Joyce Theater

The Unexpected Kismet of Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks

The story of how ballet superstar Wendy Whelan and choreographer Brian Brooks’ new show Some of a Thousand Words began is the continuation, and in some ways, the culmination, of a moment of kismet several years ago when the two met at the Fire Island Dance Festival, in 2011. Whelan saw Brooks’ work, and was “smitten,” she says. The two connected after the show. “It was a meeting I’ll never forget. Brian was so down to earth and warm. I couldn't fathom that the cool urban intellect of his work came out of such a warm and lovable person,” says Whelan. Then, in 2012, Damian Woetzel, director of the Vail International Dance Festival, asked the two if they would be interested in working together on a solo for Whelan that would be set to live music by Brooklyn Rider, the popular string quartet. When the idea emerged, Whelan remembered her initial meeting with Brooks, and had a thought: What if she and Brooks were to dance together? And, what if this was be the beginning of a larger project?

The Dancer as Superhero

What inspired this new work? Did it start with the music?

Trey: It started with seeing the documentary Amy (2015), honestly. I was so taken with the film. I was taken with the things that I identify with in her life, or at least my projection of what I saw in the documentary maker’s version of her life.

What parts in particular did you connect with?

What I saw and felt was that her demise was really about being great. She was so special, and not just an incredible singer. She reinvented what that kind of jazz vocalist could be and made it completely unique. You cannot listen to her voice and not be taken to a place. [Her talent] was in some ways natural; it came out right out of her. She grew up in this working class life, and I think that the people around her didn’t know how to handle it. I think it’s easy to be judgmental. Her father doesn’t come off great in the documentary. But, how do we know what it is to have a child who is suddenly a mega superstar?

The Joyce and Cuba



2001: The Joyce embarked upon its first trip to Cuba

Using its people-to-people license, The Joyce has led 273 dance colleagues and supporters on 17 trips that have helped bridge the gap with this nearby country through cultural and artistic exchange.


2011: The Joyce presents Danza Contemporánea de Cuba

Danza Contemporánea de Cuba—the first Cuban dance company to perform at The Joyce Theater—was presented in a nearly sold-out two-week engagement during New York’s ¡Si Cuba! Festival in May 2011, as part of the company’s first U.S. tour, which was spearheaded by The Joyce.


2013: The Joyce commissions Ronald K. Brown to make new work in Cuba

The Joyce took Brooklyn-based choreographer Ronald K. Brown to Cuba to select a company to work with on a new commission. Brown selected Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company, one of only a handful of newly emerged, independent Cuban dance companies that does not receive government support.