The Joffrey Ballet
is a dance company, founded in 1956. From 1995 to 2004, the company was known as The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago
. It is one of the foremost ballet companies in the world. The company regularly performs classical ballets such as Romeo & Juliet
and The Nutcracker
, while harmoniously balancing those classics with pioneering modern dance
pieces. Many prolific choreographers have worked with the Joffrey including Paul Taylor
, Twyla Tharp
, and George Balanchine
, and, of course, the founders, Gerald Arpino
and Robert Joffrey
In 1956, a time during which most touring companies performed only reduced versions of ballet
classics, Robert Joffrey
and Gerald Arpino
formed a highly dynamic and unique six-dancer ensemble that toured the country in a station wagon pulling a U-Haul trailer, performing original ballets that were created by Robert Joffrey
. While Joffrey stayed in New York City to teach ballet classes and earn money to pay the dancers' salaries, Gerald Arpino
led the troupe across America's heartland. The ensemble's first performance in a major city as the Joffrey Ballet occurred in Chicago
in 1957. The Joffrey Ballet originally settled down in [[New York City] and later maintained a part-time residence at the Los Angeles
Music Center (1982-1992). In 1995, the company left New York City and returned to Chicago to establish a permanent residence. The first several years there were financially arduous for the company, causing them to nearly shut their doors more than once, although recent years have seen a significant revitalization as the performances have attracted larger and younger audiences. In 2005, The Joffrey Ballet celebrated their 10th Anniversary in Chicago, and in 2007, concluded a very well received two-season long 50th Anniversary celebration, a milestone few American ballet companies have enjoyed.
The Joffrey Today
Currently, the company boasts 42 dancers, and performs their regular October-May season at the Auditorium Theatre
of Roosevelt University
, as well as several domestic and international tours throughout the year. Their repertoire consists of both classical and contemporary pieces, as well as annual December performances of The Nutcracker
, presented in conjunction with the Chicago Sinfonietta
On July 1, 2007, Gerald Arpino, co-founder, resident choreographer, and artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, retired from day to day operations after 50 years with the company taking the title artistic director emeritus. In October 2007, Ashley Wheater, assistant artistic director and ballet master for San Francisco Ballet, and former Joffrey dancer, became only the third person to ever serve as artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet when he was named as Gerald Arpino’s replacement.
The Joffrey Ballet appeared in the major motion picture Save the Last Dance (2001), when the two protagonists of the story saw the company perform Sea Shadow and Les Presages in Chicago.
It was also the subject of Robert Altman's 2003 penultimate film, The Company. This movie stars Malcolm McDowell as the ballet company's artistic director, a character based on Gerald Arpino, and is composed of stories gathered from the actual dancers, choreographers, and office staff of the Joffrey Ballet. Most of the roles are played by real-life company members.
In August 2008, The Joffrey Ballet moved into its first permanent home, The Joffrey Tower at 10 East Randolph Street in downtown Chicago.
Anawalt, Sasha. (January 19, 1998). The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Company. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press; Paperback Edition. ISBN-13: 978-0226017556