A Prima Ballerina’s final bow

Wendy Whelan, the prima ballerina and arguably the greatest ballerina of her generation, retired last night from the New York City Ballet. I wish I had seen her farewell performance, but I feel lucky to have seen her dance on so many other occasions. Most memorably in a rehearsal I was invited to watch back in 2004 when I served on a fund-raising committee at the NYCB. I remember being stunned by the beauty and perfection of Whelan’s dancing. Even in rehearsal, when other dancers simply “mark” steps, Whelan was so present and precise. Her timing was incredible and her performance–it was a performance more than a rehearsal–was sharp and crystalline. She was astounding to watch. I had once been an aspiring dancer so I had seen many great ballerinas perform–Suzanne Farrell, Merrill Ashley, Natalia Makarova. But this was different. There was something so unique about Whelan’s style and discipline. I rushed home and told my husband, who writes for the New York Times Magazine, that he had to write about Whelan. I couldn’t remember reading an in-depth piece on Whelan in any national magazine. (Here’s the link to my husband’s story) Whelan has retired from the New York City Ballet, but she’ll keep dancing. I’m excited to see what she does next.

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