Wendy Whelan & Brian Brooks in First Fall.
Photo-Kentucky Center


Kentucky Center presents “Restless Creature

Review by Eli Keel

Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Eli Keel. All rights reserved

Louisville likes to give love to its famous daughters and sons, a fact made apparent by the all but sold out crowd attending Wendy Whelan’s “Restless Creature,” May 23rd at the W. L. Lyons Brown Theatre.

Whelan was born and raised in Louisville before moving to New York at 15 to join one of the most prominent ballet companies in the world. She climbed the ranks of the New York City Ballet, and then stayed at the very top for more than a decade. She is out of the ballet world now, and she brought her most recent project to share with her hometown.

“Restless Creature” is an amazing vehicle for Whelan. It shows that she is still in complete control of every ounce of the technical mastery that made her a Prima Ballerina. The evening is comprised of four duets, each choreographed and performed by a different artist chosen by Whelan. The use of divergent choreographers allows her to show off her ability to switch rapidly between different styles.

While the thematic and technical values of each piece can be compared and contrasted, everything the audience saw Saturday night was nothing less than incredible.

The evening started with Alejandro Cerrudo’s Ego Et Tu.

It began with moments of Cerrudo in solo. He quickly sketched out some movement phrases so that when Whelan appeared a few moments later, we got to see her take on his material.

From there the two join and dance together for the remainder of the piece.

The piece wasn’t thematically challenging, mining the intimacy and the closeness that is so often found in pas de deux. It was lovely regardless.

After a brief pause the evening continued with Joshua Beamish’s Conditional Sentences. It was the least emotionally engaging piece of the evening, but it made up for its lack of connection with a movement vocabulary that felt almost like word play.

The movement passages consisted of long phrases that felt very straight and contained, but just when it seemed that the entire phrase had a stick up its but, Beamish would inject a goofy wiggle, or an attitude filled head movement. Watching it almost became a game, trying to guess when the quirk would come in each chunk of movement.

Someone should pay Beamish to choreograph an Oscar Wilde ballet, because that’s what it felt like.

Kyle Abraham’s The Serpent and the Smoke, was the evening’s most approachable work. It combined a generally playful attitude with very visceral performance energy. Choreographer Kyle Abraham has said the piece was based on a story of snake that saw smoke and became enamored with it.

The evening finished with First Fall. It’s the most developed piece of the evening, the most challenging, and ultimately the most rewarding. It starts with an immediate tension between Whelan and choreographer Brian Brooks. While not unwelcome after an evening that had yet to generate much drama, the material seemed a bit old hat. Lovely movement of course, but thematically it was ground well trod as the fraught power dynamic between man and woman was physically playing out. About half way through, the piece changed entirely, with a series of dramatic falls performed by Whelan. Brooks didn’t “catch” Whelan as she fell so much as he placed himself beneath and broke her fall with his body. Multiple people in the audience around me literally gasped. More than just being an impressive physical display, the piece changed into something far more complicated and interesting on every level.

All in all, it was a stunning evening that showcased a wide selection of the very best of contemporary dance.

Kentucky Center presents “Restless Creature”

May 23, 2015

W.L. Lyons Brown Theatre
315 West Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202


Eli[box_light]Eli Keel is a Louisville based playwright, poet, storyteller, and freelance journalist. He has been published in Word Hotel, his plays have been produced by Theatre [502] and Finnigan Productions, and he was invited to read his work at the 2014 Writer’s Block. He is a frequent contributor to Insider Louisville, where he has been given the (informal) title of “Chief of the Bureau of Quirk.”[/box_light]