Christopher Wheeldon

Last updated

Christopher Wheeldon
Christopher wheeldon 2022 1.jpg
Born (1973-03-22) 22 March 1973 (age 49)
Yeovil, Somerset, England
Education Royal Ballet School
Known for Ballet
Notable work MJ the Musical · Alice's Adventures in Wonderland · After the Rain · An American in Paris · Les Carillons · Carnival of the Animals · Carousel (A Dance) · Cinderella in the round at the Royal Albert Hall · DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse · Estancia · Evenfall · Five Movements, Three Repeats · Ghosts · Klavier · Liturgy · Morphoses · The Nightingale and the Rose · Polyphonia · Rococo Variations · Scènes de Ballet · Slavonic Dances · La Stravaganza · Variations Sérieuses
Awards Prix de Lausanne

Christopher Peter Wheeldon OBE (born 22 March 1973) is an English international choreographer of contemporary ballet.


Life and career

Born in Yeovil, Somerset, to an engineer and a physical therapist, Wheeldon began training to be a ballet dancer at the age of 8. He attended the Royal Ballet School between the ages of 11 and 18. In 1991, Wheeldon joined the Royal Ballet, London; and in that same year, he won the gold medal at the Prix de Lausanne competition. In 1993, at the age of 19, Wheeldon moved to New York City to join the New York City Ballet. Wheeldon was named Soloist in 1998. [1]

Wheeldon began choreographing for the New York City Ballet in 1997, while continuing his career as a dancer. He retired as a dancer in 2000 in order to focus on his choreography.

In 2001, Wheeldon became the New York City Ballet resident choreographer and first resident artist. He was productive in this position, choreographing a number of much lauded works for the troupe, Polyphonia being the first. He quickly developed a reputation as a talented choreographer, and several other eminent ballet companies, such as the San Francisco Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, and the Royal Ballet, London have commissioned dances from him. As of May, 2003, Wheeldon had composed at least 23 works.

In November 2006 Wheeldon announced the formation of Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, a transatlantic company with a US base at New York City Center and in the UK at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London. In its first season, the company performed in Vail, London and New York. [2] Wheeldon completed his tenure as Resident Choreographer of New York City Ballet in February 2008. [1] In 2009 the City Parks Foundation commissioned Wheeldon and contemporary singer/songwriter Martha Wainwright to create a new work. The piece, entitled "Tears of St. Lawrence," premiered at Central Park SummerStage on 14 and 15 August. The fifteen-minute ballet, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and Edwaard Liang, featured twelve dancers accompanied by live music and song by Wainwright, who sang while intermingling with the dancers. In February, 2010, resigned from Morphoses, which will continue to produce ballets without his name. [3]

An Emmy award-winning fly-on-the-wall TV documentary "Strictly Bolshoi" followed Wheeldon as he became the first Englishman to be invited to create a new work for the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet.

In the June/July 2009 issue of The Advocate, Wheeldon was featured on a list of artists who made the "Forty Under 40" list. [4] Christopher Wheeldon was appointed Artistic Associate of The Royal Ballet in 2012. [5]

In 2011, Wheeldon premiered a full-length ballet "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" at the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden. This was the first full-length ballet created at the Royal Ballet for over 20 years, and was jointly commissioned with the National Ballet of Canada. The ballet had its world premiere on 28 February 2011 (with Royal Ballet principal Lauren Cuthbertson in the lead role) and featured a brand new score by Joby Talbot. [6]

In 2014, Wheeldon premiered another full-length ballet, The Winter's Tale for the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden based on the Shakespeare play of the same name. It, too, featured a score by Joby Talbot and has been given a generally good review - 'a ballet to keep' says The Daily Telegraph .

Wheeldon was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for "services to promoting the interests and reputation of British classical and theatrical dance worldwide". [7]

In December 2016, Mr Wheeldon premiered his freshly choreographed Nutcracker along with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Instead of the traditional upper class party scene, Wheeldon has opted for a 'shack scene' which will take place in Chicago's south side. Marie will then be introduced to the enchanted world of sweets and foreign places.

On Thursday 6 June 2019, Wheeldon's Cinderella in-the-round with English National Ballet was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall with over 90 dancers, and projections which created the fairytale setting.

On February 1, 2022 MJ the Musical opened on Broadway. Wheeldon was nominated for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography at the Tony Awards, winning the latter. [8]

Personal life

Wheeldon married yoga instructor Ross Rayburn in 2013. The ceremony took place on Fire Island, NY and was captured in a Vimeo video by Daniel Robinson. [9]


See also


  1. 1 2 Brown, Mark. "Ballet world abuzz at British choreographer's huge gamble," Manchester Guardian, 5 January 2007.
  2. Playbill , New York City Ballet, January 2008.
  3. Club Pointe, February, 2010
  4. "Issue Number 1027 | Forty Under 40: Arts |". Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  5. Christopher Wheeldon Royal Opera House, accessed 19 December 2012
  6. "Christopher Wheeldon – People – Royal Opera House". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  7. "No. 61450". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2015. p. N26.
  8. Evans, Greg (13 June 2021). "Michael Jackson Musical 'MJ' Hits Broadway In December; Ephraim Sykes In Title Role". Deadline Hollywood . Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  9. "Wedding of Christopher Wheeldon & Ross Rayburn Recap" . Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  10. ""Ballet Oscar" winners honored at Bolshoi". Voice of Russia. Retrieved 30 April 2014.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frederick Ashton</span> British dancer and choreographer (1904–1988)

Sir Frederick William Mallandaine Ashton was a British ballet dancer and choreographer. He also worked as a director and choreographer in opera, film and revue.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joby Talbot</span> Musical artist

Joby Talbot is a British composer. He has written for a wide variety of purposes and an accordingly broad range of styles, including instrumental and vocal concert music, film and television scores, pop arrangements and works for dance. He is therefore known to sometimes disparate audiences for quite different works.

<i>Romeo and Juliet</i> (Prokofiev) 1935 ballet by Sergei Prokofiev

Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64, is a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. First composed in 1935, it was substantially revised for its Soviet premiere in early 1940. Prokofiev reused music from the ballet in three suites for orchestra and a solo piano work.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Royal Ballet</span> Ballet company in the United Kingdom

The Royal Ballet is a British internationally renowned classical ballet company, based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England. The largest of the five major ballet companies in Great Britain, the Royal Ballet was founded in 1931 by Dame Ninette de Valois. It became the resident ballet company of the Royal Opera House in 1946, and has purpose-built facilities within these premises. It was granted a royal charter in 1956, becoming recognised as Britain's flagship ballet company.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Ballet School</span> Classical ballet training facility in London

The Royal Ballet School is a British school of classical ballet training founded in 1926 by the Anglo-Irish ballerina and choreographer Ninette de Valois. The school's aim is to train and educate outstanding classical ballet dancers, especially for the Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kenneth MacMillan</span> British ballet dancer and choreographer (1929–1992)

Sir Kenneth MacMillan was a British ballet dancer and choreographer who was artistic director of the Royal Ballet in London between 1970 and 1977, and its principal choreographer from 1977 until his death. Earlier he had served as director of ballet for the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. He was also associate director of the American Ballet Theatre from 1984 to 1989, and artistic associate of the Houston Ballet from 1989 to 1992.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wendy Whelan</span> American ballet dancer (born 1967)

Wendy Whelan is an American ballet dancer. She was principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and performed with the company for 30 years, and toured in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Whelan has also been an influential guest artist with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. In 2019, Whelan was named Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leanne Benjamin</span> Australian ballet dancer

Leanne Faye Benjamin is a retired Australian ballet dancer who was a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet in London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jock Soto</span>

Jock Soto is a former American ballet dancer and current ballet instructor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wayne McGregor</span> British choreographer and director

Wayne McGregor, CBE is a multi award-winning British choreographer and director. He is the Artistic Director of Studio Wayne McGregor and Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet. McGregor was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) 2011 for Services to Dance.

An American in Paris is a one-act ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, to the eponymous music by George Gershwin, costumes designed by Holly Hynes, sets designed by Adrianne Lobel and lighting designed by Natasha Katz. The ballet premiered on May 4, 2005 at the New York State Theater. Wheeldon later directed and choreographed the musical adaptation of the An American in Paris film.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Melissa Barak</span>

Melissa Barak is a choreographer and ballerina. Since 2006 she has danced with the Los Angeles Ballet and with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, formerly having danced for New York City Ballet.

Chroma is a one-act contemporary ballet created by Wayne McGregor for the Royal Ballet. The work received its premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 17 November 2006. The ballet is performed to a combination of original music by Joby Talbot and arrangements of music by Jack White of the White Stripes, with orchestrations by Christopher Austin. The ballet was a great success, winning a number of awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production, and led to The Royal Ballet appointing McGregor as resident choreographer.

The National Dance Awards 2008, were organised and presented by The Critics' Circle, and were awarded to recognise excellence in professional dance in the United Kingdom. The ceremony was held at the Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, on 26 January 2009, with awards given for productions staged in the previous year.

Polyphonia is a one-act ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to music by György Ligeti, costumes designed by Holly Hynes, and was created for the New York City Ballet. It premiered on January 4, 2001 at the New York State Theater. It is regarded as Wheeldon's breakthrough, and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2003.

The Winter's Tale is a ballet in three acts choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to a commissioned score by Joby Talbot. The ballet is based on the play of the same name by William Shakespeare. With scenery and costumes designed by Bob Crowley, lighting designed by Natasha Katz, and special stage effects designed by Daniel Brodie and Basil Twist, it was a co-production of the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada. It was first presented at the Royal Opera House, London, on 10 April 2014. The North American premiere occurred the following year.

Norman Alexander Morrice was a British dancer, choreographer and artistic director of both Ballet Rambert from 1966 to 1974 and the Royal Ballet from 1977 to 1986, the UK's two major ballet companies.

Within the Golden Hour is a one-act contemporary ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, composed by Ezio Bosso and featured music by Antonio Vivaldi. The ballet premiered in 2008 at the War Memorial Opera House, danced by the San Francisco Ballet.

Corybantic Games is a ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to Bernstein's Serenade after Plato's "Symposium", with costumes designed by Erdem Moralıoğlu and sets designed by Jean-Marc Puissant. It premiered on 15 March 2018 at the Royal Opera House, danced by The Royal Ballet.


New York City Ballet
Preceded by
Inaugural holder
Resident Choreographer
Succeeded by