National broadcast Dec 28, 2012 at 9pmET, PBS American Masters" —
For anyone interested in contemporary dance and the vagaries of having an arts organization since the Seventies, Bob Hercules’ doc is a must see" — Point of View Magazine Toronto
Whether a dance fan or not, this film will definitely convince you to part with your hard earned money for a chance to watch the dancers in performance" — CinemaEye Toronto
Now available on iTunes and Amazon" —
Sheds perspective on today’s dance world through the lens of Joffrey’s pioneering vision. A film not to be missed" — Seattle Dances
“Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” is an exhilarating piece of dance history" — Seattle Times
It’s a story about American ballet, but also a story about daring people who gleefully threw themselves into the whirlwinds of controversy." — The Stranger (Seattle)
Scintillating with edgy, raw, passionate energy…The film reveals a legacy of gutsy change and innovation." — NOVU Newsweekly Indianapolis
A story that needs to be told" — Slant Magazine
An important piece of not only the company’s history, but also of dance history…the heritage of dance deserves it." — New York Times
A bountiful feast for true dance lovers, as well as a thrillingly human story of artistic endeavor for everyone to savor." — David Noh,Film Journal International
A deeply archived and circumspect history of the Joffrey dance company…a perfect white swan …(with) marvelous footage of the early ballets" — Village Voice
A long-overdue tribute to Robert Joffrey and his vibrant company, the Joffrey Ballet." — The New Yorker
All the angst and elation is brilliantly captured in the film through the people who were there at the time." — Berkshire on Stage
Entertaining and enlightening and sure to please lovers of dance" — Detroit News
Ballet fans will want to get their hands on a copy of Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, a thrilling new documentary." — Huffington Post
A compelling tale well told, blessed with emotionally generous characters and infused with joy, suspense, tragedy and redemption." — Speaking of Dance
The story of the Joffrey Ballet – a thrilling, touching and turbulent account – must be seen." — Stage and Cinema
For dance fans, this is a movie well-worth watching" — Examiner.com
A marvelous celebration of dance" — GoPride.com
Hosannas and hallelujahs for the new documentary on the Joffrey Ballet." — Dance Magazine
While Robert Joffrey believed in reviving forgotten 20th century masterworks and introducing the world to up and coming talent, he also loved to present the works of current masters, often Europeans. One such master was South African choreographer John Cranko who worked primarily with Sadler’s Wells Ballet (later renamed The Royal Ballet) and the Stuttgart Ballet where he became artistic director. Cranko trained in Cape Town, but moved with his father to London at a young age. His first works as a choreographer were created on the dancers of Sadler’s Wells.
Until the 1970s, Cranko’s work was largely performed outside of the US, but Robert Joffrey added one of Cranko’s earliest works, Pineapple Poll, to the company’s 1970 season thus introducing this work to the American audience. The score of Pineapple Poll came from the music of Arthur Sullivan, relying on the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire. Sullivan’s copyright on the music had run out in 1950, prompting arranger Sir Charles Mackerras to come up with a way to rearrange it into ballet work for Sadler’s Wells. Together with Cranko, they refashioned the “The Bumboat Woman’s Story” from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera H.M.S. Pinafore into a new, comedic ballet.
Further Cranko pieces such as Jeu de Cartes and Opus I were included in the 1975 season. Jeu de Cartes features a score by Stravinsky parodying fellow composers Rossini, Tchaikovsky and Ravel and the ballet is about a poker game with dueling packs of cards and a Joker who disrupts the proceedings.
Further short works by Cranko were presented in the 1977 and 1978 seasons, Pas de Deux Holberg and Brouillards respectively. Brouillards world premiered in 1970 with the Stuttgart Ballet and is based upon nine of composer Claude Debussy’s piano preludes. The title of the piece means ‘mists’ with the dancers appearing and disappearing from the stage leaving behind nothing but memories. Here is a short piece found online featuring dancers from the Stuttgart Ballet
Moving into the 1980s, the Joffrey Ballet was ready to handle some of Cranko’s full length works. In 1981, the company mounted their production of Taming of the Shrew. World premiered in 1969 with the Stuttgart Ballet, the piece is based on Shakespeare’s story of the breaking of an ill tempered woman by her male suitor; a story of how good nature and virtuous love heals the soul more than hot tempers. It was universally well received and firmly announced that the new dancers in the company we well suited to define the work of the Joffrey throughout the 1980s.
In 1984, Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet received its first American debut with the Joffrey. Another ballet set to a Shakespeare play with music by Prokofiev, the Joffrey premiered it at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC with Patricia Miller as Juliet and James Canfield as Romeo. A large and colorful production featuring a 2 tiered set, the company’s performance was said to breathe life into Shakespeare’s well worn play due the young age of the cast who danced with youthful exuberance rather than tight technique.
Tragically, Cranko died at 46 in 1973 from an allergic reaction to a sleeping pill he took while on a transatlantic flight. His work now lives on in the repertoire of the UK’s Birmingham Royal Ballet and is regularly performed by companies all over the world.← Ballet Spotlight: Light Rain The scandalous rite of 1913 →