Paula Zahn in conversation with Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan, the new artistic leadership of the New York City Ballet.

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GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'NYC ARTS.'

I'M PAULA ZAUN AT THE TISH WNET STUDIOS AT LINCOLN CENTER.

TONIGHT ON OUR PROGRAM WE'LL MEET THE NEXT GENERATION OF ARTISTIC LEADERSHIP AT TWO OF THE WORLD'S LEADING INSTITUTIONS FOR DANCE.

NEW YORK CITY BALLET, WHICH MAKES ITS HOME RIGHT HERE AT LINCOLN CENTER, IS ONE OF THE FOREMOST DANCE COMPANIES IN THE WORLD.

IT HAS A ROSTER OF MORE THAN 90 DANCERS.

AND AN UNPARALLELED REPERTORY OF MODERN MASTERPIECES.

FOUNDED IN 1948 BY THE LEGENDARY CHOREOGRAPHER, ART PATRON, THE COMPANY QUICKLY BECAME RENOWNED FOR ITS DISTINCTIVE STYLE AND THE ORIGINAL BALLETS THAT FOREVER CHANGED THE FACE OF CLASSICAL DANCE.

BUT EARLY ON, BALANCHIN MADE IT CLEAR THAT ESTABLISHING A BALLET SCHOOL WAS A PRIORITY.

A PLACE TO LEARN.

INSPIRED BY THE TRAINING HE RECEIVED AT THE IMPERIAL BALLET SCHOOL IN RUSSIA.

SO AROSE THE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET.

WIDELY REGARDED AS THIS COUNTRY'S LEADING BALLET TRAINING GROUND.

AS THE OFFICIAL ACADEMY OF THE NEW YORK CITY BALLET, THE SCHOOL PREPARES ALMOST ALL OF THE COMPANY'S DANCERS TO JOIN ITS RANKS AS WELL AS DANCERS FOR COMPANIES AROUND THE GLOBE.

LAST FEBRUARY AFTER AN EXTENSIVE SEARCH, JONATHAN STAFFORD WAS NAMED ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF NEW YORK CITY BALLET AND THE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET.

AND WENDY WALEN WAS NAMED ASSOCIATE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE BALLET COMPANY.

BOTH ARE ESTEEMED FORMER NEW YORK CITY BALLET DANCERS AND S.A.B. ALUMS AND ARE UNIVERSALLY CONSIDERED TO BE AMONG THE BRIGHTEST LUMINARIES IN THE ARTS WORLD TODAY.

NEXT WEEK, THE COMPANY WILL OPEN ITS FALL SEASON WITH THE PERFORMANCE OF BALANCHIN'S FULL LENGTH 'JEWELS.'

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE REPERTORY WILL ALSO INCLUDE 'SERANADE,' 'SYMPHONY AND SEA' AND CONCERTO NUMBER 2.'

WILLIAMS DANCES AT A GATHERING, OPUS 19 THE DREAMER.

AS WELL AS RESIDENT CHOREOGRAPHER JUSTIN PECK'S 'EVERYWHERE WE GO.'

♪♪ I RECENTLY HAD THE HONOR OF SPEAKING WITH JONATHAN AND WENDY ABOUT THEIR VISION FOR THE FUTURE.

WENDY AND JONATHAN, IT'S GREAT TO HAVE YOU WITH US.

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW APPOINTMENTS.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

SO, JONATHAN, YOU CAME INTO THE COMPANY IN THE THIRD ITERATION OF YOUR CAREER AS ONE OF THE INTERIM DIRECTORS OF THE BALLET PROBABLY DURING ONE OF THE MOST TUMULTUOUS TIMES OF THE COMPANY'S HISTORY.

AND NOW, OF COURSE, YOU'VE LANDED THE TITLE OF ARTISTIC DIRECTOR.

OF THE NEW YORK CITY BALLET.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CLIMATE OF THE COMPANY TODAY?

ONE OF THE THINGS I ALWAYS CARED ABOUT, THE COMPANY, WAS DIRECT AND OPEN COMMUNICATION.

THAT'S SOMETHING THAT WHEN WENDY AND I FIRST STARTED TALKING EACH OTHER ABOUT TAKING THE ROLES THAT WAS FIRST AND FOREMOST ON BOTH OF OUR LISTS AND WHAT WAS GREAT ABOUT THAT IS WE'RE REALLY ON THE SAME PAGE AND NOT JUST DIRECT AND OPEN COMMUNICATION BETWEEN US WHICH IS REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT BUT DIRECT AND OPEN COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE DANCERS AND THE ARTISTIC STAFF.

AND THE ARTISTIC LEADERSHIP.

ESPECIALLY NEW YORK CITY BALLET, WE HAVE INCREDIBLE INTELLECTS IN OUR DANCER RANKS AND WHAT WE'VE STARTED TO DO IS HAVE THIS DIALOGUE ABOUT WHAT THEIR NEEDS ARE.

THAT WAY WE CAN HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE AND GET WHAT WE NEED FROM THEM BUT THEY CAN ALSO HOLD US ACCOUNTABLE AND BECOME THE MOST FULLY-FORMED ARTISTS THEY POSSIBLY COULD.

YEAH, IT'S WONDERFUL THAT YOU LOOK AT TEAMWORK THE WAY YOU DO.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOUR DUTIES ARE?

WELL, JOHN AND I HAVE VERY, VERY DIFFERENT HISTORIES WITH NEW YORK CITY BALLET.

WE COME FROM DIFFERENT SIDES OF THE ART FORM.

IN A LOT OF WAYS.

HE WAS GIVEN THAT SORT OF OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE TEACHING AND BALLET MASTERING.

I WASN'T DOING ANY OF THAT.

IN FACT, I WAS LIKE, THIS IS NOT MY THING.

I WAS FINDING OPPORTUNITIES TO COLLABORATE WITH CHOREOGRAPHERS MAKING NEW WORK AND MAKING ARTISTIC COLLABORATIONS HAPPEN.

I ALWAYS LOVED DANCING AND I LOVED PERFORMING.

I LOVED THE HIGH I GOT FROM IT BUT I DISCOVERED EARLY ON THAT THE ADRENALINE RUSH AND EVERYTHING WAS HAPPENING MORE SO BEHIND THE SCENES THAN WHEN IT WAS HAPPENING OUT ON THE STAGE.

THAT WAS A REALLY KIND OF INTERESTING MOMENT FOR ME, I SAID, HUH, I REALLY, REALLY LIKE TEACHING.

THIS IS JUST AS GOOD.

I LOVE TEACHING.

SO YOU'VE HAD THIS LONG AND STORIED CAREER WITH THE NEW YORK CITY BALLET DANCING FOR, WHAT, MORE THAN 30 YEARS.

I WAS THERE FOR 30 YEARS.

WHICH IS PHENOMENAL.

VERY IMPRESSIVE.

IT REALLY IS.

♪♪ SO WHAT DID YOU DO TO CONVINCE WENDY TO COME BACK?

BECAUSE YOU WERE ENJOYING --

JOHN DIDN'T NEED DO ANYTHING TO CONVINCE ME TO COME BACK.

YOU WERE ENJOYING YOUR WORK, RIGHT?

YOU WERE SPENDING A LOT OF TIME WITH NEW CHOREOGRAPHERS.

PERHAPS, WHOSE WORK HADN'T BEEN DISCOVERED AND THAT WAS AN EXCITING TIME.

WAS IT NOT?

YEAH, WE WERE LEARNING HOW TO TEACH, I WAS STARTING TO STAGE THINGS.

NOW I CAN TAKE ALL I LEARNED AND CONTINUE TO LEARN AND BRING IT BACK INTO WHAT I KNOW.

HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN THE EXCELLENCE THAT IS IN PLACE AT THE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET IN TERMS OF TEACHING AND IN TERMS OF NURTUING THIS YOUNG TALENT, MAKING THESE GREAT KIDS EXCELLENT.

SO AT S.A.B., YOU HAVE TO HAVE, AT ANY SCHOOL, YOU HAVE TO HAVE A REALLY, REALLY CLEAR VISION OF HOW YOU'RE GOING TO TEACH, WHAT'S IMPORTANT IS YOU'RE TEACHING THE STYLE.

WE'RE FORTUNATE WE WERE LEFT WITH A VERY CLEAR VISION OF HOW TO TEACH STUDENTS.

HOW WOULD YOU DISTILL THAT DOWN TO A SENTENCE OR TWO?

FAST, DYNAMIC, PRECISE.

MUSICAL.

MUSICAL.

EXPRESSIVE.

NOT SO?

ECONOMICAL MOVEMENT.

CLEAR CLARITY OF POSITION.

IT'S NOT ABOUT ACTING.

IT'S NOT ABOUT BECOMING SOMETHING OTHER THAN WHAT YOU ARE, BUT BECOMING THE BEST OF YOU.

HOW DOES THAT HELP CONNECT YOU TO THE OVERALL MISSION OF THE BALLET?

YOU'RE REALLY APPROACHING IT AS A TEACH E FORMER PRINCIPAL DANCER.

AND NOW THE GUY RUNNING THE PLACE.

IT'S UNIQUE AT NEW YORK SCHOOL OF BALLET, 95% ARE FROM THE SCHOOL OF BALLET.

THAT'S UNIQUE.

THAT MEANS YOU'RE GETTING THE BEST OF THE BEST OF THE BEST, IS THAT WHY THAT NUMBER --

WE TRY TO CULTIVATE AN IDEA ABOUT HOW WE DANCE THIS WORK.

HOW WE APPROACH OUR WORK, THERE'S JUST A WHOLE SORT OF ECOSYSTEM OF THOUGHT AND FOCUS AND STYLE AND TECHNIQUE AND UNDERSTANDING.

SO WE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING EMBEDDED IN ONE OF YOUR RECITALS.

'CONCERTO 2.'

YES.

DESCRIBE THE PROCESS YOU WERE TAKING THE DANCERS THROUGH.

IT WILL TAKE A LITTLE MORE TIME.

AT THAT POINT, THE CORE HAVE BEEN REHEARSING ON THEIR OWN, THE PRINCIPALS HAVE BEEN REHEARSING ON THEIR OWN IN SEPARATE STUDIOS.

WE BRING IT ALL TOGETHER TO DO A RUN-THROUGH.

THE PRINCIPAL DANCERS IN THAT ROLE HAVE DANCED THIS BALLET BEFORE.

SO THEY'RE ALREADY AT A REALLY HIGH LEVEL.

I WONDER IS THERE ANY WAY TO DO A LITTLE MORE WITH YOUR HANDS?

AND SINCE WENDY AND I BOTH DANCE THAT ROLE QUITE A BIT, WE FEEL LIKE WE CAN STEP IN THERE AND GIVE, YOU KNOW, JUST A LITTLE FINE TUNING DETAILS TO JUST ELEVATE THE PERFORMANCE THAT LITTLE BIT.

AND WE ALSO WANT TO PUT THE DANCERS IN A POSITION WHERE THEY GO ONSTAGE AND THEY'RE NOT THINKING ABOUT HOW THEY'RE EXECUTING.

THEY'RE JUST LETTING GO.

THEY'RE JUST GOING OUT AND DANCING.

WORKING WITH THE PRINCIPALS FOR MYSELF WAS SO FUN, ACTUALLY FOR THE FIRST TIME I WORKED ON THAT PIECE WITH TERESA RIKLAN AND RUSSELL JANSEN.

THEY'RE PERFECT DANCERS.

THEY'RE LONG AND THEY'RE VERY CLEAN AND CLEAR.

I WANTED TO TRY TO BRING OUT THE DYNAMICS OF THE MUSIC WITH THEM.

I ALSO LIKE HOW YOU WERE HITTING -- LIGHTLY --

HELP THEM BUILD A LANDSCAPE IN THEIR MIND OF WHERE TO PUSH FARTHER, WHERE TO SOFTEN UP, WHERE TO THINK DIFFERENTLY THROUGHOUT.

THE WAY THE MUSIC ALSO HAS A LANDSCAPE.

FOR ME, IT WAS A TOTAL THRILL TO GET TO WORK WITH THEM FOR THE FIRST TIME.

SO THE OTHER BALLET THAT WAS BEING REHEARSED, WHAT DO WE SEE UNFOLD ON THE SCREEN THERE?

THAT IS A MUCH SMALLER, MORE INTIMATE PIECE.

WHERE THE PRINCIPAL DANCERS SPEND MOST OF THE BALLET ONSTAGE BY THEMSELVES.

SO INTIMATE.

IT'S ALSO EPIC BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY DETAILS.

AND THEN MAYBE LATE SOMETHING, JUST HANG BACK A TINY BIT AS YOU SKIP FORWARD OR SOMETHING.

♪♪

IT'S HIS HIGHEST INTELLECT OF MAKING BALLETS.

IT'S A CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE PARTNERS AS WELL.

BETWEEN THE MAN AND THE WOMAN.

AND IT ALSO HAS A QUALITY OF LOOKING IMPROVISE LOOKING, IT LOOKS LIKE THEY'RE HAVING A CONVERSATION, THEY'RE COMING UP WITH THE STEPS EVEN THOUGH THEY'RE DEFINED.

TO ME, THAT'S AN INTERESTING QUALITY OF MAKING DANCE, ESPECIALLY.

PEOPLE DIDN'T MAKE BALLETS LIKE THAT.

AT THE TIME, IT WAS VERY CLEAN, CLEAR, DIRECT, ALIGNED AND HE TURNED IT ALL ON ITS SIDE AND PUT THESE RHYTHMS IN SO IT'S TUMBLING.

THE STEPS SORT OF TUMBLE OUT.

AND IT'S EXTREMELY EXCITING TO DO.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS WHEN IT COMES TO THE REPERTOIRE OF THE BALLET?

LOTS.

OBVIOUSLY FIRST AND FOREMOST, WHAT THE CORE OF NEW YORK CITY BALLET IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE.

♪♪ ♪♪ SO WE HAVE TO MAINTAIN THE INTEGRITY OF THAT REP.

WE HAVE TO MAINTAIN THE EXCITEMENT OF THAT REP.

AND WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT IT STAYS FRESH AND ALIVE AND VIBRANT IN ALL THE YEARS GOING FORWARD.

IS THAT DIFFICULT?

WELL, WE'RE PASSING IT ON FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION, SO THERE'S NEW PEOPLE LEARNING IT AND THERE'S NEW PEOPLE APPROACHING IT AT DIFFERENT TIMES IN THEIR LIVES.

IT HAS THAT ABILITY TO REMAIN FRESH.

YOU DEVELOPED THIS INTERESTING IDEA OF TRYING TO BRING BACK SOME OF THE MUSES THAT INSPIRED BALANCHIN.

HOW IS THAT WORKING OUT?

WE'RE BRINGING HIM BACK, SELFISHLY FOR US, TO LEARN FROM.

YEAH.

TO BE OUR GUIDES.

TO INFORM QUESTIONS THAT WE HAVE ALWAYS HAD THAT WE DIDN'T FULLY HAVE THE ANSWERS TO.

IT'S REALLY LIKE OPENING THE TREASURE CHEST, LETTING THE GEMS GLISTEN FOR US AND SEEING --

IT'S SO IMPORTANT, BALLET'S AN ART FORM THAT'S PASSED DOWN REALLY VOCALLY.

AND PHYSICALLY.

BY, YOU KNOW, DEMONSTRATING.

AND WE DIDN'T GET TO WORK DIRECTLY UNDER BALANCHIN.

YOU KNOW, WE'RE KIND OF THE NEXT GENERATION NOW.

THAT DIDN'T HAVE THAT DIRECT CONTACT WITH HIM.

BUT THERE ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO DID.

AND THAT HE CREATED HIS MASTERPIECES ON.

AND SO WE THOUGHT IT JUST MADE PERFECT SENSE TO BRING THEM ON.

SELFISHLY FOR US TO LEARN FROM.

BUT THEY'RE ALSO TEACHING THE DANCERS WHO ARE THEN SOMEDAY GOING TO BE IN OUR POSITIONS AND PASSING IT ON TO THE NEXT GENERATION AND SO IT'S --

IT'S YOUR VERSION OF AN ORAL HISTORY IN A WAY.

IT REALLY IS, AND TO SEE EDDIE VALELLA WHO BALANCIN REVIVED PRODIGAL SON IS THE MOST ICONIC WORLD IN THE REP, WORKING WITH WAUKEEN DELUSE, HE'S GONE ON, HE'S NOW A DIRECTOR, SEE THE TWO OF THEM ONSTAGE AND HAVE AN INTIMATE MOMENT WORKING ON IT, WE'RE STANDING IN THE WINGS WITH OUR MOUTHS WIDE OPEN, WATCHING THIS INCREDIBLE MOMENT BETWEEN TWO WORLD-CLASS, WORLD-FAMOUS ARTISTS.

HOW ARE YOU APPROACHING NEW WORK?

THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE TASKED WITH, RIGHT?

THAT'S ONE OF MY TASKS.

BEING ON THE HUNT FOR THOSE NEW GREAT WORKS.

YEAH.

THAT'S SOMETHING THAT'S WENDY'S REALLY KIND OF INSPIRED IN ME, YOU KNOW, TO REALLY UNDERSTAND THAT.

THAT THE NEW WORK IS NOT JUST FOR -- TO BUILD A NEW AUDIENCE, A YOUNGER AUDIENCE, TO EXCITE THE AUDIENCE, WHAT WE'RE DOING, BUT IT'S ACTUALLY TO REALLY DEVELOP THE ARTIST AND FEED THE ARTIST.

SO IN TRYING TO BALANCE THE NEED TO CONTINUE TO FEED YOUR ARTISTS AND TO EXPAND YOUR REPERTORY, HOW CONCERNED DO YOU HAVE TO BE ABOUT ALIENATING YOUR CORE AUDIENCE?

IF THESE PIECES ARE ULTIMATELY PERFORMED ONSTAGE.

YOU KNOW, I THINK OUR AUDIENCE IS ACTUALLY REALLY OPEN-MINDED.

OUR AUDIENCE IS VERY INTELLIGENT AND VERY SOPHISTICATED.

THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE SEEING AND THEY KNOW AT NEW YORK CITY BALLET THAT WE'RE ALWAYS GOING TO CREATE NEW WORK AND THEY'RE EXCITED BY THAT.

THAT'S WHY THEY COME.

THAT'S WHAT WE'RE ABOUT.

THAT'S WHAT'S SO FUN ABOUT NEW YORK CITY BALLET, THEY LOVE THE BALANCHINS AND THE ROBINS.

THEY ALSO LOVE THE NEW WORK.

WE HAVE STEPPED OUTSIDE THE BOX IN THE LAST YEAR WITH SOME OF OUR NEW WORKS AND BEEN RECEIVED FOR THE MOST PART REALLY, REALLY ENTHUSIASTICALLY BY OUR AUDIENCE.

THAT GIVES US EVEN MORE CONFIDENCE TO KEEP GOING.

AND SOMETHING JUSTIN PECK, WHO'S OUR RESIDENT CHOREOGRAPHER AND ALSO NOW OUR ARTISTIC ADVISER, HE'S IN HIS EARLY 30s, HE'S SO CONNECTED AND TUNED IN TO THE LOCAL ART SCENE HERE IN NEW YORK THAT HE HAS ALL THESE IDEAS OF ARTISTS THAT HE CAN COLLABORATE WITH, THAT HE CAN SEND THE COMPANY FOR OTHER CHOREOGRAPHERS TO COLLABORATE WITH.

CURRENTLY, HE'S A CREATIVE CONSULTANT AND RESIDENT CHOREOGRAPHER FOR NEW YORK CITY BALLET, SO WE ARE SORT OF A LITTLE TRIANGLE OF CONVERSATION.

WE TALK AMONG OURSELVES ABOUT WHERE WE WANT TO GO, WHO WE THINK IS INTERESTING.

WE GET APPROVAL FROM EACH OTHER ABOUT COMMISSIONS.

SO IT'S ALWAYS A CONVERSATION.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE WILL BE ON THE HORIZON FOR THE COMPANY THE SCHOOL?

I HOPE THAT, YOU KNOW, WE CAN OPEN UP FROM OUR HISTORY.

WE HAD A CERTAIN IDENTITY, A LOT OF GOOD WAYS, BUT WE CAN DEVELOP IT IN MORE BROADER WAYS.

DIVERSIFYING OUR SCHOOL.

DIVERSIFYING OUR COMPANY.

DIVERSIFYING THE ARTISTS WE BRING IN.

OUR ADMINISTRATION.

SO REALLY THINKING ABOUT OURSELVES AS CULTURAL LEADERS AS WELL AS ARTISTIC LEADERS.

THAT'S WHAT WE TALK A LOT ABOUT.

SO, WE WANT TO SORT OF LEAD IN THAT WAY.

AND SHARING THAT PASSION, YOU KNOW, BECAUSE IT REALLY IS A PASSION.

YOU HAVE TO BE PASSIONATE ABOUT IT.

ONE OF THE MOST INSPIRING THIN S IS SEEING THAT PASSION IN SOMEONE ELSE, TOO, WHICH KEEPS THAT PASSION ALIVE DEEP DOWN WITHIN YOU WHEN YOU SEE IT ON THE STUDENTS' FACES AND SEE IT IN THE -- OUR DANCERS, WORKING DAY AFTER DAY, HOUR AFTER HOUR, TO GET, TO HONE THEIR CRAFT BECAUSE THEY'RE PASSIONATE ABOUT IT.

AND THERE'S NOTHING BETTER THAN BEING INSPIRED AND INSPIRING OTHER PEOPLE.

NOTHING BETTER THAN THAT.

AND THAT'S, I THINK, WHAT KEEPS US EXCITED.

YEAH.

WELL, I HOPE THIS COMPANY BECOMES EVERYTHING YOU WANT IT TO BECOME.

A CONTINUED SUCCESS.

THANK YOU SO PUMP.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

TO BOTH OF YOU.

IT WILL BE FUN TO ROOT YOU ON FROM THE SIDELINES.

♪♪