An Inside Look at the Joffrey Ballet 2019-2020 Season
8 October 2019
The Joffrey Ballet has always challenged the norms within the ballet world, so it’s no surprise that the lineup for their 2019-2020 Season is intriguing and exciting. We were lucky enough to sit down with Ashley Wheater, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director, to get the inside scoop and learn more about what’s in store for the Joffrey. . . this season and beyond.
On Chicago and Collaboration
When thinking about the upcoming performances, it’s integral to consider the context in which they take place. “We live in an incredibly diverse city,” Wheater says, “and our company needs to reflect that diversity in terms of the repertoire, the dancers and the organization overall.”
“We would love for people to think of the Joffrey as Chicago’s own,” he continues. “In the world of dance, we have contributed to the breadth and depth of the art form by taking risks, by challenging our dancers AND our audiences in a way that’s fearless.”
The Joffrey has a long and storied history of challenging the boundaries of traditional ballet, from its hybridized dance forms to its totally unique approach to how they run the company overall. They aren’t afraid to bring in dancers who don’t fit the traditional mold — uniformity of size and build aren’t the unifying characteristics of their company. Instead, the Joffrey is strengthened by bringing fresh, unique perspectives to the forefront, and valuing everyone’s contribution.
“In Chicago, there is an openness to collaboration and working together that strengthens the arts in the city,” Wheater said of their diverse bill. The season includes Jane Eyre, The Nutcracker, The Times Are Racing and Don Quixote, with each performance offering the opportunity for a new choreographer, musician or dancer to shine. “It’s a huge program in the diverse language of our art form,” Wheater explains. “It’s a celebration of what everyone is bringing to the table, and a celebration of the creative form of dance.”
What ties the excitingly eclectic bill of the Joffrey’s upcoming season together is ultimately each and every participant’s unwavering commitment to fulfilling an idea on the stage.
“I think that if we can take our audience on a journey with the power and energy of each performance — whether that journey is a narrative one, like Jane Eyre or Don Quixote, or whether it is the abstraction of dance — they will leave the theatre energized and feeling they have experienced something incredibly special.”
The energy the Joffrey is bringing to their audience is abundant. “The Joffrey has always been that company that welcomed everyone to the theatre,” Wheater states. In their groundbreaking approaches to dance, the Joffrey has made the art of ballet more accessible to a wider audience, drawing in young couples on date nights alongside long-term lovers of classical dance. This expanding interest, not surprisingly, has also brought about a change in where they perform. The 2019-2020 Season will be the Joffrey’s final season at the Auditorium Theatre; the next step is a big move to become the resident ballet company at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“It’s a new chapter in the history of The Joffrey Ballet, and in the history of Chicago,” explains Wheater, who goes on to say, “It’s never goodbye. We’ve had so many opportunities at the Auditorium, and now we have a new set of opportunities at the Lyric.”
From opportunity within the company, to expanding access for a wider audience to engage with, The Joffrey Ballet is all about celebrating diversity and constantly growing as they learn from that practice. Though they are undergoing changes, the heart of their work is one that is humble and rooted in a love for all the possibilities of dance — for those that perform it, and for those that see it.
In the words of Wheater: “In the times that we live in today, where there is so much noise and distraction, to put your phone down for two hours and immerse yourself in the live arts is really good for your soul. Really good for your soul.”