“I left with a suitcase and an open plane ticket,”
says Whim W’Him‘s founder and artistic director Olivier Wevers.
He was on his way to America.
“I wasn’t scared, even though I had no money and didn’t speak the language. I thought ‘I’m gonna get a job there.’ Never thought it might not happen.”
But why did Olivier want to leave Belgium? What made him feel stalled at a dead end when he wasn’t yet out of his teens? “They didn’t allow me to be creative,” he says of his academic school in Brussels “I didn’t feel I was learning, just memorizing. I liked best the teacher in French class. One time a week we had to write something and read it out loud in front of the class. I would overwrite—so many pages.” The feedback and even the self-
exposure, “taught me so much about myself. It’s when you push yourself that you learn.”
In dance he wasn’t being stretched either, except in the sense of needing to marshal the stamina and persistence to keep going. His ballet school was “not a professional one, where your academic schedule is geared to your dance schedule.” Rather, after finishing school at 4 pm, he would go on to the dance studio and wouldn’t get home until 10 or later at night. “I did my math homework in French class, my French homework in religion class, always playing catch-up. It was a hard schedule. I was physically exhausted and totally uninspired.”
American naturalist John Burroughs once wrote, “Leap and the net will appear.”
Says Olivier: “Leaving for America was like jumping off a cliff.” He asks, “Was it confidence or useful naïveté?” and answers himself: “Being a dreamer. The American dream and my own. Always thinking everything is possible once you put your mind to it.”
That first flight was literally his first. “I’d never been on a plane before.” In Pittsburgh, where he went to attend a summer dance course, he stayed with a host-family, though he knew no one when he arrived. But during the time there, “I went to South Carolina with another dancer in her car” and was offered a job at the Columbia City Ballet.