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
In 1980, Robert Joffrey choreographed his final work for the company. Postcards is a ballet depicting vignettes of love, romance and Parisian life in the early 1900′s. The dancers wear cream-colored costumes by John David Ridge and the piece is set to music by French composer and pianist Erik Satie, a colourful figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde movement.
Staff photographer Herbert Migdoll spoke about his contribution to the set of the ballet in an interview for the film. “He [Mr. Joffrey] was very aware of the beauty of Satie’s music and the beauty of Paris. He wanted to create a work that incorporated the essence of Satie, and Bob’s vision of what all that was about. He adored Satie.”
“He had an artist create the front curtain, Joe Brainard, who was a very important painter at that time, in the ‘80s. And then he asked me to do the backdrop. He wanted it to have an arch. When he first came to me, he said, ‘Herb, I want you to do the set for Postcards.’ I thought about it and the next day I went to him and said, ‘Bob, I can’t think of anything. I have not done anything yet for the company in terms of a set.’ I had dreamed of an idea before, but it’s really up to a choreographer to present you with the opportunity, not for you to go and say, ‘Have I got a set for you.’”
“I said, you know, I have awfully strong feelings about modern stuff, modernism and abstract stuff. I don’t think I’m right for a Satie turn of the century or a 1920s ballet. But he said, ‘No, I want the front curtain to depict what you’re talking about. Brainard will do the collage painting for the front curtain. But when the curtain goes up, I want it to be Paris, the essence of Paris but expressed in a very modern vision, Paris today.’”
“So I went to Paris with him and his assistant, Mary Whitney, to go through materials a specialist on Satie had. I picked a lot of the pictures for Brainard to use to make his front curtain. And someone told me there was a wonderful ceiling at the Grand Palais, a wrought iron kind of ceiling like at Penn Station in its day, which is no longer there. When I got there, I thought, ‘Oh, the ceiling is perfect.’”
“When we got back to New York, I showed Bob all the stuff. I also had photographs of the Eiffel Tower, just as I had details of the ceiling. And I showed him all the photographs that I took that I felt might work for backdrops. And he said, ‘I don’t like anything you’ve shown me. The only things I like in the series you did are the ceiling and the Eiffel Tower. Do you think you could do something with that?’ I created an arch out of those details. But it was really Bob’s visual sensibility that directed me towards the brilliant backdrop set. He was such a strong visual presence.”
As a young dancer who had just joined the company at the time, Leslie Carothers-Aromaa remembered how it felt to be in the studio with Mr. Joffrey. “Depending on what era people were in, he was either in the studio a lot or not at all. But in 1980 when I first joined, he was very involved, not only teaching, but with this beautiful ballet he put together all to Erik Satie music, café songs. There was a character, a man who sort of represented Erik Satie, but a little bit represented Robert Joffrey as well.”
“It was a fascinating process and also a labor of love. He found all of this music and it completely floored him. All of this unknown café music of Erik Satie. Being in the dance studio with him week after week, as a part of a new creation, I was only 18 at the time, it really was a great thrill. I look back now at how incredibly privileged I was because that was the last time that happened with him.
“He choreographed it without music first. I was part of a duet with Madelyn Berdes and he taught it to us as one two, one two, one two and then much later we got the music and put it together with that. It was something I had never seen done before, but it was a fascinating experience for me.”
“We were in these 1920s looking costumes and there were pas de deuxs, multiple group dances and women’s group dances. We had live singing as well, opera singers. It was brought back a couple of times in the years that followed, maybe even shortened at one point,” said Carothers-Aromaa.
Postcards (17 dancers – 8 female, 9 male), Premiere: June 12, 1980, Opera House, Seattle, WA
Here is an excerpt from Postcards:
The production is so excited to see the new reality series on Joffrey alum Adam Sklute’s Ballet West called Breaking Pointe. It is a 6 part series on the drama of being in a major ballet company produced by BBC Worldwide Productions and it is billed as being nothing like the dance competition shows currently on air. This show focuses on 10 dancers in the company and shares the experience of all the hard work, training, rehearsals, injuries and, yes, the competition each feels toward the others in the company. The show also follows the dancers home to give audiences a sense of them as people.
Though we interviewed Adam Sklute a few months ago, he couldn’t mention the series at the time because it hadn’t been publicly announced by the CW. He is also featured in the film and in an interview excerpt he talks about what he took from his direct contact with Robert Joffrey. Sklute was one of the last two dancers Joffrey chose for his company before his death.
“What Robert Joffrey did for me with my own work as a dancer and now as a director was really guide the way I look at the art form of ballet. I met Robert Joffrey late in his life and I did not have as close a contact with him as many other dancers and the artistic staff members, but I admired the man so much. I studied what he did and how he presented things.”
“As a teacher now, I try and emulate his whole way of being. He was a marvelous teacher. Always patient, very challenging, very demanding, required absolute precision and perfection in everything that one did. But was always good humored about it. Always calm. I never saw him get angry at all. I mean it was an amazing thing. Robert Joffrey was an amazing politician, also. This is something that now being an artistic director myself, I see how much one has to be a politician.”
“Robert Joffrey had an eye for detail like no one else. I was amazed that he could just see the tiniest little detail on the side of the stage and tell one of his staff members to fix it or fix it himself. He would do it. And again, that’s how I’ve always tried to live my professional life. A very, very innovative man. Robert Joffrey really infused my whole way of looking at the art form of ballet.”
Watch Adam Sklute in this clip and then check out Breaking Pointe tomorrow night on the CW.
Adam will also be participating in our Salt Lake City screening on June 19. Come to the screening and meet him in person.
There are many examples in the film of Robert Joffrey’s passion for reconstructing old masterpieces and forgotten, but prolific ballet works. He felt a great responsibility to stay true to the work as much as possible, including going to the source of the original choreography or original cast to verify as many aspects of the Joffrey’s performances and the set and costumes . In an archived interview, Joffrey said “When a ballet is given to you, it’s like you are given a jewel and you have to protect it. You have to take good care of it and if you don’t, it disintegrates right in front of you eyes. It’s a tremendous responsibility to take care of someone’s ballet. That’s a very full time job.”
He also remarked on how choreographers have a difficult time remembering their own work and how this can lead to dances being forgotten and difficult to recreate. “Often choreographers can remember other people’s ballets, but their own thing is from the moment they created from, at that time in their life. Two years later, they are no longer at that point, and many things have happened to them, and they have lost perhaps that impulse which created the ballet. They are on to something new, a new idea. So it’s difficult to go back and recreate something. You may have lighting notes, counts for the music, little diagrams to tell where the dancers stand on the stage. You have the sheets with the costumes and where the set was placed, who danced the part and there are so many things that make up all those notes. It’s awfully complicated.”
Though complicated, he was very committed to taking on this role, even from an early age. “When I wanted to form a company there were certain things that I felt were very important. One was to do ballets that were contemporary ballets. And certain ballets that were no longer performed by companies that I felt were very special to serve our tradition. Our tradition would not only be the standard Swan Lake, Nutcracker or Coppelia. There would be some of the modern classics like Green Table and Parade and Jerome Robbins’ Moves — certain ballets that I felt were very special ballets that needed to be seen again.”
For ballet fans, his enthusiasm and willingness to take on this responsibility has allowed us to experience works that previously we only would have read about in books.
This is a question we often hear from the audience during our live events with Joffrey alumni? Are shows like Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance helping spread interest in dance or cheapening the art form? It would be interesting to hear what Robert Joffrey would make of this situation. On the one hand, he believed dance should be accessible, something for everyone to enjoy. On the other, he insisted all dancers need a classical foundation with emphasis on strong technique. “Ballet as the center, but not the circumference of one’s movement.”
Joffrey alum Ann Marie DeAngelo shared her thoughts about this in an interview for the film. ”Tap and ballet, they’re complicated art forms and they’re the most esoteric and sometimes really hard to be accessible. Now look at So You Think You Can Dance — it’s sound bites of choreography. Do you know what I mean? I don’t know if any of the choreographers that are on that show could choreograph a whole ballet, but people love it. It’s great because it’s now making dance much more accessible. Now, it’s in the homes of everybody. Now, my little nephews know what choreography is.”
Meg Gurin-Paul also spoke about how these shows now help bring popularity back to dance. “When I think of ballet today and I think of ballet in the late seventies and the early eighties, mid eighties, there was a lot more appreciation then. It does sort of follow a curve, you know, of civilization because ballet has been around for hundreds of years, and there are times when it really surged in popularity and then there were times when it wasn’t attended quite so much. It would seem to be following a sort of trend. Now we see So You Think You Can Dance on television, and I see that as a positive thing because I’m always looking ahead to what is that going to influence and what is going to manifest itself, coming out of shows like that. It is also about how to take it to wider level of appreciation, make it accessible, but keep the credibility. And that’s really important, how do you keep the credibility yet be so wildly popular?”
Regarding Mr. Joffrey’s vision of educating audiences about dance, making it accessible and more popular, DeAngelo said, “He went out and saw performances. He was an artist that was out there looking, always going outside the box to gather and glean information to expand really.” Joffrey alum Davis Robertson concurred. “It’s not about us. It’s about the art, it’s about that next generation, and it’s about seeing it, experiencing it, and continuing to make it happen. You couldn’t have a conversation with Robert Joffrey without him talking about what dance performance he had seen the night before, what museum he had been to and he was out seeing everything from the experience uptown at Lincoln Center to downtown at The Kitchen. I think the best thing that could happen is, and if I could make any impact on the dance world it would be, we realize it’s just about dance as an art, and everything comes together. That really is what [Joffrey's] vision was. Be intellectual. Be engaged. Be out there thinking about it, doing it, and passing it on the next generation, and it’s a wonderful thing to be in the position to pass that on to another generation.”
What do you think? Do these shows encourage appreciation and study of dance or are they eroding the art form?
Agnes De Mille described Gerald Arpino’s Suite Saint Saëns as what she would imagine it felt like to stand in a flight of meteors. Commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Alonzo W. Gates, the piece made its debut in April 1978. It was also performed in the 2003 Robert Altman film The Company.
Arpino spoke about the quality he was trying to capture in one of the his last interviews for the film. ”Suite Saint-Saëns was just a delight. It was just pure movement in a wholesome, spiritual sense that the artist will surely captivate you just through their movement.” With breakneck speed, precision jumps and quick gestures, the dancers fly across the stage and join together in interesting patterns only to break apart and disappear over and over again. It is a work of exuberance and energy that is the signature of an Arpino work and it includes 4 movements: Caprice Valse, Serenade, Minuet, and Pas Redouble with music by Camille Saint-Saens, arranged by Elliott Kaplan.
Adam Sklute remembers how tough, but rewarding was the experience of dancing in an Arpino piece. “Performing Gerald Arpino’s ballets was always an exciting experience. And sometimes even a harrowing experience because he required so much speed. There was so much precision involved in the work. He wanted a very special way of moving, to use every ounce of your being when you danced. He wanted you to engage the torso in a way that classical dance doesn’t necessarily always do, but he required classical precision at the same time. There was a sense of joy that would well up in you. Whether it was the excitement of Kettantanz or Suite Saint Saëns, I would just thrill when I’d hear the music start. I’d get so excited.”
Premiere: April 19, 1978 at the City Center Theater, New York City. Here is an excerpt from the piece which is also a bonus clip from the film.
A reminder that the film will play some cities tonight that have been waiting to see it. The Landmark chain will show it in 8 markets.
Atlanta, GA-Midtown Arts Cinema
Boston, MA – Kendall Square Cinema
Houston, TX-River Oaks Cinema
Indianapolis, IN-Keystone Art Cinema
Washington, DC – Bethesda Row Cinema
Milwaukee, WI – Downer Theatre
Minneapolis, MN-Lagoon Cinema
Philadelphia, PA – Ritz East Cinema
Also, we have just released a video highlight of our sold out Chicago screenings to give a taste of what a night with the Joffrey documentary is like.
We have many more screenings scheduled in the US through June and we have just made an agreement in Canada which will bring the film to major cities there. Stay tuned for exact dates and locations.
As we have noted, Robert Joffrey had an eye not just for dance artistry, but for choreographic artistry as well. He saw the creative spark that wasn’t necessarily apparent to everyone. One young choreographer Mr. Joffrey chose to work with was Laura Dean. Longtime Joffrey staff photographer Herbert Migdoll remembers when Joffrey first saw Dean in an interview transcript excerpt from the film.
“When he went to see Laura Dean, who was the epitome of the Judson period*, she had one other dancer, so there were two people in her company. Her performances were too short because you can only spin for so long, and all she did was spin. You would watch her spin until she fell down. And I thought that lady is really something else. I’ve got to go see this.”
“Lo and behold Bob says to me, ‘I’m going to see a concert with Laura Dean. Do you want to come?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to go. I want to take pictures of her anyway.’ They used to let me go to the balcony of that particular church on 10th Street and 3rd Avenue. So I went to the balcony and Bob was downstairs, and we both saw the performance. Laura had her company that night, not just herself, one other young woman. She would spin and then the other woman would spin into her spinning. They’d spin together, and then Laura would spin off. And then the other woman would spin until it was time for Laura to come back and spin with her, and then the young woman would spin off.”
“Well, it was an evening of spinning for about an hour or so and it was kind of amazing. I love watching people spin, like a dervish kind of thing. As we were leaving the performance, I said, ‘She’s so interesting, isn’t she? I mean, she just uses this one element. It’s real minimal kind of perception of movement.’ He said, ‘It’s so fascinating. I think I’m going to ask her to do a ballet. She could spin on pointe. She just has to learn how to go on pointe, that’s all. I could teach her that.’ I said, ‘Oh Bob, leave her alone.’ But he wouldn’t. He went to her and she was excited about it.”
“She wound up doing her first ballet called Night, which was a brilliant work. Her work doesn’t translate well on film though. If you see some of the things on film, you will think they’re not that special. But in person they’re absolutely spectacular. She went on to make the most ballets for the company because both Robert Joffrey and Jerry Arpino adored her and her work and felt that she would do wonderful things.”
“Her last work for us was Creative Force, which was everyone in red, dancing to salsa music. Before that was the Prince ballet for Billboards, Sometimes it Snows in April. I just love her work.”
“The point here is that he [Joffrey] would take the opposite end of the ballet scale, the ultimate minimal dancer and see this person as a potential creator for his company. I think that opened the door for anyone who choreographs to feel that maybe I could do a ballet for an important company if I feel strongly enough about what I’m doing, whatever it is. It doesn’t have to be pointe work. It can be anything.”
*Judson Dance Theater was an informal group of dancers who performed at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, New York City between 1962 and 1964. It grew out of a dance composition class taught by Robert Dunn, a musician who had studied with John Cage. The artists involved were avant garde experimentalists who rejected the confines of Modern dance practice and theory, inventing as they did the precepts of Postmodern dance. -source Wikipedia.
In several articles on the film, a point keeps being raised that the Joffrey Ballet’s financial collapse in the late 1970s must have been caused by Robert Joffrey’s poor business skills. The company had arisen out of the ashes of the Harkness Foundation break in the mid 1960s and things were seemingly going well during the early and mid 70s. So what happened?
I recently spoke with the former executive director of the company from 1978-1981, Henry Young, to see if he could shed some more light on what was happening in the arts world at the time. A full podcast interview is coming up in a few weeks with Mr. Young, but here is a short transcript where he speaks about the arts funding situation in the 1970s. The picture he paints of stretched Federal assets and the overdependence of American arts organizations for funding from those assets sounds quite familiar to the situation going on in our country right now where ballet companies are paring down or liquidating or aggressively stepping up their own fundraising efforts from private enterprise or generous individuals.
Remember, at the time, the Joffrey Ballet as well as many other ballet companies were receiving sizable grants from the Ford Foundation starting in 1963 when the Foundation gave $2 million to New York City Ballet and almost $4 million to their School of American Ballet. It was a Ford Foundation grant, secured by Alex Ewing, that allowed Robert Joffrey to restart his company again after the split with Harkness.
“The cause was a very rapid change in funding sources and levels of giving. In the first instance [of financial collapse], we know it was Rebecca Harkness. The second is far more subtle and, in a way, not really obvious.”
“Discussions began at the Ford Foundation regarding social investing through a program that would become know as Program Related Investments. As part of the Tax Reform Act of 1969, a legal definition of PRI was established and the Ford Foundation Trustees moved to set aside an initial $10 million of Foundation assets for PRI’s. In 1968, Foundation staff were presenting proposals to the Trustees not on the basis of past performance, but rather they made the case that the social needs revealed by the turbulent ’60′s required extraordinary response. Basically, they wanted to spend at a rate faster than the [established] earn/spend formulas of the foundation grant making and PRI loans were a way to accomplish this. Initially, Trustees did not look on this idea favorably, but over time they were convinced it would allow the Foundation to stretch its assets.”
“Clearly, the Foundation did not have nearly enough cash to meet all the demands on its agenda, so Program Related Investments were a way around this. Within two years, Ford was into many new areas from cattle feeding and steel joist manufacturing to public television stations for equipment set ups. But of course, some of the enterprises failed. There were amazing successes as well, probably the most prominent was the Harvard Community Health Plan launched with a five year loan of $600K.”
“To my recollection, I think Ford had over $53 million in PRI’s. Between 1968-70, 58 REIT [Real Estate Investment Trust] funds were formed. Most funds used a modest amount of shareholder equity (think Ford Foundation as a share holder) matched with a very large amount of borrowed funds and this was all going to short term loans for mostly office tower development. For the REIT world, assets ballooned from $1 billion in ’68 to $20 billion in the early 70′s. But as the Office overbuild and economy for office space weakened in 1973, REIT’s found that debt leverage worked both ways (SOUND FAMILIAR?), and non performing loans became stunning. As a result, share prices for REIT’s collapsed in 1973 by 21.8% and another 29.3% in 1974. Ford was making PRI loans on the anticipated rates of return of 12% and reality was not possible with these kinds of share losses. The result was a directive to the Program Divisions making actual grants to cut and cut fast.”
“So the NY City Center Joffrey’s 3 year grant in 1973 was suddenly revised from $350,000 a year to $175,000, then to $0.00. At the time, the national small gift average for direct mail was $22. Not that anyone thought that was a suitable direction for fundraising, but to put a fine point on the difference of large scale and small scale fundraising it would have required 3,500 new donors at $100, JUST to offset the loss of that grant.”
“Of course there were other things were going on too, but for Joffrey, BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music], Pennsylvania Ballet, etc. this was their first experience of the bubble burst.”
The recession that happened from 1973-75, an ambitious repertoire of larger scale productions such as Petrouchka and Parade, the turbulence from City Center management which resulted in a loss of backing in 1975 were all contributing factors to the financial instability of the company and much of it out of Robert Joffrey’s control. Obviously, this complicated topic couldn’t be deeply explored in the confines of a 82 minute film, but it is worth mentioning here. It wasn’t so much that the grants were not replaced because of negligence. More likely they weren’t replaced because grant funding had been severely cut.
Remember to check out our podcast with Mr. Young when it is live and check out all of our other interviews with Joffrey alumni under Media>Podcasts in the navigation bar at the top of this page.
Friday April 27 marks the opening night of our weeklong formal cinema run in New York City. We are extremely happy to be screening the film in the birthplace city of the Joffrey Ballet. The film will play the Cinema Village Theaters on the lower east side of the city.
It also marks the start of our week in Tucson, Arizona at The Loft Cinema.
The first weekend several prominent Joffrey alumni dancers will participate in post screening discussions about being in the company. They represent many different time periods as well so audience members can hear more in depth stories from the film.
In New York, we will have:
April 27 will feature Francesca Corkle and Denise Jackson. **moderated by George Dorris and Jack Anderson
April 28 will feature Margo Sappington.
April 29 will be moderated by Dance Magazine’s Editor in Chief, Wendy Perron, who will be joined by Margo Sappington, Suzanne Hammons-Daone, Nicole Duffy Robertson and Davis Robertson.
In Tucson on April 27, we will have:
Jeffrey Graham Hughes, former Joffrey dancer and current Artistic Director of Tucson Regional Ballet,
Susan Magno, former Joffrey principal dancer
Jon Teeuwissen, former Joffrey Executive Director (2001-2008) and current Executive Director of Ballet Arizona
Below, please find more information on these alumni.
Ms. Corkle was a member of the Joffrey Ballet Company from 1969 – 1978 and is known as one of the Joffrey’s foremost “classical” ballerinas. She grew up and trained in Seattle, WA where Mr. Joffrey spotted her at a very young age. At 15, she left Seattle for New York and the Joffrey Ballet School where she spent 5 months in the apprentice program before becoming one of the youngest company members.
Known for her brilliant technique, speed and wit, Ms. Corkle won high acclaim for her roles in such classics by Joffrey Ballet co-founder Gerald Arpino as “Confetti,” “Kettentantz” and “L’Air d’Esprit” and in John Cranko’s “Pineapple Poll.” In 1974, her first major dramatic role was choreographed for her by Robert Joffrey in “Remembrances.” After the premiere, the NY Post described her as “feather-light and soft as she makes the most difficult lifts effortless.” In 1978 Chicago critic Ann Barzel wrote that “She is a perfectionist in technique and superbly intelligent in matters of style.” She has been a faculty member at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York for over 20 years.
Ms. Jackson was a member of the Joffrey Ballet from 1969-1986, when City Center declared her retirement day Denise Jackson Day in New York. She began at the Joffrey school at the age of 11 and spent the whole of her dance career with the company. She danced principal roles in many Arpino classics such as Kettentanz, Fanfarita,and Celebration and Robert Joffrey’s Postcards and Pas des Deesses. She was partnered with Rudolph Nureyev for the Joffrey’s salute to the works of Nijinsky in 1980.
Moderators: Jack Anderson is an American dance critic and author. Since 1978, he has been a contributor of dance reviews and other articles in The New York Times. He has also written for the magazines Dancing Times and Dance. George Dorris is co-editor of Dance Chronicle: Studies in Dance and the Related Arts and contributes regularly to Ballet Review, Dance Now, and Dancing Times.
Ms. Sappington was recruited by Robert Joffrey to join his company straight out of high school. She moved from Texas to New York in 1965 and enjoyed a prolific career first as a dancer and then as a choreographer for ballet and Broadway. She was nominated in 1975 for both a Tony Award as Best Choreographer and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography for her work on the play Where’s Charley?. She choreographed several ballets for the Joffrey including Weewis, Face Dancers and Mirage and has worked with ballet companies around the world including Beijing’s Central Ballet of China, the first American choreographer to do so. In 2005 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award for choreography from the Joffrey Ballet.
Moderator Wendy Perron
Ms. Perron danced with the Trisha Brown Dance Company in the 1970s and has performed with many other NYC choreographers. Her own group, the Wendy Perron Dance Company, appeared at The Joyce, DTW, the Danspace Project, and the Lincoln Center Festival, as well as in cities throughout the U.S. She was one of eight choreographers profiled in the documentary film Retracing Steps: American Dance Since Postmodernism. She has taught dance at many colleges including Bennington and Princeton, and in contemporary dance centers in Europe and Russia. In addition to contributing articles to The New York Times, The Village Voice, Ballet Review, and of course, Dance Magazine, Wendy has written a brief memoir about her training and influences in Reinventing Dance in the 1960s: Everything Was Possible, edited by Sally Banes. She has served on the Bessies committee and has been an artistic advisor to Fall for Dance at NY City Center. She fondly remembers taking classes with Mr. Joffrey at American Ballet Center, the School of the Joffrey Ballet.
Ms. Hammons-Daone recounted her story of being a company member on this blog several months ago. She began with the Joffrey Ballet in 1959 after a short stint with the San Francisco Ballet and remembers the nurturing spirit of Mr. Joffrey in those early days of the company.
Nicole Duffy Robertson
Ms. Duffy Robertson was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she trained with Ana García and María Carrera at Ballets de San Juan, and spent summers at the School of American Ballet and Alvin Ailey School. After completing her freshman year at Princeton University, she took a leave of absence to train at the Joffrey Ballet School. She performed with Joffrey II and Dennis Wayne Dancers before joining the Joffrey Ballet from 1990 to 2000.
During her years with the Joffrey she danced the role of Clara in Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker, the Little American Girl in Leonide Massine’s Parade, the Willing and Able pas de deux in Gerald Arpino’s Billboards, as well as works by Ashton, Balanchine, Cranko, Jooss, Limón, and Nijinska, among many others.
After finishing her dance career, she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in art history from Columbia University. She is currently on the faculty at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, where she teaches ballet and dance history.
Mr. Robertson was a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet from 1991-2003 having trained at the Joffrey Ballet School and at School of American Ballet. During his tenure with the Joffrey, his principal roles included the Cavalier in Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker, George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, Petruchio in John Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew, and Death in Kurt Jooss’ The Green Table. His portrayal of the Faun in the Joffrey’s reconstruction of Vaslav Nijinsky’s L’Après-Midi D’un Faune prompted the Chicago Sun-Times dance critic to write, “Robertson gives the finest performance I’ve seen, including that of Rudolf Nureyev for whom the Joffrey re-created this masterpiece in 1979.” Today, he is the Artistic Director of the Joffrey Ballet School Performance Company.
Jeffrey Graham Hughes
After seeing the Joffrey Ballet at Stanford University at the age of 13, Mr. Hughes decided that he wanted to dance in the Joffrey Ballet. Mr. Joffrey gave Hughes permission to take company class over the next few summers when they were in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1970 after the Joffrey Ballet Summer Workshop, Mr. Joffrey invited Hughes to join Joffrey II and he joined the main company in 1973. Over a twenty-two year professional career, he also danced principal roles with London Festival Ballet, Cleveland / San Jose Ballet, Oakland , Sacramento and Atlanta Ballet. Today, he is the Artistic Director of Tucson Regional Ballet.
Former Joffrey Ballet principal dancer who joined the company in 1964 just after the Harkness break up.
In interviews for the film in the final months of his life, Mr. Arpino talked about the choreographers who most inspired him. As has often been said, Mr. Arpino enjoyed collaborating with and gained some inspiration for his choreography from the dance artists he worked with, but he also enjoyed work the company performed that did not originate with him.
“I think The Green Table is one of the masterpieces of choreography. Mr. Jooss was a very fine artist in the sense that he devoted his energy to this particular piece that made a statement about nations at war and to do it choreographically was important because dance relates to all people. Making a statement against war and showing how the diplomats around the table can decide on the destiny of a nation. [It is] a very important piece of art in the sense that it truly covered an area that most ballets don’t which was the importance to stave off and to prevent war from happening. I think The Green Table was an exceptional piece of artistry.”
“His approach to the art itself from a very dramatic place and influenced by the political aspect of our lives. That was also very important to me [as an artist].” (the Joffrey has performed Tudor’s Lilac Garden, Dark Elegies, Soiree Musicale and Offenbach in the Underworld).
“I loved Mr. Balanchine for his abstraction. I’ve always loved abstraction and he took dance and put it in a realm of just pure dance without any influences of what’s happening in our society. It was pure dance and music. The music and movement are pure abstraction that have no influence on the conditions of our way of life. It’s pure abstract form and design and that’s quite beautiful when it happens. The human form being represented through movement. He truly was a man who represented dance in its pure form and I’ve always loved that.” (Balanchine was an early supporter of the Joffrey Ballet, especially in the aftermath of their break with the Harkness Foundation when he allowed the company to perform his works without royalties due. The Joffrey Ballet has performed Square Dance, Pas de Dix, Allegro Brilliante, Donizetti Variations, Scotch Symphony, Pas de Trois, Tchaikovsky Pas de deux, Tarantella, Cotillon, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto).
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