Jennifer Wienner has performed from Baltimore and Washington to New York and San Francisco. This summer she’ll add Tel Aviv to her resume when she trains with some of Israel’s finest dancers.
The 17-year-old Baltimorean was accepted to three summer intensives — full-time programs where dancers train up to 12 hours per day — including one held by the highly selective Batsheva Dance Company.
Jennifer, who says she is a shy person, says she’s never happier than when performing.
“I have a passion for dance,” she says. “It’s a performance art. It’s a part of the whole thing, you have to want to be seen.”
She says that hours of training and years of practice in the studio would be for nothing if they never found an audience.
“On stage, you aren’t you. You’re an artist and that means you have to be able to become anything,” Jennifer says.
Despite her excitement about going to Israel, it was never Jennifer’s intention to apply.
“I did something a little sneaky,” said Jennifer’s mother, Harriette Wienner. “I sent in her resume to Batsheva. [I thought] If she gets in, that’s wonderful. If she doesn’t, then she doesn’t have to know.”
Jennifer was accepted to Batsheva’s program only a few days after her mother sent in the application.
Led by artistic director Ohad Naharin, the company offers upwards of 250 performances each year, entertaining about 75,000 spectators. The program accepts 160 dancers from around the world for each session.
Beyond learning modern and contemporary dance, the intensive also provides instruction for Gaga (not to be confused with the Israeli sport ga-ga), a movement language developed by Naharin.
Gaga “improves instinctive movement and connects conscious and unconscious movement and it allows for an experience of freedom and pleasure in a simple way, in a pleasant space, in comfortable clothes, accompanied by music, each person with himself and others,” according to the company’s website.
Jennifer’s success comes despite being “late to the game,” starting dance at the age of 11 — most professionals start as young as 3 or 4 years old, according to Jennifer — and undergoing replacement surgery on her left ankle after a cyst was discovered eating away at a bone. When instructors find out, they are surprised.
One of those instructors is Lorraine Spiegler, the artistic director of City Dance Conservatory, in Rockville, where Jennifer trains regularly as she completes high school online. Spiegler occasionally refers to her as “lucky audition number seven.”
“The fact this [cyst] was caught in time and she was not only dancing but dancing at a pre-professional level that was a pretty big deal for me,” says Spiegler.
In terms of the future, Jennifer is taking it day by day. She is still looking at all of her options before committing to dance or college full time.
She was also accepted into Vir2oz and Israel Ballet in addition to Batsheva — all three of which happen in succession this summer.
“Jennifer being accepted to Batsheva — she is the first one [for City Dance Conservatory],” Spiegler says. “It is a huge honor for us to add this world-famous school and company to our list [of places our students have been accepted to]. It was all moving to me that a child who had gone through something like [ankle replacement surgery] had come out on the other side extremely successful.”