Wendy Whelan

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Wendy Whelan
Spring16 RiteofSpr Devon WendyWhelan AdamHougland (26673231736) (2).jpg
Whelan (center) in 2016
Born (1967-05-07) May 7, 1967 (age 52)
OccupationBallet dancer
David Michalek (m. 2005)

Wendy Whelan (/ˈhwlən/; born May 7, 1967) is a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and performed with the company for 30 years. She is a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and the Kirov Ballet and has performed all over the U.S., South America, Europe, and Asia. Whelan has also been an influential guest artist with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. In 2019, Whelan was named Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet.[1]

Early life[edit]

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, she began her dance training with local teacher, Virginia Wooton, at the age of three. At the age of eight and after performing as a mouse in The Nutcracker with the Louisville Ballet, she joined Louisville Ballet Academy, where she started formal training. At the age of 12, it was discovered that Whelan had severe scoliosis. To help correct the curvature in her spine, she wore a heavy plaster cast while in ballet class but also strengthened her core and back muscles. In 1981, at the age of 14, she received a scholarship to the summer course at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, joining as a full-time student a year later.[2]


Whelan joined the NYCB in 1984 as an apprentice and entered the company's corps de ballet January 1986.[3] She was promoted to soloist in 1989, and to principal dancer in 1991. She has a repertoire of more than 50 ballets, including pieces by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, Shen Wei, Wayne McGregor, Alexei Ratmansky, and others.

Whelan has performed as a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and with the Kirov Ballet.

In 2012, she began a new collaborative project titled Restless Creature. She premiered this project at Jacob's Pillow in 2013. Whelan chose four choreographers—Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo—to create dances for her. She has taken this production on national tour. It consists of four solos and duets, with Whelan dancing each duet with its choreographer. A documentary film, titled Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan and released in 2016, followed Whelan through her hip surgery and recovery, the project's creation, and the last two years of her NYCB career.

In 2014 she announced her departure from the New York City Ballet, with her farewell performance being on October 18.[4]

Whelan was appointed an Artistic Associate for developing new projects at New York's City Center for a 2-year term from November 2014.[5] Whelan was an artist-in-residence at Barnard College from November 2015 to May 2017.[6][7]

In February 2019, New York City Ballet announced Whelan's appointment as Associate Artistic Director of the company.[8] Whelan will serve alongside newly-appointed Artistic Director Johnathan Stafford, who had been acting as interim director following Peter Martins' resignation in 2018 following allegations concerning emotional and physical abuse.


Whelan is known for her angular body and muscularity, particularly suited to the Balanchine style. However, with Balanchine's death in 1983, the day of the SAB spring workshop's performance of Western Symphony in which she debuted in the corps, she only had encountered him once, the previous year being her first at the SAB.[9]



The ballerina has openly spoken about conquering scoliosis after being diagnosed at age 12.[10]

Following an accident in 2012, Whelan began experiencing pains in her right hip. In the August following her performance at Jacob's Pillow, Wendy had reconstructive surgery on her hip to correct a labral tear. After months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, Whelan completed the 2014 season with NYCB.

Personal life[edit]

Whelan married photographer David Michalek in September 2005.[11] They reside in New York City.

Originated roles[edit]


  1. ^ "NYCB 2019 Leadership Announcement" (PDF). NYCB.
  2. ^ "Wendy Whelan". New York City Ballet. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Kourlas, Gia (August 9, 2013). "A Ballerina in a New Realm". The New York Times. p. AR2.
  4. ^ Sulcas, Roslyn (October 3, 2014). "Wendy Whelan Says Farewell to City Ballet". The New York Times. p. AR1.
  5. ^ "Wendy Whelan to Leave New York City Ballet This Fall; Joins New York City Center for Two-Year Residency". Broadway World. March 31, 2014. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  6. ^ Friscia, Suzannah (October 23, 2015). "Wendy Whelan Named Artist-in-Residence at Barnard College". Pointe.
  7. ^ "Wendy Whelan named inaugural Orzeck Artist-In-Residence". Barnard College – Department of Dance. October 14, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  8. ^ Cooper, Michael (February 28, 2019). "City Ballet, Shaken by Turmoil, Chooses New Leaders". The New York Times. p. C1. ISSN 0362-4331.
  9. ^ Whelan, Wendy (May 23, 2017). "The First Time I Danced a Balanchine Ballet (the Day He Died)". The New York Times. p. AR8.
  10. ^ Okumura, Kim (October 1, 2006). "Health and fitness: thrown a curve: on conquering scoliosis". Dance Magazine. Retrieved October 19, 2019 – via The Free Library.
  11. ^ Shattuck, Kathryn (September 11, 2005). "Wendy Whelan and David Michalek". The New York Times. p. 19.

External links[edit]