Dancer Tory Peil, whose final Whim W’Him run starts with the opening June 8 of TRANSFIGURATE, has been with the company since rehearsals started for the January 2012 show. Here, mostly in her own wise and witty words and accompanied by Bamberg Fine Art Photography‘s* superlative images, are more of Tory’s special recollections of people and times that have defined her career with Whim W’Him.

There are memories of her much-beloved fellow-dancers. “Mia, a calm, strong, goddess. We’ve been doing weird dance gigs all over this city for 10 years. What an honor to have learned so much from her.’”

with Mia Monteabaro

The next two photos are from Whim W’Him founder and artistic director Olivier Wevers‘s Les Sylphides, in which Tory really was inspiring to Olivier. “I felt he used my personality. We finally knew each other. It was the beginning of really understanding his style. I loved it and his passion for it.” She also bonded strongly with others in the company. “My partnership with Kyle taught me so much. He put up with me and gave me years of learning Olivier’s crazy partnering techniques together. Those years in the studio were so drama free and fun.”

with Kyle Johnson

“Oh Thomas. He was and still is the breath of fresh, hilarious air.”

with Thomas Phelan

“Jim, the original whimmer. A man I learn something new from every day. This piece was called ‘Alone is the Devil.’ It was not our favorite piece so the dancers affectionately called it ‘Evil Hate Monkey.'”

with Jim Kent

“The current ladies of Whim. Olivier has always had a company where your gender does not matter. We are all just dancers. We all do the lifting and we all get lifted. Props to these ladies and all the ones that came before for showing up with strength and not depending on societal/dance norms.”

with Liane Aung & Mia

“Karl has been such a good sport. Lifting my ass through my final whimming years. I’m grateful for his patience and sweetness in those moments when frustrations run high.”

with Karl Watson

There are memories of choreographers too. “I hate this photo. Yet it has been printed on a 6-foot placard, been printed in multiple newspapers and thrown all over the internet. Just look at my face. Only the incredible Annabelle could get me to wear a bald cap on stage.”

Les Biches, by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

“Manuel’s piece was hell to make. It almost killed us. Literally. Mia ended up with a black eye and a concussion and we all lost 15 lbs. But to this day it’s one of the most thrilling pieces I’ve ever danced. I loved Manuel, though he could be be hard to take sometimes too. When it was done we all felt so close. We’d survived something together.”

RIPple EFFect, by Manuel Vignoulle

“This moment, as I stood on the boys’ shoulders as they sprinted around the stage, was insane but so so magical.”

RIPple EFFect

On the other hand, some times were relaxed. “We had such a blast dancing at the Sculpture Park. The rehearsing outside with Kate Wallich gave us two weeks of tanning and frolicking together on the beautiful museum grounds. It’s a performance I’ll never forget.”

The Choreographic Shindig, where the dancers themselves pick three choreographers to each set a new piece on the company, has been an important milestone in Tory’s Whim W’Him life. “Making choices and having to sleep with it too! We choose the choreographers. They mold us. The teachers taught!” Of one of the choreographers for the first Shindig, Maurya Kerr, Tory says, “I had looked up to her and been inspired by her my whole life. The process had us crying and laughing. Safe. She made it be safe. Usually it’s the opposite. The process was incredible.”

Into the wide welcome by Maurya Kerr

There were also odd moments, some funny some painful in retrospect, some both. “As a performer you do weird things in your career. One of the most surreal was when the entire company wore masks of my face in SARO by Joseph Hernandez.”

“We call this lift the poop squeeze. It nearly killed me every time we did it but all jokes aside, that piece was about a really hard time in Olivier’s life and this moment broke my heart because I knew he was going through such a hard time.”

There were other difficult episodes as well, such as when Tory came down with a horrendous Norovirus attack and, for the only time ever, a show had to be cancelled, leading everyone to realize more than ever how, in a small company with no understudies, everyone is absolutely essential. (No photos of that incident, fortunately.)

But the thread running all through Tory’s years with Whim W’Him, of course, has been working with artistic director and principal choreographer Olivier Wevers. “I’ll miss watching Olivier’s dream-like ideas come out in rehearsal. He has brilliant images going through his mind and he’s able to manipulate us into these living paintings.”

“Olivier never choreographs jumps. Never ever. This is the one time in my Whim career that I got to jump.”

with Mia in Brahms and Tights, by Olivier Wevers

“Another image that only Olivier could come up with. (I guess I got to jump twice in my career.)”

Approaching Ecstasy by Olivier Wevers with music by Eric Banks

“I was so honored when Olivier invited me to go the the Czech Republic as his assistant.” He even left Tory in charge, to continue the staging of The Sofa, when he had to go away for a some days. It was a terrific experience.

When Tory and I were chatting, not long ago, she said, “I could go on dancing Olivier’s work forever.” But it’s not something you can do part time. Since in fact she is moving on from Whim W’Him, I asked about her future plans. “For the first time ever,” she replied, “I haven’t known the answer to ‘What will you do next?’”

Ego is such a very large part of the dance world. Says Tory, “That’s part of why I’m done. Who am I besides my ego? I want to hang out with her. Who is she? Ego can take a little break. But what will define me now? What will it be like not to be part of this crazy group of misfits and bring something interesting into being!?”

She adds,  “I’m tired—I’d really like to spend a little time in a cabin by myself… and to some traveling without worrying about eating, injury and the time it will take to get back in shape. I love it, but it’s like being let out on a tether when you’re in that kind of job.” She’ll make some improvements on her house and “I probably will have to work some in retail.” She’ll still dance in burlesque too and “I would love to do more acting.”

Tory freely admits that she is “Scared and figuring it out, searching for something new and exciting.” It’s exhilarating and very strange for someone whose life has been dancing since she was four. “There’s no roadmap now!”

with Sam


*Photo credit: Bamberg Fine Art Photography
Alas, because of changed life circumstances and responsibilities, Molly, Adam and Kim will no longer be photographing for Whim W’Him after this show. Coming soon: a post (or 2) about them and their marvelous work.