New York City Ballet — Farewell to Prima Ballerina Wendy Whelan

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 3.37.02 PM I would say that the evening belonged to Wendy Whelan, but in truth, it belonged to the audience, too. Everyone came out for her, and she gave us a full evening of her inimitable dancing. We bore witness to the end of an era, with one of the most profoundly talented ballerinas retiring from the NYCB. The program was an all-Wendy billing that included exquisitely rendered excerpts from Balanchine (Sonnambula), Robbins (Dances at the Gathering), Wheeldon (After the Rain), and a two-part premiere by Wheeldon and Ratmansky.Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 3.38.01 PM

While Ms. Whelan is leaving NYCB, she is not retiring. She will continue to explore other artistic ventures, much as Baryshnikov did following his impressive career with NYCB. So while this prima ballerina will no longer continue to regale us within the NYCB company, we can look forward to what she will do next. Thirty years with NYCB is quite a run. Her repertoire is broad. Her presence on stage inimitable; tender, powerful, androgynous, feminine, vulnerable and awe-inspiring. I could go on and on, but you already know. She was the ballerina of choice for most NYCB premieres in the past three decades, most notably those choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. We’re told that once they went on sale, tickets for her Farewell sold out in 15 minutes. NYCB mentors, choreographers, dancers, and friends filled the back half of the stage to honor her and hug her throughout her farewell curtsies. Flowers were abundant. Rose petals fell from the air, mirroring Ms. Whelan’s lightness of movement. It was an overwhelming evening for all.

Bernadette Murray

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