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Monthly Archives: December 2009

  • WHIM W'HIM PART FOUR

    In our forth and final installment, Whim W’him Artistic Director, Olivier Wevers reveals some of the new reps we can look forward to seeing this year, the dancers who inspire him most, and shares his candid advice for budding artistic directors!

    Chalnessa Eames, Whim W'Him

    Chalnessa

    Vala:  What sort of reps can we look forward to seeing next year from Whim W’him?
    Olivier:  There’s a lot in my head. When we talk collaborations, I have some burlesque shows I’m interested in working on. I’ve been trying to create a piece with The Esoterics (local choir) with new compositions, too. Really, anything that’s kind of artistic. I don’t know what exactly yet, but I would like to create a Faust, about 45 minutes long. It would be a cross between the story of Faust and a picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. That’s my next story piece that I’m really seriously considering right now.
    Vala:  Now that would be really interesting to see! So, on a more personal level what sort of dancers, artists, choreographers, or musicians inspire you most?
    Olivier:  That’s an interesting question. What I look for in a dancer or composer or an artist, is someone that can bring something to the plate; someone who has their own voice that will complete the process. I’m not looking for people that I can give steps to and just have them do it. I’m looking for someone who will enhance the whole process.
    Actually some of the dancers I picked are those that I haven’t worked with personally, but I enjoyed watching them. I’d seen them perform and they were so fantastic, and now I’m so excited I get to play with their talent basically. But most of the other dancers were ones I had worked with previously and had inspired me in some way.
    When it came to the composers and people like that, I took a little bit of a risk because I didn’t know them well. But I could tell after a few meetings that there was something there. They were bringing something in and they were challenging my ideas. They were challenging the whole concept! And that, right away, told me that these are the people I want to work with. I don’t want someone that’s just going to do their job the way I asked them to do it. I want someone who will bring in ideas and be willing to explore.
    Vala:  How do you personally keep growing as an artist, and what sort of advice would you give others in this business or to those who may want to get started in this line of work?
    Olivier:  (Deep inhale) Don’t do it! (Laughing) No, it’s really the next step I needed to make. Otherwise I think my artistry would’ve died somehow. It really challenges me and I question myself every day. You know, as a dancer you’re always so insecure. As a choreographer, you’re even more insecure. As a dancer, people will tell you what you did wrong—your turnout or whatever. But as a choreographer, people will just walk away if they don’t like what you’re doing. But this is the right step for me; I needed this so I could grow as an artist. This is also pushing me a little bit. It would’ve been easier to become complacent with what I could do as a (commissioned) choreographer because I wasn’t taking as many risks as I am now. But taking risks is really inspiring me. It makes me want to get out there and work with even more people.

    Jim Kent, Whim W'Him

    Jim

    Vala:  So who is your dream artist to work with, either as a dancer or choreographer?
    Olivier:  Hmm, I don’t know if I could pick just one. I mean there are so many—both dancers and choreographers that I would love to work with. Not just as a dancer but also who I would love to see work with the (Whim W’him) dancers.
    (Pauses) Wendy Whelan. I love her, I absolutely love her! That would be so amazing. Whenever I see her dance, I’m always so moved. She’s such an artist. But there are so many others, I mean the list would be so long! But if I had to mention one, it would definitely be Wendy.
    Vala:  You’re right. Everything she does is just spectacular. That would be an amazing partnership! Now, Olivier you have received several awards for your choreographic work. Which of those pieces are you most proud of?
    Olivier:  Well, there are two pieces I’m bringing back that I was very proud of and I’m very happy to get to work on again. One of the pieces is one I originally choreographed for PNB’s Choreographer’s Showcase four years ago called X-Stasis. I’m putting some Spectrum dancers in there to change the cast a little bit. Then the other work is one I did for Spectrum called Fragments….
    Vala:  I saw that one!
    Olivier:  Oh you did? Did you see it a few months ago with one boy and one girl?
    Vala:  Yes! I saw it during the Byrd Retrospective a few months ago. It was terrific.
    Olivier:  Yes! So Kelly-Ann and Vincent will be doing that piece. The costumes are getting completely redesigned because (laughing) I was never happy with those costumes! Because again--we had no money so we had to come up with something. So this time around, someone is designing costumes for them and I’m very happy to be re-doing it.
    Vala:  I must say that I really enjoyed that piece. I especially loved how you incorporated the arias into it. It made everything really fun and unique.
    Olivier:  Well, I love Mozart! Those arias are so great and I was thinking, “I’m never going to get to choreograph on any of those great music’s unless I do the Opera!” So I thought, “What if I just put a bunch together and sort of… play with it”? And that’s what came out. It was great that Donald (Byrd) brought that back because it was a retrospective of his time here. I was one of the few choreographers he’d brought back which was very nice of him. He’s been very supportive.
    Olivier before we close, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?
    This has been quite an adventure! I can’t believe that in just a few weeks it’ll all be over, but I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of it. As far as the future of the company, I’m hoping to grow really fast and be able to do more. I really think Seattle has the room for this.
    Vala:  I agree. I think the dance community as a whole needs people like you who are willing to step out of the box and bring the art back to dance.
    Olivier:  Right! That’s what it’s all about to me. Otherwise it’s just dance, but if it becomes more than that, that’s when it’s really interesting.

    Get your tickets for Whim W’him at On the Boards!

    January 15-17, 2010

  • WHIM W'HIM PART THREE

    In Part Two of our interview, Artistic Director Olivier Wevers revealed some of the challenges he’s had to face since birthing his new company, Whim W’him.  Continuing now in Part Three, Olivier shares the ways in which Whim W’him will be a unique force in the world of dance…

    Hannah Lagerway, Whim W'Him

    Hannah

    Vala:  You speak a lot about collaboration and the process of creating new works. In what ways will Whim W’him be different from other companies? How will it be unique?
    Olivier:  One of the things I’m trying to do with this company first is to bridge the dance community a little bit. Because what I’ve witnessed in Seattle over the past 13 years that I’ve been here is all these different dance communities—ballet, modern, contemporary, independent artists—everybody’s trying to do their own thing. And I really want to try to bridge that gap. I mean there are so many wonderful artists and I don’t think you need to be selective of one style and classify that one style either. In the way I pick the dancers—having PNB dancers, those classically trained dancers, Spectrum dancers that are dancers that usually dance barefoot, and then some independent artists in town—I’m trying to put all those dancers that would usually not get to work together, get to work together. It’s bridging the communities in Seattle and I want to bring back artistic collaboration.

    Another thing that I’ve witnessed as a dancer is that so many people are blaming the economy that is so bad right now. So everybody is trying to do something like, “We’re going to create this ballet but we’re going to use this in-house designer, in-house lighting director, etc and we’re going to try to make it so that we don’t have to pay the orchestra overtime and such”. The resources are really limited, and it’s not just here but all around. So one of the things I really want to bring back is collaboration. Some of the greatest works to me are the ones that had a composer, a designer that was brought in, a few artists working on it, and a few dramatizers working on it. I want to go back to that. I want to be able to collaborate with other artists.
    It’s been really rewarding because for the past few months I’ve been working with a composer, with a costume designer, a fantastic lighting designer—they’ve all brought so much to the work, so much more than I could’ve envisioned just on my own.
    I get to do this because I’m also the one doing all the fund raising, so I know this is going to cost a lot more—it’s going to take a lot more time, more resources. But that also motivates me to work harder (at fund raising) so that I can do all the things that I want to do.

    Jonathan Porretta, Whim W'Him

    Jonathan

    Vala:  That’s fantastic! I would love to see that happen again. It’s been years since you would even heard about any sort of collaboration going on.
    Olivier:  Yeah, that’s right! I see how it happens behind the doors. It’s not about the process anymore. Choreographers 20 years ago would spend months in the studio. For example, some people say Jerome Robbins was a genius, but he never just went in the studio and created a piece in two weeks. It took him months and he would re-work it, and re-work it, and re-work it in the studio. It was all about the process as well as the product. Then adding in collaborators as well—sets, music, designers. None of that exists anymore. The process now is, “How fast can you choreograph?” and then “Can you use this in-house person for this and that?” Not that these people aren’t talented, but when the work becomes so in-house, there’s no inspiration. Those people—the costumers, etc—don’t feel like they can say anything, so there’s no artistic exchange going on. It’s important for artists to be able to pick their own collaborators. You need to work with people you have an interest in working with and those who will inspire you.
    Vala:  I’m really glad that your whole basis is about the process. It’s nice to see there are people like you who choose to develop as a dancer, and create a work of art rather than just a performance.
    Olivier:  You know, what happening a lot in ballet is that we’re settling. Yeah, it looks pretty and someone can produce it really fast. But imagine if that person could’ve spent another three weeks or a month or two on it, and could’ve worked with those other people gathering more ideas. Ballet to me is starting to look a little like a museum piece where you see the same things over and over. We need to keep ballet alive. I love all the pieces but if that’s all you’re giving, people are going to get bored with that. You need to push the artists, push the envelope. Discover new ways of connecting to the audience; discover new ways of doing ballet.
    Vala:  I agree 100%. Years ago the character development was very different from what it is now. Dancers had to convey their character through every inch of their body. It wasn’t just “Here are your steps”. You had to make your character breathe through every inch of your being.
    Olivier:  That’s not what’s happening anymore. Once you know your steps, you get a show. I remember when I first started 20 years ago in Canada, I was coached my first time in Giselle. And I don’t know how many hours I spent in the studio just learning how to walk! You know, this ballerina from Russia was making me cry because I couldn’t do it right. I didn’t know how to walk on stage! And none of that is taught anymore; everything is just kind of taken for granted.
    When creating Whim W’him, I chose that name because I didn’t want it to be all about me. Like the Olivier Wevers project or company. I didn’t want that. I’m interested in bringing in different choreographers to work with these dancers of different backgrounds in the future. Therefore, I need to do more fundraising so I can start doing that. I want this to become a really collaborative and versatile company.

    Check back soon to read our forth and final segment where Olivier reveals some of the exciting upcoming reps from Whim W’him, the dancers who inspire him most, and his advice for budding artistic directors!

    Read more about Whim'Whim's Performances January 15-17 and Purchase Tickets at On the Boards

  • WHIM W'HIM PART TWO

    Interview: Olivier Wevers

    Part One of our exciting interview with Olivier Wevers detailed the purpose and mission behind his exciting new company, Whim W’him.  Now in Part Two, Mr. Wevers speaks openly about the many changes that have occurred—both professionally and personally—since the birth of Whim W’him….

    Kaori Nakamura, Whim W'Him

    Kaori

    Vala: How has your life changed since your company’s inception—as a dancer, as a choreographer, an artist and as a person?

    Olivier: (Gasping)  Oh my god—it’s totally changed!  I mean—(laughs)--I have no more days off.  That’s just being busy.  You know, every day off that I have, I’m trying to schedule a meeting or I’m working on the computer.  Usually my life before—the focus was really on being a dancer, which was really kind of selfish, because it was really just about the work I was doing.  So, I would wake up in the morning, get ready to dance, and when I was done dancing I could relax and do what I wanted, and I had days off that I would enjoy.
    Then I started choreographing and doing commissions for other places, and started having to run around town.  So, the last few years when I was choreographing, for Spectrum for example, I would rehearse at PNB until 3 and I would make sure to schedule a rehearsal for 3:30 at Spectrum—which would give me just enough time to get there—so I’d usually be eating in the car on the way there.
    Now on top of that, I’m also running this company, trying to do fundraising, scheduling--I mean everything.  I’ve been doing absolutely everything and it’s been crazy!
    Vala: And yet, would you change anything about it? Would you go back to the way it was?

    Olivier: Well you know, it’s interesting because there are moments when I’m like, “What am I doing?  Why couldn’t I just live the way I was living, and just have time to relax, breathe, and not have so many responsibilities?”   I mean, there are huge responsibilities that come along with all of that, and then there’s the pressure.  I mean, there have been days where I just wake up and I don’t know where to start.   I don’t want to do anything and I’m like, “Can I just—go shopping?” He laughs.

    Vala: (Laughing) But no, you can’t!
    Olivier: Right! So like, I’ve been asking my friends, “Is this “depression” or is this “overwhelmed” where I wake up and I just want to go back to sleep?
    Vala: Oh, I’d like to say it’s the latter. But that makes sense. We all get so used to a certain way of life. Then one day we decide to turn everything upside down, shake it, then stand back and ask ourselves, “Now what?”

    Lucien Postlewaite, WhimW'Him

    Lucien

    Olivier: Right!  Exactly!   Also what has changed is that I don’t get my 8 hours of sleep anymore. Which I really loved to get when I was just a dancer; I really needed 8 hours of sleep!  That has come down a lot. Now, I wake up an hour and half earlier, and for more than an hour, I’m sending email and working on the computer.
    Then I take my class; usually after class I have phone calls to make or emails that I have to check.  Then when I have a full day at PNB, usually all I have time to do at night is come back here and finish my work and try to do it on my days off.  When I don’t have too much rehearsal at PNB, usually I’m rehearsing for the show that’s coming up in January, or doing my fundraising, or contacting presenters for future touring, or scheduling rehearsals.
    Recently we had this big fundraiser.  I had a volunteer who did so much work for me, which was great. But after that, I had to write more than 50 cards thanking the donors.  So there’s always work to be done. Constantly people that need to be talked to—lighting designers, composers, dealing with the costumes—I mean, it’s every aspect that I’m working on.  So usually, throughout the day, I don’t stop.
    Vala: It doesn’t sound like it! It sounds like you’re running around like crazy.
    Olivier: Yeah, it’s constant but it’s really exciting, too.  Actually, last night I went and saw a movie.  I mean—I just had to get out for a little bit.  So I started watching the movie, and then I realized—for like a minute—that I wasn’t even watching the movie.  Instead I was thinking about all the things I had to do!  And I was like, what am I doing?  I came here to escape!  So, I told myself just escape and I’ll deal with this in two hours, he laughs.
    Vala: Oh goodness! So were you able to successfully turn your brain off after that?

    Olivier: I was, I was. But only after I caught myself looking at the screen thinking, I don’t know what’s going on! I’m busy thinking about things I have to be thinking about.”

    Coming up in our third installment, Olivier reveals the unique qualities that not only set Whim W’him apart, but also breathe new life into the global (and local) dance community!  Check back soon to read all about it!

    Mark your calendars for the premier of 3 Seasons January 15-17, 2010 at On the Boards.

    By Denise Opper

    Media Relations: Vala Dancewear/Class Act Tutu

  • WHIM W'HIM! PART ONE

    Interview: Olivier Wevers

    Olivier Wevers is the embodiment of a classically trained artist. As a Principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Olivier has left his own indelible mark of perfection upon each role he’s portrayed. He is not only a seasoned artist, but a prolific and highly acclaimed choreographer, receiving numerous awards and accolades for his impressive work and unique style.

    Earlier this year, Olivier embarked on an exciting adventure of epic proportion. In collaboration with some of the most highly respected dancers from the Pacific Northwest, Olivier launched Whim W’him, a company designed to “provide a platform, centered around choreography and dance, for artists to explore their craft though innovation and collaboration.” (Quote Whim Whim.org)

    Recently, Mr. Wevers took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions from Vala Dancewear’s media liaison, Denise Opper. In part one of our series, Mr. Wevers reveals the inspiration behind Whim W’him….

    Whim W'Him

    Whim

    Vala: First of all, I want to thank you, Olivier, for taking the time to do this.  We all truly appreciate it.

    Olivier: Oh, absolutely.  I appreciate it as well.

    Vala: Let’s begin by discussing the inspiration behind your new company.   What made you decide to go ahead and branch out on your own?

    Olivier: Well, I have been choreographing for  7-8 years and, over the last few years,  I have been getting a lot of commissions.  Which have all been really great, but I’ve also been getting frustrated with how it all works.  You know, you only get a certain amount of time with a certain amount of dancers; sometimes they even give you the dancers. Then usually there’s no budget, it’s always as cheap as you can make it happen, how much product you can produce, and it has to be successful.  The final product has to be successful; they’re not really interested in the process behind it.  It just has to be something that will be enjoyable for the audience.
    Also, when you make pieces on different companies like that, you have to kind of set it to their style and their certain “voice”.  So you have to watch what you do, and make sure it is really going to fit that company.  It’s all been great and I love creating new works, and love working on these kinds of projects, but I’ve been kind of frustrated in my own artistic development, and I wanted to kind of “explore” more.   You know, have more time to rehearse, have dancers that I really admire, and that are really going to push me.  Then I wanted to not have to tell anybody, since this is my company, why I’m doing this or that, you know?  And if I fail, I fail.   I’m the only one responsible. But then that only means that I’m going to have to work harder to get the audience to come back.  I don’t have to prove anything to anybody, and I don’t have to fit anybody’s voice.  I can really do what I want to do.

    Olivier Wevers

    Olivier

    Vala: That is an excellent reason and answer! You’re right; when you’re working for someone else you have to make it fit their style, their voice.  But sometimes you just don’t have enough time to really get to know their voice, and yet you still have to make that product happen—yesterday.

    Olivier: Right, absolutely! It happens so many times where I’m really crushed for time and I don’t have time to rehearse, so I finish it the day before the show, and they don’t have time to really sink their teeth in.  And it’s choreography that I don’t really get the chance to explore.  It’s like I just throw it at them, like—"there it is, you have it, go do it".    It’s been great that way but now I’m really looking forward to having more time to explore.   Actually with Whim W’him, there was a piece I choreographed in June.   I videotaped it and watched it;   I wasn’t happy with what I ended up with so I just scrapped it completely.  But, really, that’s only a luxury I can afford by running this company and doing this with the time that I have.

    Stay tuned for Part Two of our interview with Olivier Wevers where he candidly reveals how his life has changed since the birth of Whim W’him! You won’t want to miss it!

    If you are in the Pacific Northwest, you can see Whim W'Him at On the Boards for The A.W.A.R.D. show, Thursday, December 10.

    By Denise Opper

    Media Relations: Vala Dancewear/Class Act Tutu

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker

    A Little Bit of Magic

    The magic of the holiday season has descended upon McCaw Hall, ushered in on the wings of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s annual treat, The Nutcracker.  The air inside the theater was alive with anticipation, and the excitement emanating from all the hundreds of children present was palpable.

    Clara's Christmas Tree - A signature moment of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker occurs when Clara’s Christmas tree grows from 14 to 28 feet. The majestic tree was constructed by Boeing engineers and weighs 1,000 pounds.

    Clara's

    The Story and the Set

    The ballet is based on the original story written by E.T.A. Hoffman and brought to life by the choreography of former PNB Artistic Director, Kent Stowell.  The sumptuous sets designed by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) play a crucial role in the success of this stellar production.  They not only envelop the stage like a lush, Victorian picture book, but also provide a sense of pure magic.  Everything from the massive growing Christmas tree and the enormous Mouse King that wickedly encircles the stage–to the realistic boat ride along the sea, leaves audiences captivated and riveted to the edge of their seats.

    Clara

    The role of young Clara was marvelously played by PNB student, Eileen Kelly.  Kelly’s mannerisms and characterization were both impressive and believable.

    Carrie Imler , Principal Dancer, PNB, as adult Clara was nothing short of outstanding.  Imler’s Clara provides a stunning portrayal of a maiden whose heart is laced with the charms and emotions of girlhood.  She is her Prince’s devoted equal in terms of bravery, and wants nothing more than to remain locked within the confines of this beautiful dream with him forever.

    The Prince

    Batkhurel Bold, Principal Dancer, PNB, gave a powerful performance as the dashing Prince.  His movements were breathtaking, his character regal and confident.  Bold not only captivates audiences with his impressive strength, but sweeps them off their feet as Clara’s faithful protector, companion, and hero.  Their gorgeous, sweeping pas de deux conveys all the beauty and promise of young love.

    A Cast of Characters

    Herr Drosselmeier/Pasha

    Jordan Pacitti shines in the dual role of Herr Drosselmeier/Pasha.  As Drosselmeier, Pacitti is teasing yet harmless, a classic example of a man who is “a little boy on the inside.”  He not only revels in his ability to shock and amaze the party guests, but takes the most delight in getting a rise out of young Clara.  Later, however,  as the Pasha, Pacitti transforms from a fiendish eccentric, into a protective father-figure, possessive of both Clara and her affections.

    Ballerina Doll

    Sarah Ricard Orza gave a lovely performance as the wind-up Ballerina Doll.  Her masterful display breathed new life into this well-loved character, one who is sure to star in many little girls’ dreams.

    An Enchanted Land

    The Moors, A Chinese Tiger, The Commedia

    Act Two whisks Clara and the Prince along to an enchanted land where they are greeted by a lavish display of hospitality, courtesy of the Pasha.  Moors dance about with bright, energetic flair.  A dancing Chinese tiger, charmingly played by Ryan Cardea, received more than a few giggles and squeals of delight.  The Commedia (Liora Reshef, Benjamin Griffiths and Rachel Foster) were reminiscent of a precious music box or toy shoppe window.  Griffiths’ acrobatics and technical prowess were evident both here and during his role as Sword-Dancer Doll in Act One.

    The Chinese Tiger

    The

    The Peacock

    Lesley Rausch, soloist, PNB mesmerized in her role as the fluttering, sensuous Peacock; a winged beauty transported via gilded cage.  Rausch’s expert characterization was daring, captivating, and hypnotic.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch as the Peacock in PNB's Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    The Whirling Dervishes

    The three whirling Dervishes (Barry Kerollis, James Moore, and Josh Spell) were absolutely thrilling. These fantastic dancers created a spectacular “tour de force” that left every little boy in the audience inspired and awe-struck.

    Flora

    Lindsi Dec, soloist, PNB,  soared to new heights as the beautiful blossom maiden, Flora.  Dec gave herself completely over to her role, and that coupled with her long, gorgeous lines and jubilant expression, made her performance exhilarating to behold.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec as Flora in the Waltz of the Flowers from PNB's Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker. Photo © Angela Sterling

    Pacific

    Snow, Waltz of the Flowers

    PNB’s corps de ballet performed beautifully as a chorus of swirling, icy snowflakes glittering in the moonlight. Their dazzling display literally made a chill run down my spine.  Later during the Waltz of the Flowers, I could almost smell a hint of jasmine and rose being carried along on a soft, spring breeze.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet’s, Nutcracker

    I was once again impressed with the caliber of dancing and characterization offered by this amazing company, as well as the talent that exuded from its students.  Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker is a must-see and should be a part of every family’s holiday tradition.

    PNB’s acclaimed production of Nutcracker

    runs November 27 – December 30, 2009

    at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall.

    Tickets are available online at www.pnb.org or by calling 206.441.2424

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