By Narbeh Minassian
The Joffrey Ballet School has a prestige that translates throughout the world, and after a direct and concise conversation with the executive director, Christopher D’Addario, it is not difficult to understand how this reputation has been upheld. Here is a man whose enthusiasm is matched by his know-how, whose passion is deeply rooted purely in ballet. His vision is to make this all too envied art-form accessible to male and female dancers of all ages and of all abilities, all under an exclusively world class tutelage. This is the rasion d’être of an institution established more than half a century ago by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, and now with Christopher D’Addario at the helm, there are sturdy and skillful hands guiding this titanic of ballet schools.
Now, perhaps more than any recent year, is an exciting time for the school as they are taking the relatively novel step of expanding the children’s Young Dancer Program for The Nutcracker. This move entails an opportunity for even the most inexperienced of ballet dancers to perform in and be a part of the fall production of The Nutcracker in a major Manhattan theater. The Joffrey Ballet School adheres to a ‘family-centric’ policy, to quote D’Addario, and so the spring production of Snow White will follow on from the approach to the show in the fall by selecting novice and seasoned ballet dancers alike, ranging all ages from as young as three years old right up to seventeen. This is a decision that is bound to generate excitement amongst all the dancers.
Such anticipation has been heightened even further still after a recent agreement confirmed none other than Cirque du Soleil as a partner of this institution. This has led to a summer intensive at the University of California Northridge, where Mia Michaels and Mandy Moore -from ‘So You Think You can Dance?’- both teach thirty children in class, gearing them towards performing in the Cirque du Soleil itself. While this is a fantastic opportunity, the school does not seem to be satisfied with the sole summer intensive plan and has one instructed by Jamal Simms in Georgia, as well as in Florence, Italy and an exclusive place at the renowned Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia.
The Joffrey Ballet School is proud of what D’Addaro calls its ‘worldwide footprint’, with dancers from Australia, China, Japan, Spain, Italy, and South America all vying for a place at this establishment. Their summer intensive programs are highly sought after, with ten thousand auditions competing for relatively limited space; above all, their elite dancing class is highly selective, more so than any similar school. Statistics are not always the most reliable basis for support and are often vulnerable to interpretation, but the fact that 60% of their graduates graduate with jobs surely confirms that this competition is there for a good reason. Perhaps the ultimate aim for any student at the school is to eventually qualify for the touring company program, comprised of top-level trainees who are paid to tour the nation.
Ballet is one of those rare disciplines that combines the physical fitness of an athlete, the charisma of a thespian, and the concentration and skill of a musician. It is therefore not only one of the more difficult talents to learn, but also to teach. With this in mind, committed and capable instruction is essential, and with a leader that loves and knows ballet as much as Christopher D’Addoro, you would be hard-pressed to find a better place than Joffrey’s Ballet School.