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Olivier Wevers: Making Dance On A Whim

Olivier Wevers remembers the first time he took a dance class; It ended badly. Wevers' mother found her very young son crying at the side of the dance studio.

"They gave me tights to wear," Wevers said. "I wanted a tutu."

Wevers' mother and father sat their little boy down and told him he had one more chance. If he wanted to take dance lessons, he had to follow instructions and wear what the teacher gave him.

More than 30 years later, Wevers can look back at a long and very successful ballet career, culminating in more than a decade as a principal dancer at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle.

In addition to his performance career, Wevers has always been interested in creating dances. He said he used to make routines for his fellow dance students in Brussels, Belgium, where he grew up. Then, as a young member of the corps de ballet at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Wevers returned to his flirtation with choreography. That final product wasn't a huge success, so the dancer tabled his interest for many years.

Flash forward to Seattle, where the Pacific Northwest Ballet has an annual showcase for dances created by its company members. After Wevers crafted a few pieces, the ballet's artistic director asked him to create a dance for a mainstage performance.

That lead to "Shindig," featuring some of Wevers' best friends. They encouraged the aspiring choreographer to start his own dance company.

In 2010, Wevers took the plunge and formed Whim W'him. He brought back his PNB friends to perform at the company's debut at On The Boards. Since then, Whim W'him has presented two four-night performances a year in January and May.

Over the years, Wevers has expanded his troupe to include dancers from all over the country. Last summer Whim W'him traveled to New York City to perform at the Joyce Theatre and audition more than 40 dancers to join the company.

Whim W'him has also expanded beyond just presenting Wevers' work. Three years ago, Wevers invited Belgium-based choreographer Anabelle Lopez Ochoa to create a dance for his company. And this year, a Spanish choreographer will make his debut with the company. Wevers said he hopes he can continue to expand his roster of dancemakers.

The geographic distance from arts hubs like New York or San Francisco can be make Seattle a challenging spot for creating contemporary dance. For one, there's simply more dancers in those cities. But the on the other hand, the choreographer has room to experiment and expand beyond the ballet roots.

"I have freed myself from some expectations," Wevers said, even while admitting that much of his work is steeped in his classical training. "I carry my baggage with me," he laughed.

Olivier Wevers' company Whim W'him performs January 17 - 19 at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.

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