By Allegra T. Jacobs
The Russians have not only interfered in last year’s election, but they may also be undermining one of our most valued cultural institutions: the Joffrey Ballet. Many radical changes, made mostly by Russian staff, have turned the Joffrey into a money-making enterprise, not unlike a Trump University scam.
This year, it moved much of its training program from its traditional 6th Avenue location to an abandoned warehouse in Long Island City. The building often has no heat. Students try to dance in jackets, hats, and gloves. This creates a dangerous situation for the dancers, who are prone to accidents when their muscles cannot warm up. When it is too cold to hold classes in the studios, they are held in the reception space where dancers have to work on awkward Lego-type rubber floors.
Located in an inaccessible area of Long Island City, it is a long walk from the subways to the studio. Changing rooms are small and dirty. The fire alarm goes off frequently, floors are very slippery and have no spring; pianists are late much of the time. Additionally, poor interior design has students interrupting other classes in order to exit the studio.
To promote itself, the Joffrey formed the Joffrey Elite and created sophisticated public relations videos. However, the standard of admission seems based on the student’s ability to write a steep tuition check—$160,000 for four years—and to pay extra, required fees. These include a $300 performance fee, but there are no costumes to keep, and you have to pay separately for videos and pictures.
Many dancers from the original concert group have left because the director, Ballet Master Davis Robertson, was fired. Most of the original teachers have also been fired and the Joffrey repertoire has changed. Only Russian ballet technique is taught and students complain that the new Russian teachers can be verbally abusive. Over 20 students have left this year.
Teachers promise careers in dance to students, but the competition is very high in New York City. Many students are admitted without the physical talent and ability to survive the demanding ballet training. This results in physical injuries and increased absences. The Joffrey’s promises are seen as a marketing scheme since, in reality, few will have a chance at professional careers in dance. International students come one semester, take loans, and often leave disappointed. Some viewers of recent performances see it as a disaster.
These new impresarios capitalize on the Joffrey name and are scamming people. It’s nut all what it’s cracked up to be!