A legendary dancer takes the big screen
We attended the opening night special screening of RESTLESS CREATURE: WENDY WHELAN at Film Society of Lincoln Center.
From the film: Film subject and New York City Ballet Prima ballerina Wendy Whelan, filmmakers Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger, executive producer Diana DiMenna were in attendance.
The film offers an intimate portrait of Prima ballerina Wendy Whelan as she prepares to leave New York City Ballet after a record-setting three decades with the company. One of the modern era’s most acclaimed dancers, Whelan was a principal ballerina for NYCB and, over the course of her celebrated career, danced numerous ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, as well as new works by more modern standout choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky; many roles were made specifically for Whelan.
Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger:
Q: What was it like to direct this film?
Adam: It was a pleasure to be able to capture Wendy at that moment of time in her life and to explore ballet from that perspective. And getting to understand a dancer’s life, we were thrilled to have that opportunity.
Linda: And then there was the whole aspect of getting to know her as a person and finding out how sincerely humble she is and how she is just an amazing human being. It doesn’t matter how great of an artist she is, she is a wonderful human being.
Q: What made her an interesting subject to document?
Adam: I think because of her history of her life, being one of the greatest dancers of our time. And being able to explore that moment in time where you are making a transition, where she is trying to figure out, ‘what am I going to do next in life? How am I going to continue to create?’
Linda: Her tool is her body and she may in her head know exactly what to do but her body needs to keep up too. This is her vocation of ‘how do you let go of something.’ And to be at that level of greatness, how does someone like that let go of that?
Q: Were there any challenges in creating this film?
Linda: Ballerinas don’t show pain.
Adam: And she was in a great deal of pain but she would never show it.
Q: How was it like to document her during her injury considering she doesn’t like to show pain?
Linda: We have hundreds of hours of footage and we had to find anything where she is rubbing her hip, an expression on her face, anything. We had to find something because it did not convey. And when we found out that she needed to have surgery we were like, ‘what,’ and when we found out the level of pain she was in during her performances, it was crazy.
The film opened at Film Forum and Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in NY on May 24.