Francoise Martinet remembers Joffrey and Arpino

By Sheri Candler

Tonight is the Los Angeles premiere of the film and we are so excited to have 4 former Joffrey principal dancers to join us and talk about their experiences with the company. Representing the earliest time of the company is Françoise Martinet Moriarty, who joined just after the first US tour in 1956.

She originally shared a teacher with Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino. Mary Ann Wells had trained not only the two men, but also famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dancer Marc Platt.  ”Mrs. Wells, if she had a method, it’s what I ended up calling an American method, because it was not really Cecchetti, nor Bournonville, nor Vaganova. A typical American teacher looks at everything. She took modern dance with Martha Graham.  We did all the warm up from Graham in our classes with her. She had a very strange approach on certain technical things, but obviously what she did is just inspire all her students. As a teacher, she was incredibly successful particularly with men. She had probably seven men in major companies and movies.”

“Before I had ever met Bob Joffrey, I kept hearing from Mrs. Wells about my darling boys, my darling boys.  And who were my darling boys?  They were Bob and Jerry Arpino. When I first met Bob, I think for me it was love at first sight almost.  First of all, there was a trust that this was somebody in the dance, and I don’t know how I felt it.  It must have been pure instinct.  My little antennae were out because he hadn’t done that much by the time I’d met him, but my instinct told me that this was somebody that could really help me, guide me to where I wanted to go.  There was something very seductive about Bob, I mean in the dance seductive.  There was energy.  There was humor.  There was a twinkle in those soft brown eyes, but there was also a vulnerability about him and I think all the girls felt it.  We were almost protective in some ways of Bob.”

“Jerry to me was, you know, the period in the movies with John Garfield? All those New York Italian men that were so charismatic and ready to go, that was Jerry. He was the fun, teasing energy.  It was very hard to talk to him because he was always faster than you and always laughing and giggling and teasing. As a dancer, he had a beautiful body. He had beautiful what we call ballon, the rebounding and jumps, and beautiful landings like a tiger. In those days, Jerry was one of us.  Bob was Bob.  He was everything you want in a teacher, but he was also the director.”

“Two of the great loves of my life were Bob and Jerry, completely platonic, but they were two of the dearest.  They’re still in my prayers every night.  My teaching style is descendant of Bob’s — Ms. Wells, Bob Joffrey, and me.”

If you are in Los Angeles tonight, there are still a few tickets left to attend the screening and meet Mrs. Martinet Moriarty yourselves. She is featured prominently in the film. Tickets may be purchased HERE.


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