Category Archives: Joffrey

Dance/USA hits town this week!

The national conference for Dance/USA hits Chicago this week with an opening night reception on Wednesday at the Harris Theater.  So, I asked some top dance folk what makes Chicago one of the top destinations for dance?

What’s not to love about dance in Chicago?  We are growing and developing a stronger international presence by the many versatile dance companies our community supports.  I have found that since I first moved to Chicago in 1999 to dance with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the dance environment has changed so much with the addition of so many new voices.  It’s been exciting to watch this grow.  ~Jay Franke, co-founder Chicago Dancing Festival

I believe it is the presence and balance of presenting locations, studios and schools, performance opportunities and many genres of dance that take part.  ~Shirley Mordine, artistic director Mordine & Co Dance Theater

There’s a strong symbiosis between internal momentum and external recognition, especially in today’s connected age.  Chicagoans are increasingly aware of the riches available to them at dance performances, which in turn is increasing those performances’ reach, which in turn elevates Chicago on the global stage.  (Mayor) Rahm Emanuel hasn’t been shy about his advocacy for dance, during the election and since taking office on May 16.  The Chicago Dancing Festival, which marks its fifth annual just weeks after the conference concludes, has, as a cornerstone of its identity, the idea that dance is an art form that can reach all people, of all backgrounds and circumstances.  It plans in the years ahead to bring programming to Chicago’s neighborhoods, including those geographically and/or financially distant from dance’s traditional core demographics.  Issues of relevance and accessibility affect all dance artists today, and I think Chicago has, through these and other examples, shown leadership in finding new ways to expand dance’s reach.  ~Zachary Whittenburg, dance editor Time Out Chicago

Chicago has a rich variety of dance companies, offering many different dance styles, showcasing specific cultures, performing in so many different types of venues.  On any given weekend you can see at least three or four different performances throughout the city.  ~Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, artistic director Luna Negra Dance Theater

When the Joffrey came to Chicago in 1995, it found a community with an appetite for ballet and the foundations of a vibrant dance scene.  We have participated in and benefited from the growth of dance awareness in the Midwest.  If you consider, also, the excellent work of the Chicago Dancing Festival, Hubbard Street, River North, Luna Negra, Giordano, to name a few, you have a network that nurtures a growing interest in the art form.  ~Ashley Wheater, artistic director Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Lock Out?

Say it ain’t so.  The Sun-Times‘ Hedy Weiss reported earlier this week that the Joffrey Ballet dancers had received a letter telling them to clean out their lockers and turn their keys in by this Thursday (tomorrow) and that the beginning of the 2011-2012 season may be cancelled.    Say what?

Here is a Trib update, one from WBEZ and another from  Zac Whittenburg at Time Out Chicago.   So here’s what I do/don’t know…

There isn’t a contract for the new season.  Joffrey says the union (AGMA) has been unresponsive, so it went ahead with a “lock out”.  AGMA says a lock out is illegal and unproductive since the dancers aren’t actively working now.  At question is a bump up in rehearsal hours from 25 to 30 hours a week, but with a minimal salary increase (2 – 3%).  Joffrey took aggressive action to get the union to respond and to freak out the dancers, so they would be willing to negotiate quickly.  Point(e) taken.  The union has responded and the dancers, currently on a “relaxing” hiatus are freaking out.

I think they will come to an agreement and will not cancel any part of the season.  Why would they?  The dancer want to dance and the company does not want to refund ticket holders and deal with the monumental press issues involved with canceling programming.  A few earlier performances could be canceled without much effort like the Blossom Festival and appearances at Dance/USA, Dance for Life and Chicago Dancing Festival, but with the rest of Chicago’s top companies being represented, it really isn’t in the company’s best interest to be the missing link.

Obviously we don’t know all of the details, but personally, I lean to the side of the dancers.  Give them what they want.  If you don’t have them, you don’t have a company.  Increase the rehearsal time, but compensate them appropriately and in line with other top-tier national ballet companies.  Some have likened this to the NFL and NBA lock outs, but those organizations are for-profit and are negotiating with athletes that make millions per season.  Once a principal dancer starts flaunting their pimped out cribs and 60-foot yachts, then we might need to consider a reduced salary increase.  The only thing similar about the Joffrey lock out and the NFL lock out is that I will be extremely bummed if I can’t watch ballet or football this fall.

Let’s get a deal done!