Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

DANCE: Ashley Wheater Ushers In a New Era
by Eric Eatherly
2007-10-24

This article shared 4902 times since Wed Oct 24, 2007
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Since its creation in 1956, The Joffrey Ballet has only known two artistic directors: its co-founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino. But now a new hand is at the helm of the company that made Chicago its home in 1995, enriching the city's dance community with its breathtaking ballets ever since. In July 2007 Arpino became artistic director emeritus of The Joffrey Ballet and, last month, Ashley Wheater was named the new artistic director of the company. Wheater had been the longtime ballet master of San Francisco Ballet and was, himself, a Joffrey dancer from 1985 to 1989.

Born in Scotland and raised in England, Wheater, 48, was trained at the Royal Ballet School. As a young dancer he was cast in numerous productions at the Royal Opera House, including The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Anastasia and Rudolf Nureyev's Nutcracker. At the age of 13, he worked with Sir Frederick Ashton on the world premiere of Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice, a production in which Wheater performed throughout England and Europe.

Wheater began his professional career with The Royal Ballet and joined London Festival Ballet, on the advice of Nureyev, and after two years he was promoted to principal dancer. In 1982 he joined The Australian Ballet, under the direction of Marilyn Rowe, and danced a multitude of roles in both classical and contemporary works. It was in Australia in 1984, while Arpino was staging Suite Saint-Saens for The Joffrey Ballet there, that he saw Wheater dance and invited him to join the company, which Wheater did the following year.

In 1989, Wheater joined San Francisco Ballet, dancing lead roles in nearly all of the company's full-length productions. After a long and successful career as a principal dancer, Wheater assumed the role of ballet master with San Francisco Ballet in 1996 and was named assistant to the artistic director in 2002.

After working with such large and prestigious ballet companies all across the world, the transition to artistic director of The Joffrey seems like a natural progression for Wheater. Last August, for the inaugural performance of the American Dancing Festival, Wheater brought five dancers from San Francisco Ballet to participate in the program. That visit to Chicago finally gave Wheater the chance to see the current Joffrey ensemble, teach the company ballet class and get re-introduced to the group and the organization that he had once known so well. 'There was a really amazing response from the company,' Wheater says. 'My instinct was so strong about the possibilities that were here… It just seemed that the more time I spent here the more I was sure that this was really the right thing.'

The Joffrey certainly has a busy season ahead of itself. The company is currently in the midst of its performance of the legendary ghost story Giselle, which runs through Sun., Oct. 28, at the Auditorium Theatre. Former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dancer Frederick Franklin has been coaching the dancers for this production. At 93, Franklin is one of the last dancers of an extraordinary era in dance. 'It's been great having Freddy Franklin here,' Wheater said of the preparation of Giselle. 'He understands the ballet so well. It's quite refreshing. Over the years so many people have done different things with Giselle, so he came in and said that this was a production that he learned in the 1930s and he hasn't made any changes. It's wonderful.'

After its performances in the spring of 2008, The Joffrey will be ready to launch into its next season—which is already in the planning stages—and Wheater is anxious to jump in as a creative force and put his touches on the company and the repertory. Wheater comments on the future and his plan for the company: 'The company definitely is ready to move forward. It needs a lot more new work created on the company, and there is a wealth of [ choreographic ] talent out there. There is a lot of repertoire, both existing and new repertoire, that should be seen in Chicago.'

As opposed to some younger ballet companies that maintain a purely contemporary ballet aesthetic, The Joffrey has always possessed a repertory balanced between classic and contemporary work. Wheater understands the value of that balance and agrees that it has been the key to the company's success and growth over the years. Though he is eager to see some more contemporary works, he is also interested in the classics, especially some of the late 20th-century ballets, which could range from the work of Nijinski and Balanchine to Jerome Robins and more. 'Robert Joffrey was a great director and he had great balance. Many people have looked to what Robert Joffrey did and have followed that guideline,' Wheater explained. 'For me, we need those classics. They are challenging for any dancer in any stage in their career. It's all about finding a balance between those classical ballets, or even the neo-classical ballets, and the contemporary repertoire. … I just feel that whether it's dancing Ashton's Cinderella or a Tudor ballet or Giselle, if they're danced really well, at the highest possible level, and the production values are also at a high level, I know that there is a young audience out there interested in ballet. In the long run we have to maintain the integrity of what a ballet company is about.'

Wheater has been familiar with Chicago for a long time, whether it's been through performing or visiting friends here, and he seems genuinely excited to make Chicago his home. 'I think that Chicago is such a cultured city and the people of Chicago really want their art to thrive. They have shown me such support already in such a short span of time,' he said. However, he admitted that he will have to get used to the weather and everyone has told him that he needs to buy a really big winter coat.

Always being a part of large ballet companies has prepared Wheater to not be intimidated by what would seem a daunting task of leading The Joffrey Ballet. In contemplating the new role of artistic director, Wheater drew a very intriguing analogy: 'Years ago when I was in Australia I got my certificate as captain of a boat. I love sailing. I think the best thing about being captain of a boat is that if you understand where the winds are coming from, and the current, you can turn your boat into the wind and everything will work the right way.' Wheater certainly brings the experience and insight to see the winds and currents of the dance world.


This article shared 4902 times since Wed Oct 24, 2007
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Hubbard Street Dance back on the stage with 'RE/TURN' 2021-10-21
- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) will present Fall Series: RE/TURN to herald its return to the stage at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St. The program will feature new premieres as well as audience favorites ...


Gay News

MOVIES 'Bolshoi Ballet' series to start locally Nov. 7 2021-10-21
- The "2021-2022 Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema" series is set to begin Sunday, Nov. 7 with Bolshoi Ballet: Spartacus—LIVE. Spartacus is considered a ballet tour de force, set to Aram Khachaturian's score. Bolshoi Ballet: Spartacus—LIVE is set t ...


Gay News

Visceral Dance Chicago bringing world premieres to Athenaeum Theatre 2021-10-06
--From a press release - CHICAGO, Oct. 5, 2021 — Visceral Dance Chicago—a contemporary company committed to the progression of diverse artists, programs and community collaborations—announced its Fall Engagement 2021 program. The dance company returns ...


Gay News

LGBTQ History Month: Until legal ruling, Disneyland banned same-sex dancers 2021-10-01
- Deemed the "Happiest Place on Earth," Disneyland sadly didn't live up to that billing for same-sex couples during its first three decades. Opened in 1955 by the late Walt Disney, the family-oriented amusement park was built ...


Gay News

Joffrey's Nutcracker returns for the holidays 2021-09-27
--From a press release - (Chicago) — The Joffrey Ballet's reimagined holiday classic, The Nutcracker, by Tony Award®-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, returns to Chicago during the Joffrey's first-ever season at the historic Lyric Opera House ...


Gay News

DANCE Hubbard Street presenting drive-in edition of 'Inside/Out' Oct. 2 2021-09-23
- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will hold its annual "Inside/Out" choreographic workshop, "Drive-In(side Out)," on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. at ChiTown Movies, 2343 S. Throop St., preceded by a welcome party and DJ starting at ...


Gay News

Chicago Dance History Project moving to Ruth Page Center 2021-09-17
- Chicago Dance History Project (CDHP)—which investigates, documents and presents the individual and institutional past of Chicago dance—plans to move into The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., as an artist in residence. ...


Gay News

Joffrey welcomes four dancers from South Korea, Spain and the U.S. 2021-09-15
- The Joffrey Ballet's Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE, The and President and CEO Greg Cameron announced the addition of four dancers to the Joffrey roster for the 2021-22 season: Brian Bennett (Lanham, Maryland), ...


Gay News

DANCE Ensemble Espanol to open Auditorium Theatre season Oct. 16 2021-09-10
- Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, in residence at Northeastern Illinois University, will return to the Auditorium Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 7:30 p.m. The company will mark the finale performance of its 45th-anniversary "Zafiro Flamenco ...


Gay News

Footwork dancers to be featured Sept. 10 in Art on theMART event 2021-09-05
- "Dance Down by The River"—an evening of Chicago dance and music—is coming to the Riverwalk in conjunction with Art on theMART thanks to a Chicago Presents grant awarded by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and ...


Gay News

MUSIC Upcoming 'Carmen' featuring queer lead, male drag 2021-09-05
- On Sept. 16 and 18 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St., Chicago audiences will have the rare opportunity to hear two world-class dramatic mezzo-sopranos debut new roles opposite one another ...


Gay News

TV 'Dancing with the Stars' to feature first same-sex partnership 2021-08-27
- ABC's Dancing With the Stars will be breaking new ground in the upcoming 30th season—with its first same-sex partnership. According to Deadline, on Aug. 26, host Tyra Banks and executive producer Andrew Llinares revealed that the ...


Gay News

MUSIC Diplo, Galantis part of Spring Awakening 2021-08-24
- The organizers of the Chicago electronic dance music (EDM) festival Spring Awakening have added the acts Diplo and Galantis to the Oct. 2-3 event. Spring Awakening will take place in Addams/Medill Park, 1301 W. 14th St. ...


Gay News

Joffrey Ballet's "Home: a Celebration" opens inaugural season at Lyric Opera House 2021-08-18
--From a press release - August 18, 2021 (Chicago) — The Joffrey Ballet opens its inaugural season at the Lyric Opera House and marks its return to live performances with Home: a Celebration, a triumphant mixed repertory program that spotlights original ...


Gay News

Aug. 12 dance film to explore gender, queerness in South Asian arts 2021-08-03
- Ashwaty Chennat, a Chicago Dancemakers 2021 Digital Dance grantee, has continued her collaboration with Abhijeet Rane to explore gender, queerness and the body in South Asian arts and traditions. An excerpt of Chennai and Rane's ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.