Work-in-Progress Performance at Central Park Summerstage NYC August 2019

Carnival of the Animals: a whimsical story of our shifting societal values told through the lens of the classic work, is a new evening length piece by spoken word artist & activist BAMUTHI, legendary dancer Wendy Whelan, and acclaimed choreographer Francesca Harper.

Rooted in the iconic Saint-Saëns composition dating back to 1886, this contemporary vision comes to life with poignant spoken word and transcendent movement, creating a multidisciplinary mixtape sampled with the creators' own personal journeys to reframe their relationships to gender, race, and a perpetually evolving understanding of the world. Carnival of the Animals reaches across genres and generations to unite and energize audiences with a breathtaking performance of body, voice, and sound.


Wendy Whelan is widely considered one of the world’s leading dancers. She spent 30 years at New York City Ballet, performing virtually all the major Balanchine roles, working closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets, and appearing internationally as a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and the Kirov Ballet among others.

Whelan has been nominated for an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award, and has received the Jerome Robbins Award, a Bessie for Sustained Achievement in Performance, the Dance Magazine Award, and a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. She has performed on four continents and has worked with countless other dance legends including Christopher Wheeldon, William Forsythe, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky, Jorma Elo, Shen Wei, and Wayne MacGregor. 

Since departure from the New York City Ballet, Whelan has been teaching young female dancers and developing her own projects, including Hagoromo; Some Of a Thousand Words; and The Day. For the latter, Whelan has joined forces with cellist Maya Beiser and the seminal modern dance choreographer Lucinda Childs to create an evening-length work featuring music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang.  She is also working on a new collaboration with spoken word artist and activist Marc Bamuthi Joseph. A documentary, Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan, recently won the Chita Rivera Award for Best Dance Documentary, and speaks to her commitment to nullifying the stigma of aging and to focus instead on empowering women. The film is available on Netflix.

For more information about Wendy Whelan, click here.


BAMUTHI (Marc Bamuthi Joseph) is a curator of words, ideas and protagonists. His bold poetically-driven work investigates social issues and cultural identity. He is a steadfast believer in empathy as the most valuable currency in building community, and seeks to spark curiosity and dialogue about freedom, compassion, and fearlessness through pioneering arts stewardship and education.  A 2017 TEDGlobal Fellow, Bamuthi graced the cover of Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s Top Young lnnovators in the Arts and Sciences; artistically directed HBO’s “Russell Simmons presents Brave New Voices” and is an inaugural recipient of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, which annually recognizes 50 of the country’s greatest living artists. Dance Magazine named him a Top Influencer in 2017.

BAMUTHI’s evening length work red black and GREEN: a blues was nominated for a 2013 Bessie Award for “Outstanding Production (of a work stretching the boundaries of a traditional form)” and he has won numerous grants including from the National Endowment for the Arts and Creative Capital Foundation. His latest touring work /peh-LO-tah/ is inspired by soccer and Bamuthi's first generation American experience, intersecting global economics, cross border fan culture, and the politics of joy.  Recent commissions include the libretto for Home in 7 for the Atlanta Ballet and theater work for South Coast Repertory Theater. He recently collaborated with composer Daniel Bernard Roumain on a new opera co-commissioned and produced by Opera Philadelphia, New York’s Apollo Theater and London’s Hackney Empire, which premiered under the direction of Bill T. Jones in 2017.

BAMUTHI is the founding Program Director of the exemplary non-profit Youth Speaks, and is a co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one-day festivals which activate under-resourced parks and affirm peaceful urban life.  His essays have been published in Harvard Education Press; he has lectured at more than 200 colleges, has carried adjunct professorships at Stanford and Lehigh, among others, and has been recently appointed as Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

For more information about Marc Bamuthi Joseph, click here.