popular
Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall in Christopher Wheeldon's "After the Rain." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Fall is in full swing; as the weather grows cooler, all we want to do is curl up with an autumnal treat (try these four pumpkin recipes) and a good movie. Luckily, Netflix has some of our favorite dance documentaries available for streaming. So next time you're settling down for a night in, look no further for what to watch; these films are sure to leave you inspired and even more in love with ballet.

Restless Creature, 2017

After limited release in theaters this summer, we're thrilled that Restless Creature has made it to Netflix. This emotional documentary follows former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan as she makes the decision to retire from the company that she called home for 30 years. With plenty of dance footage (starting with her childhood training in Louisville, Kentucky), Restless Creature offers an intimate portrait of one of the world's most famous modern ballerinas.


A Ballerina's Tale, 2015

A Ballerina's Tale tells the story of Misty Copeland's rise to the top. Released just before her promotion to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, the film follows Copeland as she overcomes self doubt and injury while making history as an African American ballerina. Interviews with Copeland and footage of her dancing are coupled with the voices of other black women who have been the first in their fields.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars

As dancers, we know we have a short window of time to achieve as much as we can before our bodies start working against us—and then what? For former New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan, the thought of transitioning out of ballet after a 30-year career was particularly hard to grasp. Remarkably honest and down-to-earth, Whelan allowed cameras to capture this incredibly vulnerable moment in her career; the resulting documentary, Restless Creature, opens in New York City on May 24, L.A. on June 9, and will have a wider release this summer. In it, we watch her grapple with a debilitating hip injury and her looming retirement before embracing a new career in contemporary dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Views

Iconic ballerina Wendy Whelan enjoyed a groundbreaking career, both in length and breadth. She danced with New York City Ballet for 30 years and has had more roles made for her than nearly any other ballerina. Despite her accomplishments, the last few years of her career at NYCB were riddled with worsening injuries and a creeping sense that others saw her as in decline. Whelan, like most dancers, knew her desire to perform would outlast what her body could do—at least within the confines of ballet.

Restless Creature, the new documentary covering her transition out of NYCB, hits select theaters in New York on May 24. It gives us a chance to look back on one of the most fraught times in Whelan's life, when she was giving her all onstage at the Koch Theater, yet battling pain and self-doubt offstage.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Wendy Whelan in the dressing room of Jacob's Pillow Ted Shawn Theater. Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Whelan.

Wendy Whelan is taking a busman's holiday from her day job, which, many would agree, is being the preeminent ballerina at New York City Ballet (and maybe everywhere else). In a master class at Jacob's Pillow, she's telling 22 pre-professionals they're “awesome" as she gives corrections and hard-won performance tips. Afterwards, she cheerfully poses arm-in-arm with each of the students, who capture mementos on their cells. Finally, she folds herself into a chair as they sprawl on the floor to ask questions.

Like her dancing, her responses are bracingly forthright and, when appropriate, poetic. How she came to the School of American Ballet from Louisville at 15. How she joined NYCB in 1984, right after the death of George Balanchine. How much she loved “the modernity, the economy, the attack" of his choreography. How her super-strong technique and angular physiognomy propelled her into the “tomboy" parts rather than the “girly-girl" roles she hankered after. And how the sleek, contemporary look that caused her (and her critics) grief was appealing not just to her bosses, Peter Martins and Jerome Robbins, but to the outside choreographers who came to NYCB to make new work. They offered the “huge gift," she says, of seeing more in her than she saw in herself.

She expounds on her favorite ballet (Liebeslieder Walzer), her biggest challenge (full-lengths), the choreographer she most regrets not having worked with (Jirí Kylián). When someone asks for a prescription for career success, she offers two words: “Try everything."

Keep reading... Show less

There have been rumblings about Wendy Whelan's New York City Ballet retirement for a while now. As of this morning, it's official: The revered principal dancer will take her final bow with the company on October 18.

There's no word yet on what she'll dance for that last show, the culmination of three decades of extraordinary work with NYCB. Yet, however emotional that moment is guaranteed to be, this is just the end of one chapter in Whelan's remarkable career.

Next up is the U.K. premiere of her Restless Creature program in July. (The U.S. Restless Creature tour, which she was forced to cancel this spring due to her longer-than-anticipated recovery from hip surgery, has also been rescheduled for early 2015.) In July of 2015, she'll premiere a new project with the Royal Ballet's Edward Watson in London; that venture will make its way to the U.S. in the spring of 2016. And as if that weren't enough to keep her busy, Whelan has also been appointed artistic associate at New York City Center. For two years, beginning this November, the theater will be her home base, a place for her to develop future projects.

Long story short: Yes, we'll miss Wendy's inimitable presence on the City Ballet stage. But this restless creature isn't abandoning us anytime soon.

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox