Wendy Whelan the Restless Creature
“Ballet is a very specific design of movement and physicality. You can master it for a certain amount of time to a certain degree. But then, it will end. You might not necessarily know when that’s going to happen.” ~Wendy Whelan
Wendy Whelan’s dancing is hauntingly beautiful. I had the privilege of experiencing it for the first time from the 2nd row of the theatre at Lincoln Center when I was just 15.
The focus with which I watched her is something I still remember. It’s a focus that she gives back when you see her on stage. She kept me on the edge of my seat.
Watching Restless Creature brought me back to my feelings watching Wendy Whelan on stage. It also gave me a new insight into the devotion of a Principal dancer at a company like New York City Ballet.
One of the things I found most inspiring was Wendy’s journey back from major surgery. If you’ve ever been through the physical and emotional pain of injury – watching Wendy go through it will pick you up and motivate you to keep working.
And most dancers can relate to the emotion behind Wendy’s journey to the end of her career as a “ballerina”.
She brings fresh thinking however to what it means to be a “dancer”.
Maybe you won’t be a ballerina on pointe for any longer than Wendy (she really pushed the limits) but it doesn’t mean you have to stop being a dancer.
After watching Wendy in my teens, I got to meet her in person in my 20’s. I was dancing with the Louisville Ballet, in Wendy’s home state of Kentucky. I got to see her in the studio and once again see her on stage in Louisville. She came to the restaurant where I was a hostess and I got to serve her scallops and grits (she cleaned her plate).
The gorgeously humble and kind person you’ll see in this documentary is who Wendy truly is. I feel honored that I got to experience that first hand but also so glad dancer’s can take it in forever through this film.
Restless Creature is a much watch for all dancers. For those of you who are in the beginning stages of your career, it will give you some essential insights into the winding trajectory of a dance career. For those later in your dancing lives it will help you to see that there is more to come.
Watching life progress to her last performance with New York City Ballet you’ll feel all the passion, the pain, the pleasure of what a life in dance can be.
A life in dance really is a beautiful and admirable pursuit. Even if you don’t make it to Wendy Whelan status (and most won’t) the joy is so worth the pain.
Wherever you are in dance, take a tip from Wendy – let your dance career and your life be about exploring. The end of ballerina – ing is not an end but a progression.
3 thoughts on “The Grace and Pain of a Ballerina’s Career Transition”
So beautifully written Jess, thank you for helping to share this powerful, in many ways, relatable story with your audience here… Sending you so much love!
So glad you like it, Shelby!! Wendy has always been such an inspiration to me I’m so happy more dancers will get to experience her amazingness through this documentary!
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