2011 MUST KNOW: Whim W’Him Dance Troupe

Photo courtesy Kim and Adam Bamberg of La Vie Photography

The modern dance company opens its second season with further promise to bring ballet into the new millennium.

Whim W'Him ~ Photo: Marc Von Borstel

In Seattle, ballet has long been viewed as a classic and, to some, stuffy form of entertainment for the upper echelon. That was at least until Olivier Wevers stepped (or should we say pirouetted) onto the scene.

Wevers, a Seattle-based dancer and choreographer, originally from Brussels, Belgium, is best known for his work as a principal dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, but he’s also choreographed works for companies in three countries: United States, Japan and Canada.

After performing professionally for 20 years and choreographing for seven, Wevers came up with a whimsical idea. “There comes a point when you want to work with the same people but do your own things, not have to follow commissioned guidelines, so I started this company which opens up a lot more possibilities,” Wevers says.

Thus Whim W’Him was born. A name creatively produced from a collaboration of many sorts: Whim is for whimsical things. Add another Whim with an apostrophe, W’Him, meaning “with him,” ties in Wevers’ desire to work in a collaborated environment inviting other choreographers to create works with him.  And finally, it also just so happens that Wevers last name starts with a W. Creative and catchy.

Photo: La Vie Photo

The goal of Whim W’him is to create “work that has strong familiar elements, but challenges the audience with its themes, movements and choices,” Wevers says. It’s about moving away from strict classical ballet and incorporating modern dance, yet still including things like Pointe shoes without being stringent and rigorous.

Whim W’Him, a nonprofit that self-presents through a partnership with Intiman Theatre, performed its first work 3 Seasons in January of last year.

“Ultimately we love to dance, and we try to create an environment that is relevant to people’s lives,” Wevers says. “We want people to come see the show and think about what the theme is — and realize later it was valid. If we can make [ballet] relevant with social commentary that [people] can relate to, then we can make dance successful.”

Photo: La Vie Photo

The Whim W’Him dance troupe is made up of a combination of ballet and modern dancers with whom Wevers has worked in past productions as a dancer and choreographer, as well as those he had only seen perform, enjoyed their work and took a leap by asking them to join his endeavor. Mainly they are all dancers that inspire Wevers and with whom he has a desire to work long term.

“We’ve become a family,” Wevers says. “A great thing is seeing the modern dancers and the ballet dancers working together. For the ballet dancer, the challenge is to find that freedom, and for the modern dancer it’s to find the discipline to be more rigorous in what they do.”

Whim W’Him began its second season with three dance collaborations entitled Shadows, Raincoats & Monsters on January 14th.

“Cylindrical Shadows,” a new work by European choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, examines emotions connected with instantaneous loss and death. The performance also included “Monster,” a work that looks at various “demons” such as addiction and negative relationships, and “This Is Not A Raincoat,” which reveals “reality, perspective, protection and vulnerability,” Wevers says. (Both are choreographed by Wevers.)

With Wevers at the helm, Whim W’Him is sure to be anything but just a passing whim. He continues to look forward passed this second season; the goal is to bring Whim W’Him to a full-fledged company and continue creating new works.

“We want to be innovative,” Wevers says. “We want to be bringing people in and put Seattle on the map. We want to be able to tour and show what is being created here in Seattle by great Seattle artists.”

For more information on Whim W’Him visit whimwhim.org.