Christopher Wheeldon

(b. 1973)

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(b Somerset, 22 Mar. 1973)

British dancer and choreographer. He studied locally and at the Royal Ballet School, and graduated into the company in 1991. In 1993 he moved to New York City Ballet, where he created roles in several ballets, including Martins's Symphonic Dreams and Robbins's West Side Story Suite and Brandenburg, and was appointed soloist in 1999. He began choreographing as a student (he won the gold medal at Lausanne in a solo created by himself) and made ballets for several student performances and workshops before choreographing his early professional works. These included Pavane pour une infante défunte (mus. Ravel, 1996) for the Royal Ballet; Slavonic Dances (1997) and Mercurial Manoeuvres (2000) for New York City Ballet; and Firebird (1997) and Corybantic Ecstasies (1999) both Boston Ballet. He was briefly appointed principal guest choreographer at Boston before being appointed resident choreographer at NYCB in 2001. He went on to create many works for NYCB, his style a fusion of American neo-classicism and the more dramatic, lyrical influences of his Royal Ballet background. His works for the company included Polyphonia (mus. Ligeti, 2001), Morphoses (mus. Ligeti 2002), Carousel (mus. Rodgers, 2002), Liturgy (mus. Pärt, 2003), Shambards (mus. James MacMillan, 2004), An American in Paris (mus. Gershwin, 2005), After the Rain (mus. Pärt, 2005), Klavier (mus. Beethoven, 2006), Evenfall (Bartók, 2006), and The Nightingale and the Rose (mus. Bright Sheng, 2007). Many of these works featured the partnership of Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, and revealed Wheeldon's distinctively inventive and expressive handling of the pas de deux form. During this period he was additionally commissioned to create work by many of the major international companies, arguably making him the most successful classical choreographer of his generation. His works for San Francisco Ballet included Sea Pictures (mus. Elgar, 2000), Continuum (mus. Ligeti, 2002), Rush (mus. Martinu, 2003), Quaternary (mus. several, 2005), and Within the Golden Hour (mus. Ezio Bosso 2008); for the Royal Ballet, Tryst (mus. James MacMillan, 2002), Fire Section of Homage to the Queen (mus. Arnold, 2006), DGV (mus. Nyman, 2006), and Electric Counterpoint (mus. Reich, 2008); for Colorado Ballet, A Midsummer Night's Dream (2000); for Pennsylvania Ballet, Swan Lake (2004); and for the Bolshoi Ballet, Elsinore (mus. Pärt, 2007). Among the other companies who performed his work are George Piper Dances, Norwegian Ballet, Houston Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

He left his post at NYCB in 2008 having launched his own company, and Morphoses, in 2007. The company had bases in both New York and London, and performed a selection of 20th-century ballets by Ashton, Robbins, Balanchine, and Forsythe, among others, newly commissioned work, and ballets by Wheeldon himself including Fool's Paradise (mus. Joby Talbot, 2007), Commedia (mus. Stravinsky, 2008), and Rhapsody Fantaisie (mus. Rachmaninoff, 2009). In 2010 Wheeldon left Morphoses to pursue his freelance career.

Wheeldon has also choreographed for film, opera, and musicals, including Nicholas Hytner's The Sweet Smell of Success (2002). He is recipient of numerous awards, including the Critics Circle Dance Award for best classical choreography.


Subjects: Dance.

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