On The Side: Quinn Wharton

Hip-hop classes give this San Francisco Ballet dancer an urban edge.
Published in the October/November 2010 issue.

Photo by Quinn Wharton

Where can you find San Francisco Ballet corps member Quinn Wharton most Sunday evenings? Popping and locking with Funkanometry, a San Francisco-based hip-hop troupe. “Different company members teach Sunday night classes each week, and every one has his or her own style,” Wharton says. “So you learn styles, rather than just steps. Eventually, you have a range of movement vocabularies in your tool kit—and you can apply them to ballet, too.”

 

Wharton actually started out as a hip-hop dancer, following a friend to class when he was 6. Though a scholarship to Pacific Northwest Ballet School a few years later steered his career toward ballet, Wharton discovered that his hip-hop training gave him a leg up in the ballet studio. “All the twitching and popping had developed the quick-fire muscles I needed for petit allégro,” he says. Later on, Wharton’s experience with improv also came in handy. “I auditioned for several companies before landing at SFB, and Stanton Welch at Houston Ballet asked us to improvise at the audition,” Wharton remembers. “Everyone else was terrified! But thanks to all those freestyle circles, it was a format I felt totally comfortable in.”

 

Now Wharton’s classes with Funkanometry prepare him for SFB rehearsals with contemporary ballet choreographers like Wayne McGregor. “Wayne moves like a raver kid,” Wharton says. “When he set Eden/Eden on SFB, he gave us liquidy sequences combined with hard-hitting movement, and it felt
natural to me. There’s a lot of urban flavor in his work, and in most of the contemporary ballet scene.”