Ballet is Tradition
Last month, with casual indifference, I forwarded to our Managing Editor a denunciation of the current Joffrey Ballet School management, which has followed the next generation of young dancers to Long Island City to conduct programs in what looks like an old factory.
In doing so, we seem to have stumbled upon the angst of perhaps only one malcontent and then faced the indignation of those who felt that they were carrying on the tradition in a profession where tradition is everything.
Joffrey Ballet School Fights Back
I am writing in response to Allegra T. Jacobs’ article, “Joffrey Ballet: Nut All What It’s Cracked Up To Be!” in the March 2107 issue of WestView. Ms. Jacobs has irresponsibly written her article without any attempt to investigate whether any of the slanderous accusations leveled against the school by her source were in fact true. These are the inaccuracies in the article:
1. Our school has been taken over by Russians who teach only the Vaganova Method. Not true. Of the 17 ballet instructors teaching in our trainee programs, five of them are Russian. Our ballet instructors have a wide variety of backgrounds, including the Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, and Martha Graham, just to name a few. The school curriculum, updated in 2013 by former Artistic Director Robert Ray, an Australian, is an eclectic and balanced program incorporating the most modern techniques, inclusive of American, Western European, and Russian traditions.
2. Our new, second facility in LIC is an abandoned warehouse. This is completely untrue. The building is called the “Zipper” building and has been converted by the landlord into a mixed-use space with our studios, office space, and other businesses.
3. Our new facility has no heat and the fire alarm goes off constantly. This is false. The floor we occupy (fourth) has undergone a $750,000 renovation, including a brand new HVAC system. Over the past year, besides two routine tests, the fire alarm went off accidentally only once, when a contractor was installing a fire suppression system and accidentally cut a sprinkler line without disabling the fire alarm. Regarding the heat, ConEdison and the landlord had some trouble with the gas line to the building, but this was for a brief period in the late fall; the landlord promptly installed industrial strength commercial heaters while ConEdison resolved the issue. While our HVAC contractor is still working out some kinks, as is normal with any new system, the system does heat our space.
4. We have dropped our standards/have no talented students. Every year, our students are hired by professional companies, often before they complete the program. Companies often use our current students in their performances. For example, several of our students just danced with Complexions Contemporary Ballet during their recent run at the Joyce. Thirty different companies have hired our students in recent years, including: Boston Ballet, Ballet West, Nevada Ballet, Madison Ballet, Compania Nacional de Danza (Mexico), Nashville Ballet, and so on.
5. We only take students who can pay full tuition. Students come from all economic backgrounds and over 70% receive some type of financial aid in the form of merit scholarships, federal student aid, work study grants, and tuition discounts.
6. An unusually large number of students are dropping out. The number of students leaving the school this year is in line with historical norms. Those dropping out for reasons directly related to the course of study is a small number. The vast majority of students leave for the following reasons: injury, getting a dance job, deciding to get a college degree, or deciding that dance is not a career for them.
7. The article states that Davis Robertson was fired. Mr. Robertson was the Artistic Director (not Ballet Master) of our touring Concert Group, a program the school discontinued for reasons unrelated to Mr. Robertson. The school greatly appreciated the wonderful work he did in that capacity and we wish him well.
It is very disappointing that Ms. Jacobs did not meet with the school’s faculty or staff, take a tour of the school’s facilities, or make any attempt that we can discern to investigate whether what she has written is true. In fact, the article appears to be a purposeful attempt by some unknown party to slander our school. I trust that as the true facts come to light and your paper realizes the extent to which the article is erroneous and slanderous, you will retract Ms. Jacobs’ article and print the true facts.
—Lee Merwin, Director of Operations
Joffrey Ballet School
I read Allegra T. Jacobs’ article “Joffrey Ballet: Nut All What It’s Cracked Up To Be!” in the March 2107 issue of WestView with deep concern.
The Joffrey Ballet, the internationally acclaimed ballet company that will perform Romeo and Juliet in New York City (March 29th through April 2nd), is not associated with the entities or activities described in the article. The article concerns the Joffrey Ballet School and its related entities. Both the Joffrey Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet School carry the name of their common founder, Robert Joffrey, but the entities and their operations are unrelated.
Any clarification to your readership would be appreciated.
—Brian Smith, Chief Marketing Officer
The Joffrey Ballet