A 2006 NY Times Magazine article about Wendy Whelan, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, included several comments from Christopher Wheeldon, who has choreographed many of his best works on Whelan (She’s often referred to as his muse). The following is a quotation from Wheeldon that I’ve always remembered:
“Wendy can take your breath away and you don’t understand why – you don’t understand why watching a leg unfold can speak volumes, or how she can make you feel there is something inexpressibly beautiful about it. Something about Wendy reminds me of the dangerous beauty you see in an orchid.”
This quotation sheds light both on Whelan’s dancing and the rare beauty of orchids, which I thoroughly enjoyed today at the NY Botanical Garden’s orchid show. I think that anyone who has seen Whelan dance and can appreciate the beauty of an orchid would agree with Wheeldon’s striking comparison. As I walked through the exhibit today and marveled at the different colors, shapes, and varieties of orchids, I thought about how dangerously beautiful these flowers really are. They aren’t as cheerful as daffodils or pansies. Nor do they have the obvious, traditional beauty and romance of roses. Orchids are elegant and graceful, but also seem to be more reserved and guarded than other flowers. There’s a sharpness to them that is dangerous but also intriguing. These all happen to be qualities that I notice in Whelan’s dancing, as well. As Wheeldon suggested, it’s difficult to understand and express what about Whelan’s dancing is so beautiful and unique. She is certainly not the traditional Balanchine ballerina. Her dancing is always complex and layered, and often edgy, graceful, reserved, and inviting – all at the same time. This makes her the most intriguing and interesting dancer to watch on stage. I always find something new in her dancing that I hadn’t previously noticed. So, this post has turned into a tribute to Whelan – my favorite dancer – and to orchids, and the dangerous beauty in both. Here are some of my photographs from the exhibit.