“The web” is a good name—one of the better coined internet terms (unlike the clumsy “blog”). It’s an apt metaphor for how threads of association ray out from a center, intersecting on the way with other strands. Of course professional cross-fertilization didn’t begin with the the world wide web! It is endlessly fascinating to observe how people connect, close by and across the globe, as they always have, especially in the rather small world of theatrical dance. The Whim W’Him/Grand Rapids Ballet Company collaboration came about ultimately because Patricia Barker—and her husband/ right-hand man, former Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer and teacher Michael Auer (Viennese by origin)—were colleagues at PNB. That’s where they met Olivier Wevers, Whim W’Him’s founder and artistic director, a transplanted Belgian, who came to Seattle via Brussels and Winnipeg a decade and a half ago.
Similarly, since Patricia had performed as a guest artist with GRB and later taught summer school there, she was known personally and highly respected in Grand Rapids, and so was tapped by the ballet company when its artistic director left mid-season 3 ½ years ago. GRB is a rather unusual case. Although the school/ company is in its 41st year, Patricia had to begin almost from scratch with repertory, when the previous director took with him all but three of the ballets he had created over his tenure. A clean slate, a new opportunity, but also a formidable challenge!
It’s all too facile to advocate networking and say, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” In fact it’s both. Patricia and GRB are highly cognizant of the net of connections on which they rely. They are grateful for the strong support it has been given by the Balanchine Trust, Twyla Tharp, and the Jose Lìmon company and others. But such connections came about because Patricia was at the top of her profession as a dancer before she became company director. It’s also clear from the way she is developing GRB, that this is the sort of company one would want to stage one’s works, if one were entrusted with preserving and disseminating a body of work.