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Get to Know a Creative: Choreographer Olivier Wevers

The Seattle choreography ingenue talks with Crosscut about insecurity, sex appeal and the power of brevity.
Olivier Wevers

Olivier Wevers

Whim W'him

Whim W'him Photo: Molly Magee/Bamberg Fine Art

Since founding the contemporary dance company Whim W’Him in 2009, Artistic Director Olivier Wevers has delighted audiences and critics alike with his mixture of humor, drama and inventive dance movement. Wevers, a former principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, founded Whim W’Him in 2009 as a showcase for his own choreography and that of other choreographers.

Since 2002, Wevers has created more than 20 dance works for Whim W’Him and Pacific Northwest Ballet, Spectrum Dance Theater and Royal Winnipeg Ballet, among other companies. He is a winner of the prestigious Princess Grace Fellowship and a Seattle Mayor’s Arts Award.

Alice Kaderlan: Are you still an “emerging choreographer"? If not, how would you characterize yourself in terms of where you are artistically?

Olivier Wevers: It’s an interesting question because I definitely feel a different kind of pressure, other people have different expectations and I have different expectations. Now, at the beginning of 2013, it’s been my first full year that I’ve been employed as a choreographer, so it’s the first time that I can say that I am living as a full time choreographer. I love it but the pressure and stress don’t get easier. It’s possible I may be more aware of the pressure because I’m not so naïve anymore about the way to do things. I’m more realistic about the reality of creating dances and the business of being a choreographer and of the limits I have to live with.

What limits?

When you start out, you dream of the things you want to do and the production values you want that turn out to be unreachable. At the beginning, I always figured there was a way to do what I wanted and my ideas were on a completely different scale with different expectations.

But limitations are a good thing because you have to figure out how to overcome obstacles. Now, my brain has more practice in finding solutions and making my ideas work. I have a company, fundraise and work with the Board besides hiring dancers, crew and designers. Before, I thought “Oh, it will just happen,” but I’m much more aware now of how this [running a company] all works.

How about the pure craft of dance making? Where do you feel you are with respect to that?

I have finally accepted that I have a voice, a way that I research things and a way of making dances. There was a time when I had ideas but I didn’t’ know if they were really working. Now I now that I love certain things and can go further with them.

Is that the result of greater self-confidence?

I don’t know, because I feel like I’m more insecure than ever because of the pressure. Any little mistake I make now, people will notice and I’m not an emerging choreographer anymore. When you create a work, you keep seeing the same things over and over. I’ve learned that I have to remove myself and look at my work from the outside.

Looking back at my earlier work, I can now say, “No this isn’t right, I need to highlight that, or tone that down.” It’s really hard to look at your own work objectively, but if you don’t the work can get so personal that you don’t consider the audience. And I always want to communicate with the audience. What’s the point if the audience is watching something so personal to me that they can’t relate to it? I want to create something that moves people, touches people and I’m learning not to take myself so seriously so I can do that..

It seems to me that one of the most difficult things about dance making is knowing how long to make a piece, especially today when so many contemporary works seem to go on and on. How do you know when a dance is the right length?


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jan 16, 11:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Fantastic interview!

Posted Wed, Jan 16, 4:01 p.m. Inappropriate

"Ninja bitches:" Not nice and not clever.

Posted Mon, Jan 21, 9:42 p.m. Inappropriate

It is a real art and a gift to be able to translate something you are so personally are attached to, into something that an audience can also relate to. Maybe you have to be split-brained or something! It is a delicate balance and Olivier manages to pull it off time after time. I always leave his shows wondering if I managed to get all the nuances and subtle messages. Always fascinating and leave you wanting more. Congratulazioni!

elasentia

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 1:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Swiftly - original name.

You quibble w/ moniker "ninja bitches". Have you seen his work - do you see the ferociousness and artistry of the female dancers in WhimW'Him? With the lines forming to the left of audiences and dancers (of both genders) wanting to see and to dance for this world class talent, your criticism is misplaced and sophomoric.

LeslieH

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