Dance History Quiz | Wendy Whelan’s Balanchine Debut

Wendy Whelan’s Balanchine Debut

1 Former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan’s first performance in a Balanchine ballet took place April 30, 1983, when, as a School of American Ballet student, she danced a corps role in Western Symphony. What other important event happened on the same day?

a. Balanchine sent her a personal congratulatory note.
b. Balanchine offered her a company contract.
c. Balanchine told her he doubted she had a future in dance.
d. Balanchine died.

d. Balanchine died.

Wendy Whelan recalled the events of April 30, 1983, in a May 2017 story in the New York Times. She explained that she heard the news of Balanchine’s death at about 11 a.m.; her performance in SAB’s annual spring workshop was set for 2 p.m. (She went on to explain that while she had never performed for Balanchine, he had passed by her once in a hallway.) On that day Whelan was 15, “the newest and youngest in my class,” she said, and after eight months at SAB was facing the matinee performance with “joyful expectation.” Heading toward Lincoln Center, she passed company dancers wearing sunglasses, heads hanging low, sobbing and hugging each other at the news of Balanchine’s passing. “I was so new, only beginning to sprout my roots at his school, much less his company, but I wasn’t about to crumble,” Whelan said in the Times. “All I wanted to do was to slip my body into Balanchine’s choreography that day, to feel his life in his work, to get to know him through his dances.”

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