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 and began intense professional training at the Louisville Ballet Academy. At age 15 she moved to New York as a full-time student with The School of American Ballet. In 1984, she was named an apprentice with New York City Ballet and joined the corps de ballet a year later.
Ms. Whelan was promoted to soloist in 1989 and to principal dancer in 1991.
She 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. 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, Christopher Wheeldon again chose Ms. Whelan 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 performed 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. 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 toured the U.S. in January 2015.
Her second solo project, a full evening of new works, choreographed for Ms. Whelan and Edward Watson of The Royal Ballet, premiered at the Royal Opera House in London in 2015. In addition, Wendy was appointed an artistic associate at New York City Center for two years, starting November 2014.
Wendy Whelan is on the teaching faculty of Ballet Academy East.