Wendy Whelan
Brian Brooks
Brooklyn Rider

Brian Brooks and Wendy Whelan

Some of a Thousand Words

Wednesday–Thursday | 7:30pm
November 29–30, 2017

Herbst TheatreVenue Information



Bay Area Premiere

Some of a Thousand Words


Following the November 30th performance, there will be a post-performance artist talk.

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About This Performance

Former New York City Ballet star ballerina Wendy Whelan’s post pointe-shoe career has embraced collaborations with contemporary artists and musicians who themselves re-draw the blueprints for what makes art. This season she teams up with dancer-choreographer Brian Brooks to reprise their duet, First Fall which is part of the larger piece, Some of a Thousand Words. The program also features string quartet Brooklyn Rider, who will perform live, serving as equal partners in both shaping and being shaped by the evolution of Brooks’ choreography. Music will include works by John Luther Adams, Tyondai Braxton, Philip Glass, and a new work from Brooklyn Rider’s own Colin Jacobsen.

Performer Biographies

Wendy Whelan, widely considered one of the world’s leading dancers, began dance lessons at the age of three with Virginia Wooton in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. At the age of eight, she performed as a mouse in the Louisville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. From that first performance, she was smitten. “Once I got to perform—to see the dancers and to have an orchestra playing right there in the pit, and see stage makeup, see the costume designs up close—once I knew ballet was a collaborative effort for all of these incredible artists, that’s when I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.”

Wendy began intense professional training at the Louisville Ballet Academy. In 1981, her teachers, Cecile Gibson and Robert Dicello, encouraged Wendy to audition for Suzanne Farrell, who was scouting students for the School of American Ballet, the training ground for New York City Ballet and top ballet companies around the world, co-founded in 1933 by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Wendy was accepted to the summer program at age 14; a year later, after her second summer program, she moved to New York to continue her studies as a full-time student. In 1984, she was named an apprentice with New York City Ballet and joined the corps de ballet a year later.

Wendy went on to spend 30 years at New York City Ballet, dancing virtually all the major Balanchine roles, and working closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets and originating roles in ballets by such notable choreographers as William Forsythe, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Jorma Elo, Shen Wei, and Wayne MacGregor. She was promoted to soloist in 1989 and to principal dancer in 1991.

Her most notable choreographic collaboration at NYCB was with Christopher Wheeldon, who created roles for Wendy in 13 of his ballets, including Polyphonia, Liturgy, and After the Rain. At his own company, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, Chris again chose Wendy for several new works, and in 2007, she was nominated in London for both an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award for her performances.

Wendy has been a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and the Kirov Ballet and has perfomed all over the U.S., 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 2012, as her career at New York City Ballet began to wind down, Wendy began to develop new collaborative projects. Her inaugural project, Restless Creature, premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2013. “I needed some new inspirations and some new challenges in my life,” she says. “Being a ballet dancer I was feeling the end of something, and I needed the beginning of something else. Restless Creature is an exploration for me. I chose four young male choreographers from the contemporary world to make works for me to dance with them.” The works created by these four dancer/choreographers—Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Bryan Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo—were presented together on one program and premiered in August 2013 at The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. In summer 2014, Restless Creature traveled to London and Vail, and started a U.S. tour in January 2015.

One week after the Jacob’s Pillow performances, Wendy had reconstructive surgery on her hip. After months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, she returned to the stage to perform during New York City Ballet’s spring 2014 season. Wendy’s final performance with New York City Ballet is scheduled for October 18, 2014, but her career continues: Her second solo project, a full evening of new works, choreographed for Wendy and Edward Watson of The Royal Ballet, is scheduled to premiere at the Royal Opera House in London in 2015. In addition, Wendy was recently appointed an artistic associate at New York City Center for two years, starting November 2014.

Choreographer Brian Brooks has recently been appointed as the inaugural Choreographer in Residence at Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance. This innovative three-year fellowship supports several commissions for Brooks each season with the first year featuring Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Miami City Ballet, as well as his own New York-based group.

The American Dance Institute is commissioning his company's next production, Wilderness, with a NY premiere at The Kitchen in June 2016. Brooks’ new work with former NYC Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan, Some of a Thousand Words, also has its world premiere in June at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.

Hailed as “the future of chamber music” (Strings), Brooklyn Rider offers eclectic repertoire in gripping performances that continue to attract legions of fans and draw rave reviews from classical, world, and rock critics alike.

Last season, the group celebrated its tenth anniversary with the groundbreaking multi-disciplinary project Brooklyn Rider Almanac, for which it recorded and toured 15 specially commissioned works, each inspired by a different artistic muse. This season, Brooklyn Rider released an album with Anne Sofie von Otter entitled So Many Things on Naïve Records, including music by Colin Jacobsen, Caroline Shaw, John Adams, Nico Muhly, Björk, Sting, Kate Bush and Elvis Costello, among others. Together they toured material from the album and more in the U.S. and Europe, including stops at Carnegie Hall and the Opernhaus Zurich.

After performances together at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts in July, the quartet will tour the U.S. with choreographer Brian Brooks and former New York City Ballet prima ballerina Wendy Whelan, performing Some of a Thousand Words. Using music from composers John Luther Adams, Tyondai Braxton, Philip Glass, and a new composition from Brooklyn Rider's Colin Jacobsen, the intimate series of duets and solos featuring Brooks and Whelan foregrounds the live onstage music of the quartet as a dynamic and central creative component.

Other recent recording projects include 2016’s The Fiction Issue with music by Gabriel Kahane, 2013’s A Walking Fire on Mercury Classics and The Impostor with Béla Fleck on Deutsche Grammophon/Mercury Classics, plus 2011’s much-praised Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass on the composer’s Orange Mountain Music label. Violinist Johnny Gandelsman launched In A Circle Records in 2008 with the release of Brooklyn Rider's eclectic debut recording, Passport, followed by Dominant Curve in 2010, and Seven Steps in 2012. A long-standing relationship between Brooklyn Rider and Iranian kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor resulted in the much-praised 2008 recording, Silent City.

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Wendy Whelan & Brian Brooks | The Making of First Fall