On the Side: Derrick Agnoletti

Modern classes help the Joffrey dancer add depth to his technique.
Published in the June/July 2012 issue.

Photo by Michael Smith

"The dancers who get to the top are the ones who have no boundaries.” —Derrick Agnoletti

As a young student, Derrick Agnoletti was squarely focused on classical technique, studying at the School of American Ballet and San Francisco Ballet School. But that changed when he entered the University of California, Irvine. “Suddenly it was all these Horton and Graham and Limón classes,” he says. It didn’t take long for Agnoletti to appreciate the modern slant. “Modern taught me how to deconstruct my ballet technique,” he says. “I learned how to find where a position comes from instead of just imitating a shape.”

Agnoletti continued to take modern classes when he joined The Joffrey Ballet after graduation, and he recently began experimenting with Ohad Naharin’s Gaga technique. “I’m a small, muscular guy, so I tend to shorten my lines—but in modern classes, I’m learning to stretch beyond myself,” he says. “It’s helped make my movement more tactile, too. Even something as simple as raising the arms to fifth—it’s not just about the arms, it’s about the entire body.”

And when The Joffrey performed Paul Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom a few years ago? “That was quite a push for the company,” he says. “But I was a little ahead of the game.”