The Influentials: Classical and Dance

Christopher WheeldonPhoto: Roger Deckker

Christopher Wheeldon
Choreographer, New York City Ballet
Perhaps the true successor to Balanchine, but very much sui generis. At 32, New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer is too young to have many artistic imitators but has planted seeds with major companies all over the world: He’s done commissions for American Ballet Theater, the Royal Ballet (U.K.), the San Francisco Ballet, the Boston Ballet, and many others. Deeply rooted in classical ballet, his pieces often depend on a constant push-pull between male and female dancers, and an amazing origami-like intertwining of limbs. When City Ballet recently premiered his Klavier, on an otherwise all-Balanchine program, it was the obvious standout. And his work has staying power, living on in repertory rather than disappearing after the premiere. Eschews crossover: He’s all about ballet.

Edna Landau
Managing director, IMG Artists, North America
Intensely coveted, hugely devoted grande dame of New York managers. Clients include Itzhak Perlman, Evgeny Kissin, Murray Perahia, Lang Lang. She and Charles Hamlen took on Joshua Bell when he was just 16; two decades later, he’s one of the world’s greatest violin stars. In return, inspires rare level of trust and commitment from her clients. Is in a concert hall somewhere in the world several times a week; has unparalleled star-making and talent-spotting powers. Created Hilary Hahn after Hahn’s dad begged her to come hear his ultratalented 14-year-old. Prodigy to watch: the 18-year-old violinist Caitlin Tully, whom Landau has managed since she was 13.

George Steel
Executive director, Miller Theatre, Columbia University
Has turned Columbia’s Miller Theatre from tweedy backwater to hip brand and one of the best destinations anywhere for contemporary music. Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center are listening: Both have amped up their new-music offerings in recent years. (The ensemble Alarm Will Sound had been playing at Miller for years before bringing Cage, Zappa, Varèse, and John Cale to Carnegie’s Zankel Hall this winter.) Was reportedly on the shortlist for the Carnegie Hall director job and could well take the soon-to-be-vacant top spot at New York City Opera.

John Schaefer
Radio host, WNYC
Understated D.J. has, for twenty-plus years, wrapped countless musical discoveries in his encyclopedic knowledge and profound understanding of music-making. Programming is wildly diverse: Dawn Upshaw to bands from tiny African villages to the Pixies to Tuvan throat singing. Appearances on his two daily hourlong shows—“New Sounds” at night, “Soundcheck” in the afternoon—translate into sales spikes at box offices and record labels. One administrator at bam says flatly, “His endorsement of an artist creates credibility.” Has written liner notes for more than 100 albums, for everyone from Yo-Yo Ma to Terry Riley. Streaming audio means he’s heard worldwide.

Peter Gelb
Incoming general manager, Metropolitan Opera
Though he doesn’t take over for Joe Volpe till August, buzz—positive and negative—is already building. The former Sony Classical top executive is opera’s 800-pound gorilla, with the country’s biggest arts endowment to play with. Says that hottie diva Anna Netrebko represents exactly the direction he plans to take: talent, acting chops, sex appeal. Committed to making opera a popular art form—at Sony, he was responsible for a lot of widely scorned crossover stuff (like Yo-Yo Ma’s “country” album with Mark O’Connor and Edgar Meyer)—which makes purists very nervous.

Philip Glass and Steve Reich
Glass and Reich are to the still-dominant strain of American minimalism what the Beatles and Stones are to Brit rock. Took the avant-garde mainstream, offering hope and inspiration to countless composer-followers. Glass’s repetitive music mesmerizes and creates moods with not-quite-monotonous sound; Reich’s seminal works are experiments with speech recordings and percussion technique. Collective reach shows up everywhere: music halls, documentaries, dance performances—and, in Glass’s case, on South Park. Next: The Influentials in Movies

The Influentials: Classical and Dance