Robert Joffrey was born and raised in Seattle, the son of immigrants who had arrived on the West Coast in pursuit of the American Dream. From an early age he was a natural performer, inventing tap dance routines in the manner of his idol, Fred Astaire, and playing the tambourine in his parents' restaurant. He came to ballet as an eleven year old, learning basic techniques from a Russian. It was in the hands of idiosyncratic teacher Mary Ann Wells that Joffrey flourished. As a young adult, he moved to New York ...
Robert Joffrey was born and raised in Seattle, the son of immigrants who had arrived on the West Coast in pursuit of the American Dream. From an early age he was a natural performer, inventing tap dance routines in the manner of his idol, Fred Astaire, and playing the tambourine in his parents' restaurant. He came to ballet as an eleven year old, learning basic techniques from a Russian. It was in the hands of idiosyncratic teacher Mary Ann Wells that Joffrey flourished. As a young adult, he moved to New York city with his partner, Gerald Arpino, with the clear purpose of founding his own dance company, one that drew inspiration equally from Nijinsky and Martha Graham. Joffrey quickly built a thriving company and a distinguished dance school. Early on, though, the Joffrey was better known in the heartland, where the company's nucleus traveled from town to town, performing in old movie houses and high school auditoriums. In the 1960s the company grew to prominence nationally, dancing for President Kennedy and touring the world. Joffrey was profoundly influenced by that decade's counterculture, and the company became famous for us "rock" ballets such as Astarte. Although Joffrey died of AIDS in 1988 the company continues to produce some of our most imaginative and memorable dance.
Sasha Anawalt was previously the dance critic for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and for KCRW, National Public Radio in Santa Monica, CA. She has written for Ballet Review, Dance, Dance view, and the New York Times.
- Publisher's Weekly
Launched in New York City in 1952 by Robert Joffrey and his companion, Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey Ballet embodies an innovative approach that combines classical form with modern techniques. Its dancers, loaded with energy, have expanded the sphere of ballet as a popular American entertainment with works by Twyla Tharp, Arpino and with the multimedia rock ballet Astarte, which filtered the sexual revolution through myths of the ancient Babylonian fertility goddess. Joffreychoreographer, teacher and artistic directoralso pioneered meticulous revivals of the 20th-century repertoire, such as Kurt Jooss's antiwar ballet, The Green Table, and Leonide Massine's Le Tricorne. After Joffrey's death in 1988 at the age of 59, the company faltered, and in its present incarnation as the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago it gains few grants and survives mostly on box-office revenue. In this sparkling, substantial chronicle, written with the cooperation of Arpino and other Joffrey stalwarts, dance critic Anawalt ably follows the troupe's continual metamorphoses. The Seattle-born, secretive Joffrey, who rebelled against his working-class immigrant parents (his father a devout Muslim from Afghanistan, his mother an Italian-born waitress), emerges as a gutsy entrepreneur who struggled against underfunding, homophobia and a hierarchical arts system. Photos. (Oct.)
In chronicling the history of the Joffrey Ballet, Anawalt, who has written for Dance Magazine and Ballet Revue, has retold the story of the American dream. Robert Joffey (1930-88), the son of immigrant parents, faced adversity with creative thinking, hard work, and a steadfast commitment to dance. Founded in 1956, the Joffrey Ballet was quickly identified as distinctly American. It broke new ground with a repertoire that ranged from historical re-creations to postmodern innovations, incorporating Joffrey's much-admired and original dance instruction with a diverse ensemble of dancers and innovative marketing. Supported by his companion and colleague, choreographer Gerald Arpino, Joffrey realized his vision, and his legacy lives on. Joffrey was a private person known to amend factual information in the service of his professional ambitions; in this first detailed examination of the man and the company, Anawalt has ferreted out much information and separated fact from myth. This worthwhile and readable endeavor is sure to be enjoyed by ballet enthusiasts.-Joan Stahl, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
"It's the best book on an American ballet company we have ever had." -- Francis Mason
"A meticulously detailed, well-documented history, juiced with a little gossip here and there...(and) a valuable sweeping look at this all-important troupe." -- Sid Smith
"A milestone in dance writing. Few stiduies in the field will be able to match Sasha Anawalt's elegant style." -- Anna Kisselgoff
NY Times Book Review
Remarkable for its warmth and vigor, and for its blending of candor and judiciousness. -- Jack Anderson
"Sasha Anawalt's transforms years of meticulous research into a cliffhanger of a history, a chronicle of homosexual passion, interlocking directorates, and internecine strife in the dance world." -- Elizabeth Zimmer
"Sasha Anawalt's thoroughly researched, gracefully written, unblinking but a sympathetic book at last gives us a comprehensive account of the man, his career, his influence, and his art." -- Alan M. Kriegsman, Critic Emeritus