Joffrey Artistic Director Reflects on Past Season

April 10, 2012 | by —Elle Eichinger & Nicolette House
Photographs by Jim Luning (Wheater), Sandro (ballet) | Homepage

Next month, the Joffrey Ballet's spring season will come to an end and the Joffrey's Women’s Board will celebrates its tenth anniversary with a gala as exquisite as the ballet itself. The May 6th event, which follows the company’s final performance and takes place at The Palmer House Hilton, will feature dinner, dancing, and a special tribute video in honor of the board. With over $15 million raised by the organization in the last decade, the nod is well deserved. We spoke with Joffrey genius, artistic director Ashley Wheater, about the ballet, the closing gala, and the Joffrey’s relationship with Chicago.

Tell us about your process: how do you go about selecting the pieces, dancers, and choreographers?
ASHLEY WHEATER: I evaluate the company and our audience to determine which ballets and which choreographers will provide opportunities for growth, both technically and artistically. I try to provide balanced programming throughout the season, drawing from our rich archive as well as exploring new work. Running as a thread throughout our programming, though, is an attempt to offer insight into the human experience.

There is no particular formula to define the ideal Joffrey dancer. We are enriched by a diverse group who share the ability to engage with the audience through highly developed skills and a love of the art form. I [look for] choreographers who find inspiration within the musical score.

What drew you to the particular works in “Spring Desire”?
AW: If our winter program emphasized the mind and the intellect, our spring program is drawn from the human heart. Spring is a time of transition from dormancy to renewed growth. The three works by Jerome Robbins, Edwaard Liang, and Val Caniparoli explore personal relationships, the human spirit and the cycle of life.

From the Spring Desire program "In the Night."

Aside from the spring gala, how will you celebrate the Women’s Board milestone?
AW: The entire year has been a celebration of our Women's Board. We are planning a tribute on stage as part of the gala performance: a one-time-only program that’s not to be missed.

What is the relationship of the Joffrey and Chicago? Does the city inspire the ballet?
AW: The Joffrey Ballet thrived for many years in other cities, and while we accumulated great artistic assets, we never found a permanent home in another community.

Ever since the people of Chicago have embraced the Joffrey Ballet, we have found the freedom and security to move forward as a company. We have established collaborations with many cultural institutions throughout our community. As the Joffrey Ballet has become a part of this rich cultural landscape, we hope to enrich the lives of the people of Chicago in return. For tickets, visit joffrey.org/spring. 10 E. Randolph St., 312-739-0120

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