Joffrey Ballet Company records

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Collection Data

The Joffrey Ballet Company records date from 1877 to 2017 (bulk: 1956-2009) and document the company's creative output from its inception in 1956 to 2017. The collection contains photographs, production and technical files, scores, company administrative files, press materials, programs, designs, and other visual materials created by and for the Joffrey Ballet. The collection also holds the files of company founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, as well as the photographer, set designer, and director for special projects, Herbert Migdoll.
Joffrey, Robert (Creator)
Arpino, Gerald (Contributor)
Migdoll, Herbert (Photographer)
Joffrey Ballet (Contributor)
Joffrey Ballet of Chicago (Contributor)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1877 - 2017
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: (S) *MGZMD 475
Ballet -- 20th century
Ballet -- Production and direction
Ballet companies
Joffrey Ballet
Biographical/historical: The Joffrey Ballet is an American dance company based in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1956 by Robert Joffrey (1930-1988) and Gerald Arpino (1923-2008) in New York City. The company is known for its innovative dance productions often involving a creative mix of traditional ballet and modern dance. The Joffrey has presented a number of pioneering ballets, such as Astarte (1967); The Clowns (1968); Trinity (1970); and the four part work Billboards (1993), conceived by Arpino and choreographed to songs by Prince. In addition to choreography by Joffrey and Arpino, the company has presented works by Paul Taylor, Laura Dean, John Cranko, Alvin Ailey, Mark Morris, William Forsythe, and Kurt Jooss. Thomas Skelton (from 1960 to 1994) and Jennifer Tipton are among the lighting designers that the Joffrey has employed. In 1968, the Joffrey began collaborating with photographer Herbert Migdoll, who worked variously as a photographer, visual artist, and set designer for the company. He created the sets for both Billboards and Legends (1996). His photograph from Joffrey's Astarte appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in March of 1968. In 2011, Migdoll assumed the role of director of special projects for the company. Robert Joffrey (born Abdullah Jaffa Bey Khan) and Gerald Arpino, a family friend, met in 1945 in Seattle, Washington, when Arpino was stationed there with the United States Coast Guard. Arpino joined Joffrey in his dance study under ballet master Ivan Novikoff, and soon after under Mary Ann Wells, to whom Joffrey dedicated his first concert (June 23, 1948), as well as his last original work, Postcards (1980). In 1948, Joffrey and Arpino moved to New York City, where they studied at the School of American Ballet, and under Gertrude Shurr with modern dancer and choreographer May O'Donnell. Joffrey would also occasionally teach O'Donnell's classes at the school. From 1949 to 1950, Joffrey was a soloist with Roland Petit's Ballet de l'Opera National de Paris (Paris Opera Ballet). During this time, Arpino performed in two Broadway shows: Bless You All and Annie Get Your Gun. Arpino also danced in O'Donnell's company between 1952 and 1953. In 1952, Joffrey's Persephone debuted at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, and featured Arpino, Lillian Wellein, and Helen Murielle. The following year Joffrey and Arpino established a dance school, the American Ballet Center (later known as the Joffrey Ballet School), in Greenwich Village, New York. Early works presented by Joffrey and the American Ballet Center include Pas des Déesses, Umpateedle, Le Bal Masqué, and Pierrot Lunaire, all produced at the 92nd Street Y. By the fall of 1956, the company was well-formed, and made its first national tour as the Robert Joffrey Theatre Dancers (later also known as the Robert Joffrey Theatre Ballet) under the aegis of Columbia Artists Management. From 1962 to 1964, the Joffrey Ballet functioned under the auspices of the Rebekah Harkness Foundation, but they severed ties after disagreements surrounding the company's name and artistic direction. The same year, Joffrey received a grant from the Ford Foundation to continue production. The 1965 season was successful, and in 1966, the Joffrey Ballet became the resident company of New York City Center (then called the City Center of Music and Drama), and the company was renamed The City Center Joffrey Ballet. The company performed under this title until 1977 before performing as The Joffrey Ballet. A smaller scale version of the main company, "Joffrey II," was developed in 1968, as a way of training and touring younger dancers. Joffrey II folded in 1995. From 1983 to 1991, the Joffrey split its time between New York City and Los Angeles, the first truly "bi-coastal" American dance company. In 1987, the University of Iowa commissioned Joffrey to design a new version of The Nutcracker, which he modeled on the 1940 version by Alexandra Fedorova for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. It premiered at the Hancher Auditorium in December, three months before Joffrey's death. This production was toured and performed annually for twenty-eight years, becoming a leading source of income for the company. In 2016, The Nutcracker was reimagined by Christopher Wheeldon, a former dancer with the company, and continues to be performed as a major piece of the repertory. Robert Joffrey died of AIDS in 1988, at the age of 57. Upon his death, Arpino took over artistic direction of the company. In 1995 the company relocated permanently to Chicago, where it remains today. The Joffrey Ballet School has remained in New York City. In 2007, Ashley Wheater replaced Arpino as the company's artistic director. Wheater danced in the Joffrey for five years in the 1980s before spending his remaining dancing years with the San Francisco Ballet.
Content: The Joffrey Ballet company records date from 1877 to 2017 (bulk 1956-2009) and document the administrative, promotional, and creative output of the company between from its inception in 1956 to the present day. The collection is arranged into eleven series: Photographs; Production and Technical Files; Scores; Programs; Press and Publicity; Company Files; Posters; Works of Art; Costumes and Artifacts; Designs; and Recordings. The recordings are currently unavailable, pending digitization. Photographs, production and technical files, and scores comprise the majority of the collection.
Physical Description
Extent: 400.87 linear feet (889 boxes, 48 oversize folders, 30 tubes)
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b22030979
MSS Unit ID: 24306
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): ef651a20-60f5-013a-0dd9-0242ac110004
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