From Prince to King?

PNB principal Olivier Wevers debuts his own dance supergroup, Whim W’Him.

By Jean Lenihan December 9, 2009 Published in the January 2010 issue of Seattle Met

THE “PRINCE” HAS grown up. For the last 12 years, Olivier Wevers has been the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s most reliable dancer, carrying lead roles in story ballets and experimental works alike. He transitions easily between Cinderella’s Prince and “the prince of abstract”—hence the courtly nickname. But this month, the 38–year–old will strike out on his own, debuting his new dance company Whim W’Him with a performance of the ensemble piece Three Seasons. It’s a playful, provocative piece showcasing familiar Seattle dancers in new contexts—swapping gender roles, breaking classical ballet lines, and donning neo–tutus.

“The only thing that has worked for me is to do what I love and be passionate about it,” says Wevers as he pulls up rehearsal photos of Three Seasons on his laptop. The tall, boyish blond scans the photos quickly, pointing out moments he finds particularly successful: a pair of kissing couples, one standing, the other tussling on the floor; a magical vision of three women in wild Baroque hoop skirts.

Though Wevers still dances full time for PNB, the Brussels–born wunderkind has also been choreographing steadily over the last few years, with commissions for Spectrum Dance Theater, PNB, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet. His upcoming three–night run at On the Boards should stand out further, highlighting a spontaneity not often seen in the ballet. For Three Seasons, Wevers actually choreographed all four seasons, and each night he’ll flip a coin to determine which one will be left out. Another coin toss will decide the music for the evening: the original score for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or composer Byron Au Yong’s contemporary take.

The truncated program speaks to society’s fixation on disposable material, Wevers says. In the hands of lesser talent, Three Seasons could be overly ambitious, but Wevers has assembled a dreamy team of collaborators—Au Yong, menswear designer Michael Cepress (costumes), and Portland designer Michael Mazzola (lighting)—and top performers from Seattle’s hottest dance communities: PNB, Spectrum, and the independent modern dance scene.

“Everyone working on this piece is fantastic—the very best,” Wevers gushes. His closest friends at PNB urged him to form Whim W’Him and signed on as founding company members. His best friend (and ex–wife) ­Kaori Nakamura and his new husband Lucien Postlewaite serve as his muses and “security blanket.” “I totally trust them, and they keep me in check,” Wevers says. “They are my biggest fans—but also my biggest judges.”

X Stasis, choreographed for PNB in 2004, and Fragments, created for Spectrum in 2007, will open the evening. These ballets represent Wevers’s initial foray into choreography, while Three Seasons displays his “departure.”

“This is where I am going, and I am very excited…I invest myself, I live life. And it would be great if there is someone who discovers a new path to ballet with this show.” This could begin a new reign of dance in Seattle. We’ll be on hand for the coronation.

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