Pittsfield’s Little Cinema at the Berkshire Museum will play host to the world premiere of Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance on Saturday, January 28 at 1:30 pm. It is one of only two Massachusetts theatres to be included in this fascinating event.
As a member of the Boston Ballet staff in the 1970’s, I was continually surprised when our most promising young dancers would suddenly announce they were leaving for the Joffrey Company. His dance scouts consistently covered the region looking for the cream of the upcoming crop, and his company grew mightily as a result. The ups and downs of Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino are well documented in the film, including this riveting tale from Suzanne Hammons Daone, who was with the company starting in 1959.
“I was with the Joffrey Ballet, touring by bus throughout the United States, when the Rebecca Harkness Foundation offered to sponsor the company. This was a wonderful opportunity for Mr. Joffrey and his dancers, enabling the company to gain international exposure. It also meant the company could afford to expand its repertoire with ballets of other choreographers and the luxury of creating new ballets in the setting of a home base and summer residence that was unprecedented in those days. But later, when Mr. Joffrey refused the ultimatum of renaming the company The Harkness Ballet or lose the financial support of the foundation, that was a difficult time for him and for us, his dancers.”
“The dancers had to chose whether or not to continue having a job or not, as Mr. Joffrey at that point had nothing he could offer us, but the hope that someday he could reform his own company. So, I continued working as a member of the Harkness Ballet until the time came, when Robert Joffrey did successfully gain enough financial support to form his new company and was granted two seasons a year at the New York City Center Theater.”
“It was then that I called and spoke with Gerald Arpino to ask if there would be a place for me to return to the Joffrey Ballet. I was very fortunate to be welcomed back with open arms and was thus referred to as ‘The Prodigal Daughter.’” – Suzanne Hammons Doone
This World Premiere screening will be the Opening Night of the Dance on Camera Film Festival Lincoln Center, NYC on January 27th. Then, on January 28th, the film will be simulcast to theaters around the country including a live post screening Question and Answer period from Lincoln Center with notable Joffrey alumni. This event kicks off our theatrical tour continuing through the spring and summer with special events in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and other cities.
This new documentary film looks at the Joffrey Ballet, the cultural treasure known as the first truly American dance company. Narrated by Mandy Patinkin and directed by Bob Hercules, the film documents how the Joffrey revolutionized American ballet by daringly combining modern dance with traditional ballet technique and setting ballets to pop and rock music scores. The film features rare excerpts from many seminal Joffrey works including Astarte, Trinity, and Billboards.
This world premiere event includes an interactive simulcast of a discussion with Sasha Anawalt, author of The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey and the Making of an American Dance Company, and panelists Trinette Singleton, one of the original Joffrey Ballet dancers; Ashley C. Wheater, current artistic director of the Joffrey; and Christian Holder, former Joffrey principal dancer.
Tickets for the simulcast screening and discussion following are $8 for the public, $6 for members. For more information go to www.berkshiremuseum.org
Also on the schedule at the Little Cinema are the films Tomboy, A Dangerous Method, and Norwegian Wood. Tomboy received my nomination for a Dorian Award as the Best LGBT Film of the Year. Berkshire on Stage is a member of GALENCA. (Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association.)
Also upcoming and of interest is a special screening of the opera Cendrillon Massenet’s take on the Cinderella story from the Royal Opera House in London. Date TBA.