Ballet West’s Adam Sklute remembers Mr. Joffrey

By Sheri Candler

Sunday marks the 24th year since Robert Joffrey passed away from AIDS related causes. The next few posts will be dedicated to his legacy through the memories of the Joffrey alumni who have been involved with our project. Anyone who would like to share their thoughts about Mr. Joffrey and his work may leave them in the comment section of these posts.

In an interview for the film, Ballet West’s current Artistic Director, Adam Sklute, shared his memories of his first direct contact with Mr. Joffrey.

“I started dancing quite late, at the age of 16.  Even though I had been seeing ballet since I was a little kid, I had no real interest in pursuing it until I was older. I auditioned for the Joffrey School in New York after one year of study, maybe a year and a half. I was a big klutz.  I was as tall as I am now just this big, tall dorky kid.”

“A few months later, Robert Joffrey made an appearance at the Joffrey School.  At the time, he was not as closely involved with his school.  He had many more duties with the company and traveling around the world.  He was judging competitions and he was a very, very busy man.  I was one of a few dancers that he took to his workshop.  He had started a two week, intensive workshop in San Antonio, Texas right around that time and he basically told my teachers and the director of the school that I was in desperate need of his help,” laughed Sklute.

“I went to his workshops and after the second year, he looked at me and said, ‘You need to come into my second company.  You’re ready.  I’m taking you in against my better judgment.  But you’re smart and I know that you will work hard.’ I’ll never forget him saying that and it has guided me through my entire career.  First as a dancer, and then into all other aspects of what I do for ballet.”

“I was actually one of the last two dancers that Robert Joffrey personally picked for his own company.  He became too ill to run the company right after that and then passed away a couple of years later. I hold that very closely to my heart.  I worked with him as a student more than as a company member, but I did work with him some when I was with the second company. I was part of a wonderful era with the Joffrey, which was the mid to late 1980s when the company was at its peak I think in many ways.”

Adam Sklute spent 25 years with the company, first as a dancer, then as Associate Artistic Director. In 2007, he accepted his current position as Artistic Director of Ballet West.


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