As he celebrates a transformative 10 years with the Joffrey Ballet, jet-setting Artistic Director Ashley Wheater opens up about his inspirations at home and around the world.
When he’s not overseeing the action in the Joffrey Ballet’s airy Randolph Street rehearsal studios, Artistic Director Ashley Wheater loves jetting off to far-flung destinations like the Majorcan village of Banyalbufar.
During his 27-year dance career, Ashley Wheater shared the stage with the legendary Rudolf Nureyev, achieved principal dancer status at the London Festival Ballet at age 20, and performed for a who’s who of renowned choreographers ranging from Glen Tetley to Mark Morris. But it seems Wheater has found his true calling behind the scenes as artistic director of the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet, which over the past decade he has helped build into a true powerhouse among Chicago’s cultural institutions. As the 58-year-old Scotland native prepares to kick off the Joffrey’s 2017-2018 season with Lola de Ávila’s new take on the classic Giselle (“probably the greatest romantic ballet,” he enthuses), Wheater shares some of his personal inspirations, from food and fashion to far-off destinations.
ON THE ROAD: “I love to travel. It’s the sense of the unknown; whatever happens I just go with the flow, and 9.5 [times] out of 10, I haven’t been disappointed.”
DREAM DESTINATIONS: “My family has gone to Majorca for decades to a little village called Banyalbufar on the west coast. It’s Mediterranean, beautiful people, and you can walk the coastline and stop at a little fish restaurant.”
HOTEL PARADISE: “There’s a place in Corsica called U Palazzu; it’s been in the same family for four generations, and it is a spectacular small hotel. The opposite [scale] would be staying at the Essex House in New York City—ever since JW Marriott took it over, it’s been fantastic.”
SHALL WE DANCE: “My favorite venue is the Palais Garnier in Paris; I was fortunate to dance there quite a lot. It’s such a special, intimate theater. The Alexandrinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg is also a jewel. And the Sydney Opera House for sure.”
CHICAGO CULTURE: “Theater is key for me, whether it’s Barbara Gaines at Chicago Shakespeare (800 E. Grand Ave., 312.595.5600, chicagoshakes.com) or Michael Halberstam up at Writers Theatre (325 Tudor Court, 847.242.6000, writerstheatre.org).”
FOODIE FAVES: “I love what Billy Lawless is doing at The Gage (24 S. Michigan Ave., 312.372.4243, thegagechicago.com). My favorite foods? Oysters, beef tartare, salade Niçoise… and french fries.”
LOOKING SHARP: “I love fashion. For me it’s the cut and the fabric. I like Theory, and John Varvatos has really good stuff. If I had all the money in the world, I would probably be an Armani [man], because I love Giorgio Armani’s clothes.”
ON MY PLAYLIST: “Right now I’m listening to Daughter, which is a UK group with a beautiful, very unusual sound.”
ARCHITECTURAL INSPIRATION: “My favorite building in the city has always been the Aon Center. I love the perfect symmetry of it. It’s pretty spectacular.”
ESSENTIAL APP: “My WhatsApp family chat, because we live all over the world and it’s a lovely way to know what people are doing.”