Most of us know Wendy Whelan for fearlessly approaching difficult tasks, whether creating a role in a new ballet, undergoing hip surgery (on camera, no less), embarking on a self-produced touring project or taking on a brand-new leadership role at New York City Ballet, where she was a principal dancer for 23 years.
But what recently, uncharacteristically, scared the now associate artistic director of NYCB? Teaching her first Instagram Live ballet class from her second home in upstate New York during the pandemic, which she says gave her a panic attack.
"I was insecure about the connection I was going to make," she says. "I was insecure about not being able to see the dancers. I was afraid I was not going to be able to feed every person. I wanted to be a perfect teacher and fulfill everybody's needs perfectly. And I had to throw all that out."
In After the Rain with Craig Hall
Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB
Christopher Lane, courtesy NYCB
What has your journey to teaching been like?<p>What kept me from wanting to teach when I was dancing was that I always felt that I didn't know enough. But once I started, it was like I was on a 10-speed bike and I was just rolling. I was like, "Of course I know what I'm talking about; of course I can give a combination and come up with something on the spot; of course I have a lot to say." I enjoyed it way more than I ever thought I would. I think it's just finding who you are as a teacher. Because you don't have to be like that teacher you always loved. You bring out the best way of being a dancer and you bring out the best way of being a teacher, and it's very personal. </p>
Erin Baiano, courtesy NYCB