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  • Whim W'Him Part Three

    In Part Two of our interview, Artistic Director Olivier Wevers revealed some of the challenges he’s had to face since birthing his new company, Whim W’him.  Continuing now in Part Three, Olivier shares the ways in which Whim W’him will be a unique force in the world of dance…

    Hannah Lagerway, Whim W'Him

    Hannah

    Class Act:  You speak a lot about collaboration and the process of creating new works. In what ways will Whim W’him be different from other companies? How will it be unique?
    Olivier:  One of the things I’m trying to do with this company first is to bridge the dance community a little bit. Because what I’ve witnessed in Seattle over the past 13 years that I’ve been here is all these different dance communities—ballet, modern, contemporary, independent artists—everybody’s trying to do their own thing. And I really want to try to bridge that gap. I mean there are so many wonderful artists and I don’t think you need to be selective of one style and classify that one style either. In the way I pick the dancers—having PNB dancers, those classically trained dancers, Spectrum dancers that are dancers that usually dance barefoot, and then some independent artists in town—I’m trying to put all those dancers that would usually not get to work together, get to work together. It’s bridging the communities in Seattle and I want to bring back artistic collaboration.

    Another thing that I’ve witnessed as a dancer is that so many people are blaming the economy that is so bad right now. So everybody is trying to do something like, “We’re going to create this ballet but we’re going to use this in-house designer, in-house lighting director, etc and we’re going to try to make it so that we don’t have to pay the orchestra overtime and such”. The resources are really limited, and it’s not just here but all around. So one of the things I really want to bring back is collaboration. Some of the greatest works to me are the ones that had a composer, a designer that was brought in, a few artists working on it, and a few dramatizers working on it. I want to go back to that. I want to be able to collaborate with other artists.
    It’s been really rewarding because for the past few months I’ve been working with a composer, with a costume designer, a fantastic lighting designer—they’ve all brought so much to the work, so much more than I could’ve envisioned just on my own.
    I get to do this because I’m also the one doing all the fund raising, so I know this is going to cost a lot more—it’s going to take a lot more time, more resources. But that also motivates me to work harder (at fund raising) so that I can do all the things that I want to do.

    Jonathan Porretta, Whim W'Him

    Jonathan

    Class Act:  That’s fantastic! I would love to see that happen again. It’s been years since you would even heard about any sort of collaboration going on.
    Olivier:  Yeah, that’s right! I see how it happens behind the doors. It’s not about the process anymore. Choreographers 20 years ago would spend months in the studio. For example, some people say Jerome Robbins was a genius, but he never just went in the studio and created a piece in two weeks. It took him months and he would re-work it, and re-work it, and re-work it in the studio. It was all about the process as well as the product. Then adding in collaborators as well—sets, music, designers. None of that exists anymore. The process now is, “How fast can you choreograph?” and then “Can you use this in-house person for this and that?” Not that these people aren’t talented, but when the work becomes so in-house, there’s no inspiration. Those people—the costumers, etc—don’t feel like they can say anything, so there’s no artistic exchange going on. It’s important for artists to be able to pick their own collaborators. You need to work with people you have an interest in working with and those who will inspire you.
    Class Act:  I’m really glad that your whole basis is about the process. It’s nice to see there are people like you who choose to develop as a dancer, and create a work of art rather than just a performance.
    Olivier:  You know, what happening a lot in ballet is that we’re settling. Yeah, it looks pretty and someone can produce it really fast. But imagine if that person could’ve spent another three weeks or a month or two on it, and could’ve worked with those other people gathering more ideas. Ballet to me is starting to look a little like a museum piece where you see the same things over and over. We need to keep ballet alive. I love all the pieces but if that’s all you’re giving, people are going to get bored with that. You need to push the artists, push the envelope. Discover new ways of connecting to the audience; discover new ways of doing ballet.
    Class Act:  I agree 100%. Years ago the character development was very different from what it is now. Dancers had to convey their character through every inch of their body. It wasn’t just “Here are your steps”. You had to make your character breathe through every inch of your being.
    Olivier:  That’s not what’s happening anymore. Once you know your steps, you get a show. I remember when I first started 20 years ago in Canada, I was coached my first time in Giselle. And I don’t know how many hours I spent in the studio just learning how to walk! You know, this ballerina from Russia was making me cry because I couldn’t do it right. I didn’t know how to walk on stage! And none of that is taught anymore; everything is just kind of taken for granted.
    When creating Whim W’him, I chose that name because I didn’t want it to be all about me. Like the Olivier Wevers project or company. I didn’t want that. I’m interested in bringing in different choreographers to work with these dancers of different backgrounds in the future. Therefore, I need to do more fundraising so I can start doing that. I want this to become a really collaborative and versatile company.

    Check back soon to read our forth and final segment where Olivier reveals some of the exciting upcoming reps from Whim W’him, the dancers who inspire him most, and his advice for budding artistic directors!

    Read more about Whim’Whim’s Performances January 15-17

    Tickets are SOLD OUT for this event but there will be a wait list each day starting at noon on Friday, and 3PM on Saturday and Sunday!  On the Boards box office 206.217.9888


  • Whim W'Him Part Two

    Interview: Olivier Wevers

    Part One of our exciting interview with Olivier Wevers detailed the purpose and mission behind his exciting new company, Whim W’him. Now in Part Two, Mr. Wevers speaks openly about the many changes that have occurred—both professionally and personally—since the birth of Whim W’him….

    Kaori Nakamura, WhimW'Him

    Kaori

    Class Act: How has your life changed since your company’s inception—as a dancer, as a choreographer, an artist and as a person?

    Olivier: (Gasping)  Oh my god—it’s totally changed!  I mean—(laughs)–I have no more days off.  That’s just being busy.  You know, every day off that I have, I’m trying to schedule a meeting or I’m working on the computer.  Usually my life before—the focus was really on being a dancer, which was really kind of selfish, because it was really just about the work I was doing.  So, I would wake up in the morning, get ready to dance, and when I was done dancing I could relax and do what I wanted, and I had days off that I would enjoy.
    Then I started choreographing and doing commissions for other places, and started having to run around town.  So, the last few years when I was choreographing, for Spectrum for example, I would rehearse at PNB until 3 and I would make sure to schedule a rehearsal for 3:30 at Spectrum—which would give me just enough time to get there—so I’d usually be eating in the car on the way there.
    Now on top of that, I’m also running this company, trying to do fundraising, scheduling–I mean everything.  I’ve been doing absolutely everything and it’s been crazy!
    Class Act: And yet, would you change anything about it? Would you go back to the way it was?

    Olivier: Well you know, it’s interesting because there are moments when I’m like, “What am I doing?  Why couldn’t I just live the way I was living, and just have time to relax, breathe, and not have so many responsibilities?”   I mean, there are huge responsibilities that come along with all of that, and then there’s the pressure.  I mean, there have been days where I just wake up and I don’t know where to start.   I don’t want to do anything and I’m like, “Can I just—go shopping?” He laughs.

    Class Act: (Laughing) But no, you can’t!
    Olivier: Right! So like, I’ve been asking my friends, “Is this “depression” or is this “overwhelmed” where I wake up and I just want to go back to sleep?
    Class Act: Oh, I’d like to say it’s the latter. But that makes sense. We all get so used to a certain way of life. Then one day we decide to turn everything upside down, shake it, then stand back and ask ourselves, “Now what?”

    Lucien Postlewaite, WhimW'Him

    Lucien

    Olivier: Right!  Exactly!   Also what has changed is that I don’t get my 8 hours of sleep anymore. Which I really loved to get when I was just a dancer; I really needed 8 hours of sleep!  That has come down a lot. Now, I wake up an hour and half earlier, and for more than an hour, I’m sending email and working on the computer.
    Then I take my class; usually after class I have phone calls to make or emails that I have to check.  Then when I have a full day at PNB, usually all I have time to do at night is come back here and finish my work and try to do it on my days off.  When I don’t have too much rehearsal at PNB, usually I’m rehearsing for the show that’s coming up in January, or doing my fundraising, or contacting presenters for future touring, or scheduling rehearsals.
    Recently we had this big fundraiser.  I had a volunteer who did so much work for me, which was great. But after that, I had to write more than 50 cards thanking the donors.  So there’s always work to be done. Constantly people that need to be talked to—lighting designers, composers, dealing with the costumes—I mean, it’s every aspect that I’m working on.  So usually, throughout the day, I don’t stop.
    Vala: It doesn’t sound like it! It sounds like you’re running around like crazy.
    Olivier: Yeah, it’s constant but it’s really exciting, too.  Actually, last night I went and saw a movie.  I mean—I just had to get out for a little bit.  So I started watching the movie, and then I realized—for like a minute—that I wasn’t even watching the movie.  Instead I was thinking about all the things I had to do!  And I was like, what am I doing?  I came here to escape!  So, I told myself just escape and I’ll deal with this in two hours, he laughs.
    Vala: Oh goodness! So were you able to successfully turn your brain off after that?

    Olivier: I was, I was. But only after I caught myself looking at the screen thinking, I don’t know what’s going on! I’m busy thinking about things I have to be thinking about.”

    Coming up in our third installment, Olivier reveals the unique qualities that not only set Whim W’him apart, but also breathe new life into the global (and local) dance community!  Check back soon to read all about it!

    Mark your calendars for the premier of 3 Seasons January 15-17, 2010 at On the Boards.

    By Denise Opper

    Media Relations: Vala Dancewear/Class Act Tutu

  • Whim W'Him! Part One

    Interview: Olivier Wevers

    Olivier Wevers is the embodiment of a classically trained artist. As a Principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Olivier has left his own indelible mark of perfection upon each role he’s portrayed. He is not only a seasoned artist, but a prolific and highly acclaimed choreographer, receiving numerous awards and accolades for his impressive work and unique style.

    Earlier this year, Olivier embarked on an exciting adventure of epic proportion. In collaboration with some of the most highly respected dancers from the Pacific Northwest, Olivier launched Whim W’him, a company designed to “provide a platform, centered around choreography and dance, for artists to explore their craft though innovation and collaboration.” (Quote Whim Whim.org)

    Recently, Mr. Wevers took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions from Vala Dancewear’s media liaison, Denise Opper. In part one of our series, Mr. Wevers reveals the inspiration behind Whim W’him….

    Whim W'Him

    Whim

    Class Act: First of all, I want to thank you, Olivier, for taking the time to do this.  We all truly appreciate it.

    Olivier: Oh, absolutely.  I appreciate it as well.

    Class Act: Let’s begin by discussing the inspiration behind your new company.   What made you decide to go ahead and branch out on your own?

    Olivier: Well, I have been choreographing for  7-8 years and, over the last few years,  I have been getting a lot of commissions.  Which have all been really great, but I’ve also been getting frustrated with how it all works.  You know, you only get a certain amount of time with a certain amount of dancers; sometimes they even give you the dancers. Then usually there’s no budget, it’s always as cheap as you can make it happen, how much product you can produce, and it has to be successful.  The final product has to be successful; they’re not really interested in the process behind it.  It just has to be something that will be enjoyable for the audience.
    Also, when you make pieces on different companies like that, you have to kind of set it to their style and their certain “voice”.  So you have to watch what you do, and make sure it is really going to fit that company.  It’s all been great and I love creating new works, and love working on these kinds of projects, but I’ve been kind of frustrated in my own artistic development, and I wanted to kind of “explore” more.   You know, have more time to rehearse, have dancers that I really admire, and that are really going to push me.  Then I wanted to not have to tell anybody, since this is my company, why I’m doing this or that, you know?  And if I fail, I fail.   I’m the only one responsible. But then that only means that I’m going to have to work harder to get the audience to come back.  I don’t have to prove anything to anybody, and I don’t have to fit anybody’s voice.  I can really do what I want to do.

    Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director - Whim W'Him

    Olivier

    Class Act: That is an excellent reason and answer! You’re right; when you’re working for someone else you have to make it fit their style, their voice.  But sometimes you just don’t have enough time to really get to know their voice, and yet you still have to make that product happen—yesterday.

    Olivier: Right, absolutely! It happens so many times where I’m really crushed for time and I don’t have time to rehearse, so I finish it the day before the show, and they don’t have time to really sink their teeth in.  And it’s choreography that I don’t really get the chance to explore.  It’s like I just throw it at them, like—"there it is, you have it, go do it".    It’s been great that way but now I’m really looking forward to having more time to explore.   Actually with Whim W’him, there was a piece I choreographed in June.   I videotaped it and watched it;   I wasn’t happy with what I ended up with so I just scrapped it completely.  But, really, that’s only a luxury I can afford by running this company and doing this with the time that I have.

    Stay tuned for Part Two of our interview with Olivier Wevers where he candidly reveals how his life has changed since the birth of Whim W’him! You won’t want to miss it!

    If you are in the Pacific Northwest, you can see Whim W'Him at On the Boards for the premiere of 3Seasons, January 15-17, 2010 as part of the Northwest Series. 

    Get your tickets, they are selling fast!

    By Denise Opper

    Media Relations: Vala Dancewear/Class Act Tutu

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