The Joffrey Ballet and University of California—Berkeley's Cal Performances have joined forces on a five-year residency series that offers the public in-depth, behind-the-scenes access to the art of ballet. The first installment runs Nov. 13–19 with repertory classes taught by Joffrey dancers, a panel discussion and open rehearsals as well as performances in Zellerbach Hall November 17–19.
"There is so much interesting work happening, and we want to share it," says Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater, whose Bay Area ties go back to his days as a San Francisco Ballet principal dancer and ballet master. He has slated Justin Peck's In Creases, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Mammatus, the West Coast premiere of Alexander Ekman's Joy and Joffrey ballet master Nicolas Blanc's Encounter for this year's bill.
Both organizations value community engagement as much as artistic innovation, so the residency encourages an up-close, personal experience of dance. "People will be able to watch the creative process happening," Wheater says, at three open rehearsals with Blanc and the dancers, who will be working on a new piece co-commissioned by Cal Performances and slated for performance during the Joffrey's next visit. A pair of all-abilities ballet classes, plus a public forum on the choreographic process, round out the programming.
The Joffrey is scheduled to return in 2019 for the second of three visits over the five-year commitment. But, says Cal Performances associate director Rob Bailis, "this first visit is going to define how we nuance the next set of activities. It could be more-frequent visiting, it could be a different approach."
What's certain is the partners' shared dedication to making ballet accessible and appealing to wider audiences. "For years and years, the ballet world has been this private domain," Wheater says. "Taking down the walls and inviting people in is our responsibility."