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The Joffrey's new maestro, Ashley Wheater

January 25, 2010 |  5:30 am


The handsome, long-legged Ashley Wheater seemed typecast for leading male roles in 19th century romantic story-ballets when he danced with the Royal Ballet, London Festival Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and Australian Ballet.

“I grew up in a company [the Royal] with so much narrative work. I love it. So much new work is abstract and highly physical. But it’s not the same challenge as carrying a story over a whole evening. It demands a different discipline. The ballets that really stick out [in my career] are 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'Swan Lake,' ” he told The Times in a recent conversation.

After suffering a serious neck injury, Wheater moved behind the curtain in 1996, reinventing  himself as ballet master for San Francisco Ballet. In 2007, he was named artistic director of the Joffrey, where he had danced in the ‘80s under the first generation of leaders, Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, now both deceased.   

Under Wheater’s lead, the company presents Frederick Ashton’s masterwork from 1948, “Cinderella.” The ballet comes to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion this week, with performances Thursday-Sunday.

In my article in Sunday's Arts & Books section, Wheater gives his take on Ashton's fairy tale ballet for grown-ups and shares memories of dancing for the esteemed British choreographer starting at age 14.

— Debra Levine

Photo: Victoria Jaiani as Cinderella in the Joffrey Ballet production.

Credit: Herbert Migdoll / The Joffrey Ballet