director Lourdes Lopez. Lopez claimed Wheeldon could not spare enough time for the company from his freelance commitments. Wheeldon denied that she had ever raised the issue with him until he had decided to leave. He said Lopez had cancelled performances of Morphoses in Washington and Paris, which precipitated his departure.

Wheeldon, 36, who brought Morphoses to Sadler’s Wells last autumn, told the NYT his chief concern was his inability to hire a full-time group of dancers.

“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. 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 space, the way you ask them to respond to music.”

Lopez said the company was frustrated by Wheeldon’s lack of availability: “I couldn’t book the venues while our artistic director was committed elsewhere.” She said Wheeldon could only spare 10 weeks more in 2010 - Wheeldon denies this, saying he had 17 weeks available.

Over three years the company, which was run entirely on private backing and box office, presented 33 ballets, 15 by Wheeldon, and had made a half-million dollar profit last year. Lopez says she plans to continue the company without Wheeldon - see update below.

Wheeldon left his prestigious post as resident choreographer of New York City Ballet to found Morphoses and it will be a bitter blow to him that he could not maintain his own company in the harsh US economic climate, where ballet companies have been issuing distress calls for the past year.

It will also leave Sadler's Wells with a headache, as the venue was a mainstay of the company, presenting annual autumn Morphoses showings - without Wheeldon the company is likely to lose much of its appeal for British audiences.

UPDATE: Yesterday (25 February), Morphoses executive director Lourdes Lopez announced that from this month the company would be directed season by season by a series of resident artists “from various disciplines”. She said the unorthodox approach would enable the company to continue to foster new talent and innovative artistic collaborations that would engage a younger generation of dance-goers. Morphoses’ business footing was sound, she said, with a reserve of funds, and details would soon be announced of the next stage.

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