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!
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.
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