The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Presents New Exhibition on The Joffrey Ballet

This large-scale exhibition opening September 19, 2024, entitled The Joffrey + Ballet in the U.S., celebrates the legacy and history of The Joffrey Ballet Company.

By: May. 16, 2024
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Presents New Exhibition on The Joffrey Ballet
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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center will present a new large-scale exhibition, The Joffrey + Ballet in the U.S.

Despite The Joffrey Ballet's size and cultural impact, it has received scant scholarly attention to date.

However, in 2017, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division acquired the entire Joffrey archive—the largest acquisition for The New York Public Library in a decade. Starting September 19, 2024, the Library for the Performing Arts will mount the first large-scale retrospective of the company, leveraging the treasures of the Joffrey archive for the very first time.

The exhibition will next be mounted in the company's hometown of Chicago at Wrightwood 659 in Fall 2025.

The exhibition features:

  • Newly digitized rare film, including the original performance of the groundbreaking ballet Astarte and footage of Anna Sokolow's Opus 65

  • Gerald Arpino's traveling trunk

  • Joffrey Ballet costumes, props, pointe shoes, posters, and correspondence. 

  • Robert Joffrey's high school report card where he declares his intention to be a dancer and join a ballet company—instead, he would start one. 

The Joffrey + Ballet in the U.S. is curated by Dr. Julia Foulkes, who previously collaborated with the Library on the 2018 exhibition Voice of My City: Jerome Robbins and New York. Former Joffrey Company Artist Nicole Duffy, who danced for the company for a decade and currently serves as a repetiteur for Gerald Arpino's works, is assisting with the exhibition.

Born in 1928 in Seattle, Robert Joffrey was the son of immigrants from Afghanistan and Italy, his mother Catholic and his father a devout Muslim. Robert experienced ill health as a young child, having to wear casts on his feet to correct bowed legs. He also had asthma attacks. Ballet was a way to counter his physical ailments and assert his strength and perseverance. It also became a mission.

Joffrey's vision for a ballet company started from who he was—from an immigrant family without the typical social or physical stature that would come to define ballet. His company included a spectrum of bodies that presented a range of dance—from 20th century classics by Vaslav Nijinsky and Kurt Jooss to the topical pieces of his co-founder Gerald Arpino to Frederic Ashton, Twyla Tharp, and William Forsythe's new ballet choreography.

The Joffrey became known across the country for its eclectic repertory, traveling to small towns and major cities across the U.S. and the world. To do that required entrepreneurship in addition to perseverance. The company faced failure numerous times, which prompted searches for new sources of revenue, new homes, and a new role for ballet in the U.S. Moving to Chicago with a repertory of works by varied choreographers, dancers with looks and talents beyond idealized stereotypes, and audiences beyond New York, the Joffrey became a model for dance companies in the U.S.

The Joffrey + Ballet in the U.S. tells the story of what made the Joffrey a unique force in the world of dance, demonstrating how the company's inner workings and history led to it redefining and constructing the future of ballet in the U.S.

This exhibition is made possible by the generosity of the Anne H. Bass Foundation, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, Inc., Lorna Ferguson, Macmillan Family Foundation, Leslie Tonner Curtis, The Geraldine Stutz Trust, Inc., The Frederick Loewe Foundation, Inc., and Perry Granoff.

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts gratefully acknowledges the leadership support of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman. Additional support for exhibitions has been provided by Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg and the Miriam and Harold Steinberg Foundation.

About The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is dedicated to enhancing access to its rich archives of dance, theater, music, and recorded sound—to amplify all voices and support the creative process. As one of The New York Public Library's renowned research centers—and one of the world's largest collections solely focused on the performing arts—the Library's materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, film screenings and performances. The collection at the Library for the Performing Arts includes upwards of eight million items, notable for their extraordinary range and diversity—from 11th-century music, to 20th-century manuscripts, to contemporary hip-hop dance.

About The Joffrey Ballet­­

The Joffrey Ballet is one of the premier dance companies in the world today, with a reputation for boundary-breaking performances for more than 68 years. The Joffrey repertoire is an extensive collection of all-time classics, modern masterpieces, and original works.

Founded in 1956 by pioneers Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey remains dedicated to artistic expression, innovation, and first-rate education and engagement programming. The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE and President and CEO Greg Cameron.




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