By Christopher Heide
Olivier Wevers’ Whim W’Him ballet company is on the cusp of a modern ballet evolution. In only its second year of existence, Whim W’Him has garnered tremendous critical praise and notoriety. Thanks to the evocative and innovative mind of Wevers, Whim W’Him holds the potential to become of the most renowned companies in the entire world of dance.
Whim W’Him is set to premiere its second season with a trio of provocative pieces entitled "Shadows, Raincoats, and Monsters," which includes “Cylindrical Shadows,” a collaboration with renowned European choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.
Throughout his career as a professional dancer, which includes a long-term stint as a principle dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, Wevers has been known for his drive, determination and sense of whimsy. In an effort to challenge himself creatively, Wevers decided to explore the dark side of human existence. Each of the three pieces focuses on a different “monster” that people deal with in real life. The three monsters are addiction, homophobia and volatile relationships, all of which are demons that Wevers’ has a personal connection to.
Throughout his choreographic process, Wevers’ most significant challenge has been how to effectively portray those demons. “It is important for me to tell a story that people will understand. I want them to be able to easily identify with those demons and monsters as the story unfolds before their eyes.”
“Monster”, the piece that depicts the profound effects that homophobia on two gay men is sure to garner the greatest amount of buzz, given its timeliness. Obviously, over the last few months, the issue of homosexuality and homophobia has been thrust into foreground of social consciousness. Relying heavily on cinematic movement, Wevers believes that “Monster” will evoke the greatest emotion reaction from the audience. When a preview of “Monster” premiered at Men in Dance last October, the piece received a standing ovation. Interestingly enough, Wevers decided to cover homophobia even before the string of gay suicides, something that he called “weird, yet appropriate timing.” Undoubtedly, “Monster” will continue to raise awareness to the difficult subject of homophobia, especially since it is a gritty, sensual and emotional duet preformed by two men.
“I wanted to also start having male dancers showing some affection for each other, slowly getting people to be more comfortable with that. And I was worried, I was like, ‘What if people are uncomfortable with two men hugging and dancing together?’ So I’ve been trying to inch closer to that comfort level,” Wevers indicated in another interview.
As with the other two dances, Wevers has a personal connection to the subject material in this piece- to the world of homophobia and bulling. As a teenager, Wevers was assaulted by a group of homophobic young men. “There were three other teenagers that just came and surrounded me and started pushing me around. I never took the subway ever after that and I still have a fear of taking any public transportation,” he said.
The whole process of staging this show has been something of an inspiring experience for Wevers, who believes in a collaborative process for staging his shows. “I am usually very rigid in the intentions and meaning of the movements in my choreography. However, I love to give my dancers a lot of material. I love seeing the spontaneous transformations and adaptations that seem to spontaneously arrive. It really elevates the show to another level,” he indicated.
“The last week of rehearsals has been my favorite so far. With the whole company there we can really dig and pick at the details. It’s tiring, but it allows us to hit the meaning behind the pieces head on,” he added.
At this point in his career, Wevers has danced for over twenty years. Due to his success, Wevers feels that he doesn’t have anything else that he needs to prove as a dancer. “I’m excited for my future as a choreographer. This hands on process of choreographing and creating… it really feels my souls. It’s so exciting to be on the cusp of reinvention,” he emphatically stated
.“As a dancer, you are able to be a little selfish. You really have to only worry about yourself. As a choreographer you are responsible for so much more. It’s more selfless. I have to deal with a lot of ideas and egos. I like that challenge.”
Undoubtedly, “Shadows, Raincoats and Monsters” will be a tremendous success and catapult Whim W’Him into the realm of greatness, as Wevers is definitely one to watch. In fact, this modern ballet has already premiered in New York, for which Olivier won rave reviews.