Editor's Letter: Reinventing the Ballerina

Published in the December 2013/January 2014 issue.

Ekaterina Kondaurova in "Swan Lake." Photo by N. Razina.

When Pointe approached cover ballerina Wendy Whelan about a behind-the-scenes look at her Restless Creature project, she was, as usual, gracious and open. She agreed to let us follow the run-up to the project’s debut, and to share her thinking and concerns. Her decision to combine the roles of muse and impresario by collaborating with four postmodern choreographers has put her in a special league. Like Sylvie Guillem and Diana Vishneva before her, Whelan has taken control of the creative framework. Like them, she’s reinventing what it means to be a ballerina in the 21st century.

This issue explores that new ideal. “A Ballerina in Bare Feet” looks at why Whelan is taking her career in a more experimental direction. “Defining ‘Ballerina’” digs into the word’s origins—don’t miss Gillian Murphy’s accompanying essay on her own personal definition. And “A New Passion” peeks into a rehearsal of Alessandra Ferri’s latest project, a piece by dance theater choreographer Martha Clarke co-starring Herman Cornejo.

Before you can become a ballerina, though, you need endless hours of training and commitment. Our annual summer study guide will help you find the program that takes you to the next level, and “Fund Your Summer Intensive” offers some unusual new ways to underwrite it. If you need a dose of inspiration, take a look at ”The Standouts,” highlighting our favorite performances of 2013. You’ll see that many of the dancers in this year’s top 10 achieved new levels of artistry by going beyond their comfort zone.

Which may be one definition of a ballerina today. Certainly, Wendy Whelan is moving boldly beyond her past triumphs into new territory. Interestingly, several of the writers who tried to pin down the term “ballerina” brought Whelan up as an example—not only for her singular talent, but for her warmth, her dignity and her great professionalism. There are very few ultimates in any field—she is one.


Also in this issue...
“In our profession, you can’t listen to everybody. If somebody doesn’t like you, it doesn’t mean you’re bad. On the other hand, if someone likes you, it doesn’t mean that you’re good. You need to know yourself.” —Ekaterina Kondaurova

Dance Theatre of Harlem preps for its second season:
“It’s a big deal that the company has returned, but it doesn’t seem like it when we rehearse—it feels like I’m just with my family. ” —Chyrstyn Fentroy