One of the dance world’s most glittering careers began with cereal boxes and toilet rolls. As a young boy in Somerset, England, Christopher Wheeldon spent a lot of time constructing cardboard scenery in his bedroom. He moved toys around these miniature theatre sets, placing them in configurations that pleased him. One of his proudest creations was a reconstruction of the set of the railway-themed rock musical Starlight Express, incorporating toy tracks that wound their way around the room.
“It was definitely an only-child pastime,” says Wheeldon, all these years later.
The imaginative only child grew up to be a celebrated choreographer – on the ballet stage and beyond. His 2015 Broadway debut, An American in Paris – a sumptuous musical inspired by the 1951 film – won four Tony Awards, including best choreographer. It has been praised for re-energising the endangered art of dance on the Great White Way.
This month, Wheeldon is in Melbourne for the Australian Ballet’s production of his celebrated contemporary work DGV, part of the Vitesse triple bill. Local audiences’ last encounter with his work was After the Rain, part of the company’s 2011 triple bill, British Liaisons.
Where After the Rain was quietly contemplative, DGV is electro-charged.
“It’s always nice to go back to pieces that you know work,” says Wheeldon, sitting in the stalls of the empty Palace Theatre in New York, where An American in Paris now plays eight shows a week.
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