CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON is today’s most innovative contemporary ballet choreographer. His formidable works, performed by the world’s leading ballet companies, have been greeted with critical acclaim. He is now embarking on a new phase in his celebrated career, by launching his own company, MORPHOSES.
Born in Yeovil, Somerset, England, Wheeldon developed an affinity for music and movement at an early age and was inspired to take ballet after watching a televised excerpt from Frederick Ashton’s LA FILLE MAL GARDEE. At age 11, after studying at the East Coker Ballet School, Wheeldon entered The Royal Ballet School.
In 1991 Wheeldon both joined the Royal Ballet and won the gold medal at the Prix de Lausanne competition. The solo he performed for the modern section was, in fact, his own choreography. During Wheeldon’s tenure at The Royal Ballet, he danced in the classics and ballets by Ashton, Kenneth Macmillan, and George Balanchine.
In 1993 Christopher Wheeldon traveled to New York. Impressed by the dynamics, pace, and expansive movement of the dancers, he soon accepted a position with New York City Ballet. The company’s vast repertory enabled Wheeldon to dance in numerous roles, including featured parts in George Balanchine’s CHACONNE, DIVERTIMENTO NO.15, DONIZETTI VARIATIONS, THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, THE NUTCRACKER (“Spanish” and “Candy Cane”), and SCOTCH SYMPHONY; Jerome Robbins’ THE CONCERT, DANCES AT A GATHERING, FANCY FREE, THE GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, and 2 & 3 PART INVENTIONS; and Peter Martins’ THE SLEEPING BEAUTY (“Europe”). He originated roles in Robbins’ BRANDENBURG and WESTSIDE STORY SUITE; Martins’ RELIQUARY, SWAN LAKE, and SYMPHONIC DANCES; Angelin Preljocaj’s LA STRAVAGANZA; and Richard Tanner’s EPISODES AND SARCASMS. In 1998, he was promoted to the rank of Soloist.
For the 1997 Diamond Project, Wheeldon choreographed his first work for NYCB, SLAVONIC DANCES, although his interest in choreography had begun in England long before. While at the Royal Ballet School he created works on fellow students and continued choreographing for the Royal Ballet School while dancing in the company, later receiving his first commission for a piece from the London Studio Centre. Wheeldon received encouragement from Kenneth Macmillan at the time and also cites working with Robbins as a source of inspiration.
In 1999, Christopher Wheeldon’s choreographic talent and originality began winning widespread recognition, especially after his work SCENES DE BALLET was danced for NYCB’s 50th anniversary season and the School of American Ballet’s Workshop Performances.
By 2000, Wheeldon retired from NYCB, deciding to concentrate solely on choreography. In 2001-2002 he was named the company’s first artist in residence and in July 2001 its first Resident Choreographer. During his subsequent years in this position, he choreographed a bevy of work including POLYPHONIA (2001), which in 2002 received the Olivier Award for best new dance production, MERCURIAL MANEUVERS (2000), which was broadcast as part of the Diamond Project on Dance in America, MORPHOSES (2002), CAROUSEL, A DANCE (2002), LITURGY (2003), SHAMBARDS (2004), AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (2005), and KLAVIER (2006).
Christopher Wheeldon has created ballets for the highest echelon of dance companies. He was briefly named the Principal Guest Choreographer at the Boston Ballet and in 1999 created a FIREBIRD for them. He has worked extensively with the San Francisco Ballet; in 2003 SFB performed an all-Wheeldon program at the Edinburgh Festival including RUSH (2003), CONTINUUM (2002), and THERE WHERE SHE LOVES (2000), originally for The Royal Ballet, and in 2005 the company presented his QUARTERNARY for the inaugural Les Etes de la Danse de Paris. His first full-length production was A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (2000) for the Colorado Ballet and in 2004 he created a contemporary version of SWAN LAKE for the Pennsylvania Ballet, which was brought to the Edinburgh Festival. Other companies that have performed his works include the Hamburg Ballet, Carolina Ballet, George Piper Dances (founded by the Ballet Boyz), Norwegian National Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
In 2006, Wheeldon continued his long-standing collaboration with The Royal Ballet with DVG (Danse a Grande Vitesse), which earned him an Olivier Award nomination for Best New Dance Production. He has also created SOUVENIRS (2001), TRYST (2002), “Fire” sequence of HOMAGE TO THE QUEEN (2006), and the “Garland Waltz” from SLEEPING BEAUTY (2006). MISERICORDS (2007) marked Mr. Wheeldon’s first collaboration with the Bolshoi Ballet.
Wheeldon has shown his versatility by working in various mediums. He choreographed the ballet sequences in Nicholas Hytner’s film CENTER STAGE (2000) and they collaborated again on the Broadway musical THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (2002). Wheeldon made his operatic debut with the “Dance of the Hours” in the Metropolitan Opera House’s revival of Amilcare Ponchiellis’ LA GIANCONDA (2006).
Wheeldon has been honored with numerous awards for choreographic excellence including the Dance Magazine Award in 2005, Mae L. Wein Award for choreography from the School of American Ballet, the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, the London Critics’ Circle Award, and the American Choreography Award for best choreography in a movie for CENTER STAGE. He won the Herald Angel Award at the 2004 Edinburgh Festival for an evening of his work performed by San Francisco Ballet and received the Archangel Award at the 2006 Edinburgh Festival for Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of SWAN LAKE.
Christopher Wheeldon is a unique talent with the ability to create an amazingly wide and original range of works. The genres of his choreography include the comedic VARIATIONS SERIEUSES (2001), the fantastical CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS (2003), and the hauntingly beautiful AFTER THE RAIN (2005). He is equally adept at creating sweeping works for a large corps de ballet, such as EVENFALL (2006), and at crafting more intimate pas de deux and solos, like POLYPHONIA (2001). The breadth of his musical choices is also remarkable, ranging from Gyorgi Ligeti and Arvo Part to Igor Stravinsky and Richard Rodgers.
Wheeldon has successfully merged the lushly romantic style of ballet associated with The Royal Ballet and the starker neoclassicism of the New York City Ballet in works that combine angular geometrics and emotional depth. In 2007, he, as Artistic Director, and Lourdes Lopez, as Executive Director, formed Morphoses, a new company bringing innovation to dance, which will premiere at the Vail International Dance Festival in Colorado in August 2007.