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Morphoses switches gears after Christopher Wheeldon's sudden departure

February 25, 2010 |  1:15 pm

Wheeldon Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's abrupt resignation from Morphoses, which came to light this week, has left a hole in the innovative dance company that he helped to found three years ago.

Moving quickly to fill the leadership void, Morphoses said Thursday that it would adopt a "curatorial model" in which the company would invite artists from various disciplines to take on the role of resident artist for one season.

Thursday's news was announced by Lourdes Lopez, co-founder and executive director of Morphoses.

Wheeldon has publicly disputed Lopez's statements concerning his recent departure from Morphoses. Lopez said Wheeldon did not devote enough time to the company, according to a report in the New York Times. But Wheeldon later said Lopez and the company brought up his time commitment as a problem only after he decided to leave.

On Thursday, Lopez adopted a cordial tone toward Wheeldon. "Christopher's artistic vision and talent has helped make Morphoses one of today's most important dance companies," she said in a statement.

The company said it had begun identifying the roster of resident artists for upcoming seasons and would announce plans in the near future.

"The company has built up a reserve of funds to support the curatorial model," Catherine Gildor, a member of the board of Morphoses, said in a statement.

Wheeldon, 36, is a British-born ballet performer and choreographer who has had a long professional relationship with the New York City Ballet, where he rose to the position of soloist. He later became a resident choreographer with the company before forming the Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company in 2006.

His departure from Morphoses came as a surprise to many in the dance world. 

The company said Thursday that its curatorial model would give artists the chance to use Morphoses as a stage to "forge dynamic creative partnerships that will produce innovative works for the dance world."

Morphoses made its Southern California debut in January in Santa Barbara during which the company performed pieces choreographed by Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky and the team known as Lightfoot Leon.

-- David Ng

Photo: Christopher Wheeldon in Los Angeles in 2004. Credit: Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images