Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan (2016) Movie Script

You know I've sat at this spot
for 23 years?
-[woman] Really?
-This spot.
Oh, get the door.
There they are!
What? Leftover sheet cake?
Oh, you're just trying to clean out!
Everybody knows it's Wendy
Thanks, guys!
[dinging on glass]
[woman] Roasting!
No, it's not roasting!
This is toasting.
This is just amazing.
I don't know if you notice,
but just like all the eyes,
all the faces that were
in the wings watching you,
you've affected them
and you've made this place so great.
I've appreciated every moment,
and I just-- I love you.
[laughs and awws]
I realize I've seen each of you guys
come into the company.
I met Ash when he was 13 years old.
And you guys all came in
as the, like, younger, new people.
But when I look at you now,
I realize how much I've learned
from each of you.
You're incredible people, and I feel
so lucky that you're in my life.
[Whelan] I've always been
extremely devoted to what I do...
and I love being a part
of the New York City Ballet...
but I do feel the ticking clock
and, at times, I've thought
if I don't dance, I'd rather die.
I've actually said that.
[chatter, laughter]
-[girl] Can I take a picture?
-[Whelan] Of course!
Where's your camera? Right here, yeah?
[choreographer] We want to do front.
One, push back, two, tours en l'air,
three, on the jambe, four.
One, two, three, Prussian four, pirouette.
Press six, go to our sides.
Seven, eight, okay? Two coupes.
-Ready, one?
-[piano playing]
[Whelan] Ballet can be tough on the body,
and the New York City's work
is so extreme
that to do it for a long time,
it really plays havoc with you.
[choreographer makes guttural noises]
But I just want to do something well.
To be a dancer at 47, you can't--
ballet dancer at 47,
it's hard to keep doing that well.
[Charlie Rose] Wendy Whelan is here.
Since 1991, she's been a principal dancer
with the New York City Ballet.
She is considered to be one
of the great ballerinas performing today.
[man] Ballet superstar Wendy Whelan
inspires a kind of rapture
in dance critics and choreographers alike.
When you see her move, you understand.
[woman] Wendy Whelan
is a national treasure
who is always taking us beyond.
[woman #2] She's a dancer
for all seasons, all -isms.
She's absolutely magic
in the Balanchine repertoire.
[Whelan] I'm still fascinated
with Balanchine's choreography.
I never stopped learning
about those ballets.
They constantly reveal new things to me.
But the first year I was there,
Balanchine died.
I worked with Jerome Robbins
for 12 years on a daily basis.
Since I didn't have Balanchine,
I feel incredibly lucky to have had him.
After Balanchine,
Peter Martins took the helm,
and he chose me pretty early on
because I was a strong dancer.
[Martins] Every once in a while
when somebody pops up with that gift,
it's not rocket science, you know.
It's very easy to identify.
You just grab it.
[Coates] After 30 years with the company,
nobody in the history
of New York City Ballet
has had more new works made upon them.
Wendy has been one
of the great originators of new roles,
and shaped contemporary ballet today,
shaped the work of William Forsythe,
Christopher Wheeldon,
Alexei Ratmansky.
[Whelan] I had the world in my hands.
I was getting every part under the sun.
They were like, "Wendy, this is yours.
This is yours. This is yours."
All these gifts coming, it was like gold
streaming into my world.
But as soon as I started
to achieve success
and thought, "This is pretty amazing,
I'm actually feeling
what I wanted to feel my whole life,
I'm at this place, I'm recognized,
uh, I'm doing things...
What the fuck is it gonna be like
when I can't do this anymore?"
It's okay.
Don't let the right pelvis drop.
That's it.
So you want to stay nice
and in that neutral training region
of your pelvis
while your hip joint's moving.
[Whelan] Had a weird pain this morning.
-I, uh... Yeah.
-On the outside?
Which, I was like, "Probably need to find
that cartilage farmer."
-Cartilage farmer.
-You know, you probably just...
-The guy that grows the cartilage!
-...activated the muscle too quickly--
-It kind of was like--
-Jammed together?
-When it's raw up in your tooth?
It's on the outside
rather than the groin area, right?
-Yeah, or the labrally thing.
-The labrally area.
[Whelan] I have a labral tear.
A lot of people have it.
Some people can continue
to dance through it.
I've tried and tried and tried
for the past, like, ten months,
and tried everything.
It's debilitated me to a certain level,
so I've just focused
on certain pieces that I can do.
I don't have to do Nutcracker.
I don't-- I want to do
the fall season, but...
-I was wondering about that.
-I have to just let it go.
Yeah, I have to let it go.
Do you have to have surgery
or something?
I do.
-You do?
-Yeah. Hopefully I'll be back
doing something at City Ballet.
It depends on how I heal.
I'm trying to get strong in certain areas
and be really ready for the surgery,
so I'm trying to be wise beforehand
to counter a lengthy recovery,
keep it as short as possible.
So, like, how do you feel today?
[tsks] Well...
Other than sore.
Really sore!
What is the procedure?
Like, give me a little information.
I don't really know anything.
It's just an arthroscopy,
so it shouldn't be a big deal,
-but they go in two sides--
-Oh! hip.
-They clean up a tear that's in there.
I just-- I'll be so excited to know
that it goes well,
and then hopefully will feel a bit
like my old self again.
It's hard for me to believe I'll ever
feel like that, but I hope I will.
You can head in that direction.
[pensive piano music]
My whole career, 43 years of dancing,
I've had such minimal pain.
That's a really lucky thing,
but two of the last three shows,
to cross from one side
of the stage to the other,
the pain I felt, just walking, was...
it's just shocking.
And, uh, Dr. Philippon
called me on the phone,
and he said that he thought
that surgery could really help my issues.
He's one of the top
hip specialists in the world,
and he's designed surgical treatments
for torn labrum.
That's why a lot of athletes go to him.
Like, big-time athletes.
Because they need
to get back in the game, and...
I guess I'm one of those people.
Need to get back in the game
'cause I don't have
a ton of time left at my game.
If you'll just-- right now,
if you'll have a seat right, and then--
[indistinct chatter]
-So, Dr. Philippon saw you--
-Thursday, yeah.
How long's your hip been bothering you?
-Um, almost a year.
-Almost a year.
Like, September last year.
Yeah, where does it bother you?
Uh, where does it not bother me?
-Um, a lot in the front.
-Some in the back.
-Any problems with your left hip?
No, not that I know of.
-Any problems with your back?
-I have some scoliosis, yeah.
Dr. Philippon was very impressed
that I made it this far
with the back the way I have it, so...
-So, whoa.
You've done a pretty good job
of dealing with that curvature, so...
Okay, so we talk
about possible labral debridement,
-repair, or reconstruction.
So, the labrum's the little bumper
that's around your socket.
There's a chance that it's torn,
and he'll use sutures to repair it
-back down to the socket...
...or there's a chance
that it's really badly torn,
and in that instance Dr. Philippon's
developed a technique
where he'll reconstruct it, taking
some tissue from the side of your...
from the side of your hip area.
My first ever IV.
[woman] That's incredible.
This is quite a costume.
It's hysterical.
Yay. All right, I'm sending this one.
So, we're ready to roll,
and we'll do the epidural in the room,
and we'll, uh,
get you going on your recovery.
Awesome. Thank you so much.
Okay. Any questions?
No, these guys have me covered.
-They're all amazing.
-Okay. All right.
-Thanks. Okay.
-See you in a few minutes.
What I do now is I just kind of
gently outline her anatomy...
-Right hip.
-[woman] Right side.
Okay, doctor, gonna start here.
[woman] Nine CCs.
[indistinct] ...standby, please.
Let's turn this off
in the background, okay, guys?
So, Wendy...
Everything is going well, Wendy.
-Yes, everything is going very well.
[drill whirring]
So, we're gonna need
to micro-fracture fixes right now.
Creating channels for the blood
to come to the surface
and create powdering.
Are you comfortable?
It's amazing to me, as a surgeon,
to see what kind of abilities
she has with this hip that's...
extremely, extremely inflamed.
Ballerinas are probably God's...
best athletes.
-This is her labrum, and--
-Look at the tear, ooh!
-It's ragged.
-Wow! No, it's entirely blown out here.
Okay, guys, we're ready for the graft.
So, we're introducing the graft.
This is a reconstruction of her labrum
that will help her stability,
and help protect her cartilage.
[Whelan] I've been lucky to have had
a very strong body
that has kept me basically injury-free.
When you've been doing it
for your whole life,
since you were three years old...
it's pretty hard to think
that you're not gonna put
pointe shoes on someday, you know?
Ballet is a very specific design
of movement and physicality.
You can master it for a certain amount
of time to a certain degree,
but then it will end.
You might not necessarily know
when that's gonna happen... [chuckles]
It might just kind of bite
you in the butt.
It can really surprise you when it's like,
"Oh, God. I used to do that.
I can't do that anymore. I worked
for 20 years to be able to do that.
I mastered it,
I did it, I did it, I did it...
I can't do it anymore."
It's really depressing.
You know, and you'll never
really do it again, possibly.
-[woman] It's done!
-[man #1] You look good.
-[man #2] You look great.
-[man #1] You look really good.
-[woman] Your first surgery.
-My first surgery.
-And hopefully your last!
[all exclaim] Yes!
She told me all the things they did.
Do you have any numbness still?
I have numbness all over still.
Okay, that's good. That's great.
I just started
to do the little tiny bit of...
-Good. Good!
-Can-can down there.
-But your blood pressure is good.
-Your heart rate is good.
-Thank you.
I'll let you rest. All right. All right.
How am I doing this? Aah... ha ha!
Get this leg up under you.
I'm holding this leg,
so you don't put anything on that.
Okay. I did it.
-I'm still holding this one.
[Whelan] I am doing so well.
Yeah, my motion is way better today.
Hi, Dummy!
Good to see you walk.
Wen! Wow, wow!
That's good!
-Right on.
I would say
that was worth a trip from Berlin.
...make it? Good.
[Philippon] Come over.
We'll view the X-ray.
-This is after the surgery.
And the most important thing,
for me, is the joint space.
For me the two-millimeter rule
is very important.
She's just at two or above,
so it's very important.
Especially for her
if she's gonna keep dancing.
I keep mentioning that you
can see her spine.
[Whelan] Isn't that weird?
It's crazy, that top one.
-She really has the--
-It's like, "Aah!"
She had a bad scoliosis.
Despite the scoliosis, her pelvis...
-[man] At a level.
-Very level, so it's amazing.
So, do you think this two-millimeter thing
is gonna get smaller?
-If I keep it strong?
I think the key's your muscles.
If I had come a little later,
I might not have been as lucky, right?
Later, I wouldn't have done it.
-We wouldn't have be able to--
-Couldn't have been able to do it.
[horns honking]
[screams, laughs]
Don't make me fall!
I actually wanted to ask you
just before, are you getting calls...?
-Are you getting calls from there?
-New York City Ballet?
-Yeah, like, people saying hi.
Yeah, no, not many,
and then I've read places
that people are now calling me
the former ballerina
of New York City Ballet.
Eww! You're Wendy fucking Whelan.
I know, but, like, a lot of people think
I retired already, yeah,
and I'm just like, "Really?"
People are getting the message
because they don't see me onstage,
whether it be because I'm not cast
in something or because I'm injured, so...
It's just, you know, weird, ha ha.
Whenever that comes,
do you have a vision for a program, for...
Not really, but deep down
always wanted to, like, slip out.
I don't want to make it
feel like there's an end,
and when you have confetti
and flowers come down on you,
it's an end, right?
-Versus just a progression into...?
-Yeah. Yeah.
I'm about exploring.
I'm not about, like,
what I did and it's over.
I'm not, I mean-- So, what I kind
of want to end on is something new.
And I do it once.
I do it one time, and then I leave.
-Let's see first-- Let's get these...
You don't need them anymore.
Look at that!
[laughs awkwardly]
...little bit before we start doing that.
It's not like it's--
It doesn't hurt at all, it's just jumping.
Stretch it a little bit this way.
Ahh! I think that's from the past year.
We're going to Lynn Goldberg's house.
She's a real good friend of a lot
of the dancers, including me.
Uh, should be fun.
I haven't spent a whole lot of time
with dancers lately,
so should be kind of weird
'cause I don't--
definitely don't feel like
a dancer right now.
And... um...
Jock Soto will be there.
And Jock is one of my, um, partners
from my career at New York City Ballet.
We had a really
kind of celebrated partnership...
for 15 years or so?
[music playing]
He made me look and he made me feel
like a really great dancer.
It's hard to find a partner
that makes you look that great.
You know, ballet is handed down
from generation to generation.
Jock's a generation before me,
and I'm a generation before my partners,
Craig Hall and Tyler Angle.
And Jock's most recent partner
before me was Heather Watts.
Heather taught him how to partner her,
and I helped my partners,
Craig and Tyler, take on Jock's roles.
So it's very much like woman to man,
man to woman.
[Hall] Wendy was very patient with me.
I think when I got out there,
my biggest problem was
I didn't know how to breathe.
I was so nervous and scared
to work with her.
[Angle] By the time
I was dancing with Wendy,
which was even after Craig,
I mean, she was already
the finest instrument,
you know what I mean?
She was already the Stradivarius.
And so we had to start learning
how to play that instrument.
Right after Jock left the company,
we danced After the Rain together.
When I started,
I was clearly trying to mimic Jock,
but she didn't want to dance with Jock
through me, you know?
She wanted to dance with you.
She wanted a level
of collaboration and commitment
that I didn't fully understand
until my partnership with her.
I mean, you just had to be there 150%.
[Hall] At first, I think it scared me
because there was such intensity,
and I wasn't at that level.
It's like, "This is too much."
Like, "Calm down, please."
But she, like, drew me in
and it's like, "No, I'm not.
I'm, like, bringing you into a world
that you will learn to love."
[Whelan] When you dance together,
you fall in love.
You know, you really do,
you love that person.
And I've, you know, I feel that way
for all the guys I've danced with.
Oh, my God, that Wendy Whelan
is so heavy.
All she eats is pizza and hamburgers.
And just beer.
I mean, hello!
Oh, everybody!
Shall we put you on the rocking chair?
Wah-wah! Whoa! Aah!
That would be really attractive.
It's slippery in here.
-I'm gonna take these off.
-She knows what she's doing.
Um, can you put those somewhere?
Yeah, Wendy,
I feel like the worst friend ever.
I haven't seen you yet.
You've been busy, girl.
I know, it's been nuts, but...
-Come here!
-How are you feeling?
-Don't drop the wine, though.
-I know.
Good! Mwah!
So good to see you.
Nice to see you! Mwah!
Have you been dancing your buns off?
Well, this week, yeah,
'cause there was some injuries and...
[Whelan] You look so good.
[indistinct comment]
Yeah! What's going on this week?
What do you have coming up?
-Did you do-- did you do any--
-You did Western, right?
-Yeah, one night.
And then after the season,
is there a break?
We have, like, five days.
Then we go to Japan.
-Oh, five days.
I'm so out of everything.
I don't look at the--
The schedule comes every night,
and I go "delete!"
-So I have, like...
-It's better that way.
I can't, yeah.
[Whelan] When all of this started,
I was having a bit of a phase
at New York City Ballet where...
they were sort of taking me
out of things
without talking with me about it,
sort of things that I've always done
were all of a sudden not mine anymore.
And this happened at the same time.
I can't take personally the fact
that a lot of people,
like my boss, Peter Martins,
or certain ballet masters,
like, literally don't speak to me at work.
I'm only assuming that
that kind of behavior
is the message for me to go.
I even had a meeting with Peter Martins
a couple years ago
when all this started,
and he basically said, you know...
like, it's hard to say it,
'cause it's kind of devastating,
but he took me out of The Nutcracker.
He said, "I don't think
you should do this anymore."
Two years ago.
And I was like, "Why?"
And he said, "Well, it's up to you.
I mean, I'm just trying to make...
I just don't want people
to see you in decline."
And I was like...
"I'm... I'm in decline? Am I that bad?"
He's like, "No, no, you could do
a lot of things still."
My little prince in The Nutcracker!
I had never, ever been told,
"If it's my call,
I'm not putting you on stage."
Couldn't believe it.
So, that was two years ago.
My body started hurting that January.
I've never been in pain my whole life.
My toes never bled,
my back was fine.
I mean, I had little issues
here and there,
but I had never been
in debilitating pain
until I had that meeting.
And it, like, started to eat me up.
It started to take everything from me.
It started to steal what I had,
and things started
to, like, I'm out of control.
I can't do...
And it-- it was just the weirdest thing.
And it was, like,
fine before that meeting.
Oh, they can hear me coming.
[people chuckling]
They're getting very squeaky.
They're getting old
and they're ready to retire.
-Wendy, how are you?
-No! Hi! I'm good. How are you?
-It's good, good.
-Good to see you.
-No, but I know--
-Should I just get rid of them?
-Come on in.
-I'm so ready!
I know she's done it already.
-I haven't!
-No, she hasn't.
-Trust me. Believe it.
Here's what we're gonna do.
Let's have you walk to that room there.
-Keep the crutches on...
-All right.
-But, uh, just, like, heel--
-Do the 50?
-Yeah. No, no, do the whole weight.
-Normal weight?
Yeah, normal weight,
but keep the crutches on just for balance.
It's gonna feel funny at first
because you haven't put weight on it.
[laughs] Yeah, it's really weird.
I feel like I've been drinking.
Because sometimes the foot
will feel numb, actually.
Wow. Makes me lightheaded a little bit.
-Is that normal?
Please say it's normal. Okay!
Okay, now, bring both
of your knees to your chest.
Mm-hmm. Just using my stomach?
Yeah. That's parallel.
Yeah, that's excellent.
Let me take a picture of this.
I'm gonna blot your eyes, Wendy,
so nobody's gonna see you.
Oh, I'm actually... pretty open to...
I'll be proud.
-But keep, uh...
-No, okay.
-Usually what I see, Wendy...
-Mm-hmm? this leg drags behind,
and yours is perfectly parallel.
-Close. It's a little bit--
-That's definitely--
-It feels a little bit, just, not--
Oh, my God! Watch, watch, watch, watch!
Oh! Oh, my gosh!
Now can you carry me back?
That's good. You'll be, like,
dancing, like, in no time
'cause you're strong.
-Well, he asked me today...
...what... when I wanted to try
to start dancing,
and I was like, "Well, I didn't know
I had the option to tell you, like..."
I wouldn't think so, either.
I said, "Well, if I...
Do you think I could dance
at the beginning of December?"
And he said, "I like the sound of that."
-Really? Wow.
-Yeah, so... Yeah.
I remember that
when we were doing The Nutcracker,
and we were taking ballet
at Louisville Ballet School.
-Oh, yeah! I have pictures from that, too.
-Yeah, me too.
How old were you when you stopped
-Well-- 22.
-Twenty-two. I left at 22.
You don't miss it, though.
You're good now, right?
No, I miss. Like, it's hard for me
to go to ballets.
-To see ballets?
'Cause you remember--
you know what it feels like to do them.
That's why I said you're
gonna miss Nutcracker.
You're gonna sit in Nutcrack
and I go, "Oh!"
But it-- but it took you a little while
to, like, once you didn't,
you were, like,
"Am I a dancer? What--"
"What am I supposed to be
when I grow up?"
Yeah, what am I supposed
to be when I grow up?
I don't know.
Little Wendy, 12 years old.
In Louisville, Kentucky.
This was a ballet that
my very favorite teacher, Robert Dicello,
choreographed on me when I was 12.
And he said to me,
"You're really, really talented."
And he said, "I thought to myself,
'God, is Wendy a prodigy?'
And I came to the realization
that you are not a prodigy.
And I'm so happy, because when you
finally make it,
you're gonna be so much happier
because you're gonna
have made it on your own.
It will be because you put in
all the work yourself."
And then, when I was, like, 12,
they discovered that I have scoliosis.
And I had to go into traction
and do all this crazy stuff,
um, but my body really responded to that.
I grew an inch and a half in a week.
Um, my doctor told me I needed
to wear a brace for a few years...
and as soon as I got that brace,
I could take class again.
So then I came to New York at 15,
by myself, and went
to the School of American Ballet.
You know, I wasn't necessarily
a beautiful girl
when I got into the company.
Definitely when I got into the company.
I'm beautiful now! [laughs]
But I didn't know my...
I didn't know beauty in myself.
I knew strength.
As soon as I got into the company,
Peter Martins was bringing in
these contemporary choreographers,
and I really, really enjoyed the process
of working in the room with them...
especially Christopher Wheeldon
and Alexei Ratmansky.
What made you want to work with Wendy
specifically, compared to everyone else?
Well, there was something in, um...
like, I would call it
the proportions on the body
that are so unique.
And then I think there's a connection
between the music and Wendy.
I take the music home a lot
and I listen to it,
-especially after you would give steps.
-You prepare...
You give steps that day,
and-- or Chris does the same thing,
so I play the music at night
and go over the steps,
and I'll maybe come in
with more coloration for you,
-and then you either erase it--
...or you build on it, so, yeah.
She's inspired us to make
our, maybe, best things.
[Whelan] When I started to work
with Christopher Wheeldon,
his first piece was
a different kind of piece for him.
[Wheeldon] Through the process
of creating polyphonia,
Wendy helped me to kind of unlock
a new way of working.
She encouraged me to be
more inventive with my movements.
She encouraged me to be
more creative with my music choices.
She represented something very fresh,
something very modern,
a different type of ballerina,
unlike any that I'd worked with before.
[chuckles] Okay.
Fresh start.
-We'll use this, okay?
-Okay. Mm-hmm.
So, nice and easy. Start parallel.
-We're just gonna do... First. Okay.
And port de bras.
One, two, three, four.
Port de bras forward, if you want.
And come up.
Then port de bras up and back.
I'm pretty good.
You're more than pretty good, Wendy.
-Inner thigh good there?
-Yeah. Uh-huh.
Good. Now tendu, and let's not do fifth,
but let's do a third.
-I'm happy with that.
-That's a very good third.
I'll take that. I've done this on stage
when it's supposed to be a fifth.
Well, I think-- I mean, anyway,
moving forward, this is your first barre.
When do you think I might be able to go
into, um, like, Dze's class
or some kind of-- like a--
-In a while? January?
January what? [laughs]
Like, I'd say four weeks from now.
-For real?
Fuck, man, I have to rehearse
with Alejandro the first week of February,
-if I can.
-Okay. That's fine.
[Whelan] Knowing how much I can work
in the future, in the way I want to work,
is a really... question
left to be answered.
You know, I might have already retired
if it doesn't come back
to where it needs to.
I might have already retired
without knowing it
or planning it.
[Neal] In some ways,
it feels like it's yesterday
that I retired and stopped performing.
But when you left, you left.
You were gone in, like...
I was gone four days later.
After my retirement show.
I think you feel a well of emotions,
and some of them you can predict
and some of them...
-you can't predict...
-...some of them don't hit you until...
-...much, much later.
It's a huge emotional process
of letting go of something
you spent your whole life
trying to achieve.
-It still is to me.
-My identity's so wrapped up in it.
Well, in our generation,
in my generation, for a girl,
and going into Balanchine world
it's like, you don't have babies,
you don't have a boyfriend,
you don't get married,
you know what I mean?
I remember thinking as a young start-up,
"No, you can't do that!
I could never do that.
I'm all or nothing."
And that's, like, I chose that route.
[Whelan] I have a few really good friends
leaving the company this year.
For the most part they have a place to go
and count on a job.
They've wanted this kind of job
for themselves, I think.
They've been teaching
or they've been coaching,
and they've positioned
themselves for this.
And I never... saw myself doing
what they're doing.
But, you know, the body's...
a big thing when you want to just keep
doing more of what you've done.
As a young kid, there's so much hope.
You don't see the end.
You think, "Oh, I'm never gonna die.
I'm never gonna, you know, get weak,
I'm never gonna break.
I'm gonna be this, like, strong
blossoming thing forever."
Then reality...
It's like living in a fantasy world
for a long time, like...
most of your life,
and then realizing,
"Well, fantasy's over."
It's, like, really weird, really...
And part of me's embarrassed
'cause it's like,
"Well, grow the fuck up, Wendy!"
You know, you're 46 years old
and you're still dreaming
like you're a teenaged kid.
Straight knee.
-You all right?
I know that it's unrealistic to think
that I can dance ballet forever,
but maybe it's possible to keep dancing.
-Did you want me taller?
-But that will be okay.
[indistinct comments]
Contemporary dance might
give me that opportunity,
just by letting me focus
on what I can do.
I'd like to really sort of expose
myself a little more
and express myself a little more
in ways that I can't necessarily do
in just the ballet.
I kind of want to open up my--
my-- my world a little bit
and step out,
as scary and uncomfortable as it is,
but just I wanna-- I wanna see
more of what's in me with that, so...
'Cause there's a lot in there.
Just haven't tapped it yet.
-[Abraham] Hey.
Baby-faced Kyle. You shaved!
Yeah, you know, trying to be, like,
you know, your age.
I'm trying to be like your age!
Forget about yours!
Oh, well, you know, took ten years off.
Ten! It's, like, ten, ten, ten.
[Whelan] So I had this idea of working
with contemporary choreographers
that I really love in a project
that I call Restless Creature.
After Restless Creature--
you know about that a little bit, right?
-Tell me about it.
-It's what I'm doing right now.
We have the Joyce commissioning us.
-We have Caroline Performing Arts.
And, um, we're touring it
all next year.
Okay. It's so important
that you take the next step,
so I would be really keen
to help if we can.
So, is this going
to be the vehicle for you?
[Whelan] This is my first vehicle.
Oh, sorry.
I ended up deciding to work
with four young, male,
contemporary choreographers
because they would all be
so different from myself.
Let this come down the arm.
-You go like that. Yeah.
And I will, luckily, get to dance
with each of them in their own piece.
[sighs] The only thing
is that one little...
It's okay, it's just...
And one-- Could there maybe be
a different position that we could do?
It might-- I would-- I might like that?
Okay, let's-- let's investigate.
[woman] Where can they see you
performing Restless Creature on tour?
We go to Boston,
we go to Pittsburgh,
we go to Louisville, Kentucky,
we go to Chicago,
the Joyce, um...
Princeton. Yeah, so...
Look on
It should tell you where we will be.
-Oh, my God!
-Hi, Davidson!
-Hey, boss!
-How's it going?
We have heroin strapped to your back.
I do have, like, a heroin patch.
That's intense. Wow.
-Is it, like, morphine, or--?
I don't know what it is, but it's working.
-That's awesome. Drugs!
And really just see if your legs were,
just like, amoeba-like, yeah?
[Whelan] I think about Restless Creature
as opening up dancers' eyes
as to other things you can do
besides ballet,
other things you can do
when ballet's too much for your body.
-Don't sweat, or else--!
-That's different.
-That was great.
-All right--
-I'll try to retain that.
I think-- I think going forward this way
is pretty good.
-It's when I'm supporting it.
-[therapist] When you're standing on--?
That, it doesn't... Wow.
-Come up.
It doesn't want to come up?
I can go down,
but the coming up is, like...
It's like, "Uh!"
It doesn't like that move.
You feel stiff?
I mean, I sound like a--
I sound like cement everywhere.
-You don't feel like cement.
-So stand up.
-Oh, God. Okay.
...lately, 'cause this is
a little bit funky, but...
That means you're doing too much.
Okay. I know, I got the message!
Oh, I know, but I'm just telling you
that's what--
when that starts to manifest,
it means you've done too much
-and you've gone too far.
'Cause we need to keep that at bay.
I haven't really spoken to my boss,
Peter Martins, since last April.
And then I got an email yesterday
from his secretary
saying he wanted to speak with me,
and, you know, that's always cause
for me to, like, you know, worry.
I can't predict
what he wants to talk about,
except for my retirement
from New York City Ballet.
So, that's, uh...
not an easy topic for me.
-Sean! How are you?
-Hey, I'm good. How's it going?
You going in? I'm gonna go with you.
-How's it going? Yeah.
-I'm walking!
So I didn't know,
you know, what to expect.
[woman] And they called you?
They called me out of the blue,
and he says to me that the board
questions him all the time,
"Where's Wendy? How's Wendy?
What's up with her?"
and he doesn't have an answer for them,
and he's embarrassed
-that he doesn't have an answer.
-That's funny.
Yeah, so he's just like, "I figure
I should start having some answers."
So, did you talk about winter
or spring or anything like that?
Well, he started to talk about, um...
He's like, "You know..."
I told him I didn't think
I would be back before March,
so I was planning on doing the spring,
and then he said, "Well, you know,
I'm getting ready to program '14 and '15."
So I said, "Well, '15," I go,
"I won't be there in '15."
And he was like, "Really. No?"
I said no. I said, "'14 will be 30 years,
and I don't want to go to 31."
Thirty years is good for me.
So, fall of '14.
Well, that is amazing.
That is much better than...
-I expected.
-Me too.
I thought he was gonna hand you
your walking papers.
[laughs] Me too.
[Whelan] You know, maybe Peter
kind of planted the seed
to, like, leave it open for me to say it,
and he put that bullseye out for me
and gave me the power to throw the dart,
and I did it, but it was my choice,
and I said it, and I didn't have
to be prompted to give it.
Hopefully tour Restless Creature
in March and April.
In May/June, I'll be on stage
with the New York City Ballet.
And then the fall, little final romp
with the New York City Ballet,
and feel like a strong, good ending
to 30 years there.
-[people] Hello!
-Hi! Come on in, guys!
Hey! [laughs]
[Whelan] This came out.
Oh, I remember.
Can you get this
at, like, a Barnes & Noble?
Soon. I think it's not quite yet.
Wendy, this is pretty hot.
We went-- we went a little crazy, but...
'Cause a lot of it we talked
about trying to transform myself.
Obviously, they transformed me
in the next photos, so...
-Is this you?
-That's me.
-Oh, my God!
-That's what I mean!
They did all,
like, this transforming stuff.
Yeah, I had big boobs in.
And I literally--
Well, actually, the other photo,
I bent forward,
-and they fell on the floor.
It was really, really loud,
and it was really, really funny.
Like, it literally, no, it went "boom"
right on the table.
-The gods were laughing.
-Hey, we don't have to see that in this...
No, just the secret behind this photo.
[Ibrahimof] Yeah.
Oh, my gosh! She's so naughty.
So, we're all here, and we want to hear
what Rob had to say.
He definitely feels pretty adamant
that New York City Ballet
should be announcing you
stepping down.
Okay, so some of the things
that we will mention in our press release
is, you know, this date
is the last performance,
um, program to be announced,
um, and then number two,
Restless Creature is going
on a six-week tour,
these are the cities.
We will need to talk to the cities
and just get approvals.
[man] Hi, everyone!
Welcome! We're actually doing this!
Okay, going up?
[Michalek] Josh's piece looks
really amazing against black.
[Whelan] Mm-hmm.
And I know you wanted black, right?
[man] Yeah. Yeah.
We put it black.
-Oh, I know.
-Why not?
-It looks great.
-Then do it.
This is front light.
Um, and in general I have this--
Is this for, like, Joshua's vision?
Yeah, I think so, yeah.
[Whelan] Going into this new realm
of new choreography
and new artists that I don't know,
um, and having my name on it,
is really scary.
This looks great, Karen.
I love that.
And then look at this--
these will hook on that dress,
and its little things...
Was this for Alejandro?
You know, I have to be in charge,
and that is just new for me.
...the velvety...
I always thought,
"Oh, I'm not ready for that.
I'm still a dancer."
But you were.
Well, I don't know if I'm still--
I don't know if I'm ready.
That's the thing.
But the-- but the beauty
of your particular approach
is that you-- you actually weren't
strategizing all of those things.
You weren't living your life
like a chess board.
You were just dancing.
[man] Okay, two groups.
First group.
Half... Everyone, spread out on the floor,
make sure there's space.
[piano playing]
James. James.
[faint chatter]
Look at you sitting after my class.
I mean, when I was watching
before you knew I was there...
-I was watching you...
-This was irritating.
Okay, so it's hurting you.
I love how you came and pulled the cane
and pulled me out of the class.
And it's so nice to see you,
like, in that element...
-...where you belong.
-Like, you...
-Well, where I used to belong.
-You do.
-Where I will belong again.
-You do, I mean...
-I hope and pray.
That's the first time I've watched
you in class, and it's beautiful. It is.
But I also appreciated how much force
you're putting through your body.
-It's a lot.
-And it doesn't mean--
-I'm just-- and that's, like, low for me,
-so, like, I mean, normal?
-It's high. It's beyond high
for any normal person
having had your procedure.
But I used to-- yeah.
I know, but I just did what I--
what I did before.
Is that okay?
Was I supposed to not do that?
Well, we were thinking
of just doing barre with...
-...very early center work, and that's it.
-Oh, okay, I didn't--
-I didn't get that.
-So not two hours of class.
I didn't get that full message. Oh.
I just-- once I start doing
the pirouettes,
I start actually feeling
like I'm moving,
and that feels really good.
Right, but I think it's probably
what feels good to you
in your mind and perception--
My body's not ready for it?
Your hip is fatigued by that point.
[Whelan] I was getting ready
to go to class this morning,
and I hear this crash, like, sound
in my living room,
and I look, and sitting on top
of my air conditioner outside
is this giant hawk.
I've never seen anything like it.
It's kind of like...
"Why'd you come to my window?"
I was told by people
that when a hawk visits you,
it's sort of a message.
After weeks of struggling
with this constantly,
not knowing can I do
what I'm supposed to do or not?
What am I-- What--
What-- what's the answer?
I got the answer,
and I made this decision.
And I called my manager
and just told him, "I can't do it."
I need to focus on getting back
to the ballet.
Dude, you didn't mention anything
to the guys yet, did you?
What are we looking at, exactly?
My first Restless Creature show
is March 18th,
and I can't even get through
my own class right now.
Right. Mm-hmm.
And every night, I'm limping.
And that's when the show has to happen.
-Nobody wants to see a lame--
-No. No, no, no.
-Absolutely not.
-Old ballerina.
-No, no-- Don't say that.
-Trying to, like...
Mm. Here, they're calling me.
-[man] Hello.
Hi, Wendy.
Hi, Ilter. Hi, Courtney.
I can't see you guys. Is that okay?
[Ilter] That's fine.
Um, it's going to be very tricky
for a lot of reasons...
Um, we feel we should go ahead
and cancel the tour
and offer postponing it.
I'm-- I'm very happy with that.
Hopefully that will help
your mind and body at the same time.
I hope so.
[Courtney] You're gonna feel really good.
This is the last thing I wanted to do,
and I put it off for so long, but...
Um, there was no-- no way out.
Well, have a great evening.
All right, you too.
Well, that works for me.
That's great. That makes sense.
I got really scared for a second.
-No, no, no, that's the right solution.
I'm proud of you, honey.
-Thanks, honey.
-Very proud of you.
I guess I have to go now.
It's in the paper.
So, hopefully, if all goes as planned,
I'll be able to perform again
in three weeks,
at the opening night
of New York City Ballet's spring season.
You can't get it to work?
Well, we haven't used
this one since, like...
Well, that's...
Can I ask how this...
I don't remember ever having
to use this machine.
I have a very different hip joint
than I've ever had in my--
-It's like a whole new thing in there!
-That's okay.
-It's like a different car to drive.
-That's totally fine.
-I love that.
You might change your mind soon.
No, are you kidding me? Maria has
a new left foot every day she comes in.
Oh, yeah, that's probably true.
Do you want to shut the door?
[Whelan] What's all my fault?
We were just talking about you.
[appreciative noises]
So good to see you!
I'm so glad to see you!
What's going on?
You feel good?
Um, I'll talk to you later.
[somber music playing]
[soundtrack] This bitter earth
Well, what the fruit it bears
-Was that fun?
-Um, it was, except--
I couldn't stop smiling.
It's a very serious part,
and I kept just being like...
-No, you guys, no--
-Like, "I see you!"
I, uh, after my class I had to get a cab
because I couldn't walk to the subway.
I literally could not walk,
and I almost canceled.
At acupuncture yesterday--
I got up this morning
and went to class.
I kind of did some-- our exercises
and stuff on the floor,
just the simple stuff,
like, reaching out and stuff.
And then I got up and I had the...
And I went over to my coach
and I got dressed,
and I limped like a crazy person
out of the building,
like, embarrassed
because I was with people,
and, like, it was very obvious
that I could barely walk.
And I got in a cab
and was like, "Take me home."
When am I gonna know
that I'm gonna be able to do this again?
When am I gonna know that I'm safe
For all the years I've been
with the New York City Ballet...
I have never been this...
Even Michelle, my PT,
she said to me, "You know, Wendy..."
[woman] Top of the relev...
"...all along we didn't really know
if this was gonna work.
This was never a sure thing."
-[woman] Up. Good.
-[piano playing]
Good. Up.
Good. Up.
Good. Up-- good!
Good. There you go.
Good. Stretch. Good. All right, not bad.
-[piano stops]
-Tiny bit better.
Tiny bit. You all right?
Monsieur! [speaks French]
-Now, of course, we won't have that, yeah?
And this will all be in.
Yeah, this will all get cut away.
[Whelan] Can this be a little bit lower?
Tell me what you think.
Well, we're trying to keep
it kind of boaty, so...
-But I think if you feel uncomfortable,
it could probably lower half an inch.
If it's okay. If it's not...
-I say okay.
-We have 24 hours.
-[woman] Totally doable.
-[man] Yes, of course.
[woman] Of course!
[soft exclamations]
[knocking on door]
I have flowers for you.
It's not my retirement yet!
I know, but you're back!
[exclaiming, laughter]
-Thanks, Abby.
-I'll see you out there!
[somber music playing]
This bitter earth
Well, what the fruit it bears
This bitter earth
And if my life
Is like the dust
The highs
I know all the lows
-Welcome back.
What good am I
-You did it!
That was so great. You did it!
[clapping, chuckling]
Thanks, Marika.
Gorgeous. It was beautiful.
So good.
I started to cry.
Thank you, guys, so much.
I'm sure someone may answer my call
And this little earth
May not
Oh, be so bitter
After all
Albert, look at you.
-[indistinct exclamation]
-[audience applauds in distance]
That was the best!
[chuckles] Oh!
To a beautiful performance, Wendy.
-To friends.
-To Wendy.
-Old friends, new friends.
[Whelan] I did think
I might've come up with my last show,
like, program, this morning
when I woke up.
-Did you see it in a dream?
-Was it in your head?
I-- Like, I-- you know how you wake up
with a really clear mind,
and I just, like, had it.
I woke up, and it was just, like, clear.
I was, like-- Sort of clear.
Are you allowed to share?
My idea of doing-- I'm having--
maybe something new--
New piece that would be
just for that night only.
- One time only
-By whom?
-[man] Like, yeah.
-Half by Chris and half by Alexei.
-And they've already said yes.
So a little...
You're not being super ambitious
or anything.
No, no! But, you know, make it, like...
-Beefy night.
-Your night.
-A beefy night.
-A beefy night!
[woman] Wendy Whelan's beefy night.
[woman] Subtitle, right there.
[Perron] How's your body holding out?
[Whelan] In, um, April, my internist
said, "You're gonna get an MRI."
So I went to get the MRI,
and then they said,
"You have compressed nerves,
and you have stenosis,
and you have stenosis
at the L-3, L-4 vertebrae,
which presses on the nerve
that goes into your hip.
So it's been there the whole time.
I didn't know that two things
were gonna come together
and collaborate on this pain!
So, but I found it out,
which, you know, luckily I did,
and it is getting better.
-So, are we going this way?
-Yeah. Yeah.
And then take a little left.
But I can't go by this block.
Every time I do,
I think of Janie and Jennie.
-Oh, yeah, and they're both gone.
It always seemed like people
retired too early.
I mean, it just seems like both Janie
and Jennie were really dancing fully...
They weren't dancing enough, though.
-They weren't cast enough.
-They were-- they were, you know,
-feeling that same energy.
-How are you? Good to see you.
-Hi, honey.
[stuttering] Oh, my God,
you've gained so much weight!
-I know, it's unbelievable.
-It's scary!
-All the time.
I've been emailing with Chris
about the new thing,
and he's under the gun
with American in Paris, as well,
a little bit, so he kind of needs
to know when we can work,
and I said I don't know
if we can put that on the schedule.
-Yes, we can.
-We can?
-Of course.
Does he have a preference when
at the end of the day?
I like 5:00 to 7:00.
-Something like that.
Will you be alive between 5:00 and 7:00
between everything else?
-Yeah. Yeah, I will. Yeah.
-Thirty years.
Since you started, pretty much.
I remember it was...
As it was yesterday, Who Cares. Workshop.
I remember it was like yesterday.
Oh, yeah? You know what I remember?
I remember Carin saying to me
in rehearsal for Who Cares,
"Which role do you wanna do?"
And I said,
"I want to do the jumping girl."
And she said, "Well, Peter wants you
to do the turning girl."
I was like, "Why did you ask me, then?"
[laughs, claps]
-And you did the turning?
-I did the turning girl, yeah.
[piano music playing]
-Here we go. Ready?
The first thingy, yeah.
[music starts]
[whispering] Six, seven...
That way, yeah.
[Wheeldon] Okay, good. Good.
-[siren wailing]
So, that motion is interesting,
and now it looks a little bit like--
because you're thinking about
having to get her over your shoulder,
we're losing that natural momentum.
I wonder if some way you could do,
come down off pointe?
If that does anything interesting.
You know what, I don't want to pli
on that-- in that weird position.
In that-- in which position?
Wherever it is that happens--
'Cause it hurts, or just 'cause it's--
Well, it did the first time, and it just
feels weird to come off pointe there.
-'Cause it's already over.
-So to come off, I have to go back.
Back, yeah.
What if I turn you when you're down there.
Like, if you came to me
and I let you turn down here,
-and then we came--
-[Wheeldon] Oh, maybe.
-'Cause I'm, like, walking around--
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It's a tricky balance
'cause she's off her leg,
so you're walking around her off the leg.
What if we maybe, like--
Whoa, that scared the shit out of me.
Really, truly. I was like, "Wha!"
Are you gonna do that again?
Just so I know.
-Not if you don't want to.
That's what I was thinking of,
turning the arms...
It felt not safe at all to me,
but I do trust you, Tyler,
so we can try it again.
What if you just turn and-- Sorry.
If you keep this arm--
if that arm stays up,
what if she just stayed
in, like, one arm?
What if I didn't run around?
-Like, what if we just--
-Oh, that's pretty.
Oh, that's beautiful. Okay, that's it.
-There it is.
-That's the version. Sold.
-Sold to the man in the plaid shirt.
And it was, you know,
it was relatively inexpensive.
I mean, I'd say it was a little expensive,
'cause there were
a couple of moments there--
I might need to see a doctor.
We might need to get her
a doctor's appointment, but...
I just feel like it's short.
-This side is short.
But by doing class,
and, you know, when I do class,
I really try to push this--
open this side up,
but I'm feeling really tired.
So maybe you need some rest.
I don't know, I can't really rest
'cause I have to do my thing.
[piano playing]
[indistinct comments]
[Alexei singing] One, two, three
Correct. Four.
[Whelan] Alexei texted me
last Thursday out of the blue.
I knew he was working on this new piece,
and for sure I wasn't gonna be in it
because I'm only here
for a few more weeks!
But he really, really hoped
I would do it,
and, um... I was like,
"Oh... is this real?"
And lean away on one,
so it's too soon before you-- yeah.
[Whelan] At 47 to be in a new ballet,
it's pretty awesome.
It was the best thing ever for me,
the best thing ever.
[spirited piano music]
A month or two ago I didn't expect to be
doing the level of work that I'm doing
to the degree that I'm doing it,
keeping up
with those 20-year-olds, you know,
in a new work
and by a really difficult choreographer
that makes meaty, difficult steps.
[Ratmansky] Lower.
Look up. Look up.
And the ladies, look up.
Didn't expect to be doing
as well as I am
and to be thriving and feeling
an active part of the company again...
just in time for me to say goodbye.
But now it's like, "Oh, man,
I could do this another season."
You know, I could.
Oh, my God! How are you?
Are you ready for that night?
-I don't know!
I mean, I think of all you guys
and I'm like...
-They did it. calm you were.
Yeah, it's calming.
I mean, you just take it in.
I hope so. Jenny Ringer was just,
like, unbelievable when I watched her.
Are you gonna lay down
on the flowers like Albert?
I love that!
Then you get a little flower bath.
Cut my shoes off and throw 'em out.
I don't know. I don't know.
I tell people this all the time.
You changed how the profession--
It's not even the art.
It's who you are as a person.
You changed how people behave
in this profession.
-They're gracious.
They're kind. They're nice.
Every time you walked into that theater,
you knew everybody's name
-on the stage crew...
-Yeah. the costume department,
every dancer.
People didn't do that before.
They just said, "Get out of my way."
[woman] ...we'll just do one full company,
and then curtain in and go front pop.
[man] I mean, the second time around...
[Whelan] It's just not
a typical thing to do,
to really pair two
of these great choreographers
that are so extremely different
up in one piece.
[indistinct chatter]
And it's nice to do both sections now,
the Chris Wheeldon
and the Alexei Ratmansky section,
and see how they talk to each other
and feel how different
they are from each other.
Neither of them talked the whole time.
Chris, or, like, say-- you know,
none of them knew
what the other one was doing.
Alexei had played on the first piece
that he ever made on me,
which was Russian Seasons.
He took the first steps that we ever
made together nine years ago
with the last step that he made for me
about two weeks ago,
and he made with that his piece.
So, it's like...
Those two guys in particular,
but, you know, I have relationships
like that with so many dancers.
That is the thing that really, you know...
tears at my heart is those relationships,
and it's like...
there's nothing like those relationships
that you make with the...
[indistinct comment]
Christopher Wheeldon
brought us all together.
-That's right.
-One of your first things?
-Yeah, one of my first things?
-And one of your first things, right?
You know what I find amazing, though,
You guys can fix and do anything now.
-I'm not--
-We don't believe it.
-I'm not kidding.
Like... like, you guys are now masters.
I think we're gonna run out
of flowers in here soon.
[man chuckles]
-[woman #1] That's awesome.
-[woman #2] Yeah.
Gotta have it.
I'm a little scared to go into this.
It's too intense.
I can't take it right now. I'm gonna start crying.
-[man] Well, then we'll take this away.
-As soon as I--
No, don't take it. Don't take it from me.
We just need to take it out because
you don't want to get high before...
I don't wanna-- Yeah, I do.
Here, I'll...
I started dancing with him...
nine years ago?
And we first did this in Germany on a gig,
the first time we ever danced together.
This is really gross, but, um...
He said, um...
We were practicing
in front of the Hamburg Ballet.
We were on the stage,
everybody's watching us,
and he's, like, fudging with me.
I'm like, "Dude, make it smooth.
Figure out how to fix this.
Make it smooth. Don't bump me."
Yeah, right.
So the first thing, he's like,
"I'm trying, I'm really trying."
I go, "You've gotta just, you know,
I don't know what it takes, but--"
He's like, "My thumbs are in your armpit,
and I really don't want to hurt you."
I go, "You can stick your thumbs
up my asshole. I don't care.
-Just make it smooth."
And he goes...
And then we finished.
The show went great.
And I said to him, "Did I actually just--
Did I say that to you?"
-Three minutes.
[stereo] I don't know what it is
that makes me love you so
I only know I never want
to let you go
[classical music playing]
[man] Ladies and gentlemen, please
remember to turn off your cell phones.
[music playing]
[music halts]
[music playing]
[new song begins]
[new song begins]
[Whelan] I think for 30 years I thought,
"What would I do
without New York City Ballet?
What will I-- How could
I ever leave, you know?
Oh, it'll be the end of me.
I'd rather die," you know,
and so maybe
I'm a different person than I was.
Maybe I grew up.