Showcasing the Arts

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2016 Governor's Awards in the Arts:
National Award

 

WENDY WHELAN

Louisville, Ky.

 


 

Wendy Whelan Wendy Whelan’s remarkable dancing career has its roots right here in Kentucky. The Louisville native, who has enjoyed a 30-year career with the New York City Ballet, got her start taking lessons with Virginia Wooton at age 3. When she was 8, Whelan performed as a mouse in the Louisville Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” It was in that production that she fell in love with everything about the craft, from the orchestra in the pit to the choreography on stage.

Whelan began intense professional training at the Louisville Ballet Academy. In 1981, her teachers, Cecile Gibson and Robert Dicello, encouraged Whelan to audition for Suzanne Farrell, who was scouting students for the School of American Ballet, the training ground for New York City Ballet. Whelan was accepted to the summer program at age 14. In 1984, she was named an apprentice with New York City Ballet and joined the corps de ballet a year later. She was promoted to soloist in 1989 and to principal dancer in 1991.

Whelan has been a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and the Kirov Ballet and has performed all over the United States, South America, Europe and Asia. She received the Dance Magazine Award in 2007 and in 2009 was given a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. In 2011, she received both The Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance.

In 2013, Wendy premiered her inaugural independent project, “Restless Creature,” which toured London and the United States though May 2015. Following “Restless Creature,” she premiered two more independent projects, “Whelan/Watson Other Stories,” at London's Royal Opera House and “Hagoromo” at BAM's Next Wave Festival. After the success and momentum of these projects, she is currently developing “Some of a Thousand Words,” with choreographer Brian Brooks and the string quartet Brooklyn Rider. The work will premiere at The Joyce Theater’s Arts & Ideas Festival and will tour in spring 2017.

 

 

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Page last updated: October 24, 2016
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