Wendy Whelan, Dance United and the Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus: Albert Evans with Wendy Whelan/ Photo by Paul Kolnik

I feel like a fool for missing that whole Transit of Venus astronomical spectacular yesterday. Unless they get those nano-bots programmed to start replacing human tissue with tough, elastic synthetics soon, I missed my last chance.

Or did I? Because on Saturday at Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Dance United benefit, with no danger of blowing out my retinas, I’m going to see the brightest of Evening Stars transiting the Keller Auditorium stage. I suppose you could call this Star, Venus, but her real name is Wendy Whalen, and she’s been amazing audiences at New York City Ballet since 1986. I could describe her dancing here, but why burn a lot of ordinary verbs when I can just show you the tape…

Above, she’s dancing the Arabian Dance in Balanchine’s Nutcracker, and maybe that’s enough to understand why she’s so great in Balanchine dances—the extension, the angles, the sureness, the suppleness, the musicality.

Whelan is a ballet star, but her story is pretty wonderful. This clip is a little longer, but worth it.

As that clip makes clear, she’s not just about Balanchine. In fact, here she is rehearsing a Christopher Wheeldon ballet, set to This Bitter Earth with Tyler Angle just last year.

Whelan isn’t the only performer Saturday night or the only star. The program is loaded with great dancers, including OBT’s own Artur Sultanov, making his last appearance at Keller before retiring. Let’s see: There’s Jeanette Delgado and Renato Penteado (Miami City Ballet), Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili (The Joffrey Ballet), Maia Makhateli and Tamás Nagy (Dutch National Ballet), Adrian Danchig-Waring and Whelan (New York City Ballet), and Garen Scribner and Dana Genshaft (San Francisco Ballet), not to mention OBT’s own dancers.

In other OBT news: Yesterday, I exchanged emails with OBT’s communications and marketing Supremo Trisha Mead and she said that an interim management team has been formed as  executive director Diane Syrcle’s tenure draws to a close (she’s jumping to the Oregon Symphony, remember?), and the first items on the interim management team’s agenda are figuring out the executive structure going forward and “working with the Non-profit Association of Oregon to identify someone for more immediate interim executive needs.” So that’s the latest.

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