Iconic ballerina Wendy Whelan enjoyed a groundbreaking career, both in length and breadth. She danced with New York City Ballet for 30 years and has had more roles made for her than nearly any other ballerina. Despite her accomplishments, the last few years of her career at NYCB were riddled with worsening injuries and a creeping sense that others saw her as in decline. Whelan, like most dancers, knew her desire to perform would outlast what her body could do—at least within the confines of ballet.
Restless Creature, the new documentary covering her transition out of NYCB, hits select theaters in New York on May 24. It gives us a chance to look back on one of the most fraught times in Whelan’s life, when she was giving her all onstage at the Koch Theater, yet battling pain and self-doubt offstage.
Of course, now we know that even during difficult times Whelan was laying the groundwork for her total reinvention. She’s now a contemporary dancer—working on experimental projects at Brooklyn Academy of Music or exploring her ongoing partnership with choreographer Brian Brooks—and a mentor and dance educator. She even guest-edited the May issue of Dance Magazine!
In an interview with Vogue Whelan points out that for a dancer leaving a performance career the question isn’t, “what do I do now,” but rather, “who am I now?” Restless Creature allows viewers to see the full spectrum of struggle within that question, while knowing that Whelan forged her unique path through to the other side.