Joffrey Ballet receives major matching grant for students

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The Joffrey Ballet’s Victoria Jaiani in “Cinderella.” (Photo: Cheryl Mann)

As it heads into the second week of its enchanting production of Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Cinderella” (running through May 22 at the Auditorium Theatre), the Joffrey Ballet has announced some impressive news.

The company, led by artistic director Ashley Wheater and executive director Greg Cameron, has received a $200,000 challenge grant from the Reva & David Logan Foundation that will help support more than 95 full and partial scholarships for young dancers at the Joffrey Academy of Dance, the official school of the Joffrey Ballet. The challenge grant was made to expressly support a new initiative aimed at annually funding more than a total of $400,000 in scholarships for talented and motivated youth at the Joffrey Academy of Dance.

Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet. (Photo courtesy of Joffrey Ballet)

Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet. (Photo courtesy of Joffrey Ballet)

In recognition of Joffrey’s dedication to equity in arts education, the Logan Foundation will match all contributions received by the Joffrey Ballet through June 30, 2016 – up to $200,000, the second largest grant awarded by the foundation in the first quarter of 2016. This is the first time the Joffrey has received support from the Reva & David Logan Foundation.

The funds raised will underwrite Joffrey Academy of Dance scholarships for under-resourced and under-represented youth ages 3-24 who have demonstrated ability and financial need, with the majority provided to participants in the Joffrey’s Chicago Public School residencies in areas with limited-to-no access to arts programming. This support allows more students the ability to continue from school-based programs into community engagement programs conducted at the Joffrey Tower, including the Lemonis Bridge Program, which provides kindergartenthrough second grade students a successful pathway into the Joffrey Academy through highly-structured classical ballet training, as well as the Middle School Dance Clubs Extensions Program, a weekly program providing youth the opportunity to choreograph and perform their own work.

The grant also will support five full scholarships plus living stipends towards the Joffrey Studio Company, which is comprised of 10 outstanding students at the cusp of their professional careers and are selected by Wheater and artistic directors of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik. These students receive individualized training to prepare for professional careers in dance, as well as performance opportunities alongside the Joffrey Ballet’s professional company dancers.

In a prepared statement, Richard Logan, president of the Foundation, noted: “The discipline and sheer joy of dance education has proven to be a powerful and transformative tool in the lives of young people. Our foundation felt strongly that making this opportunity available to so many children in Chicago was a vision worthy of support…and the fact that it is provided by the world-class artists and teachers of the Joffrey Ballet is truly extraordinary. Not every child will become a star of the ballet, but each child’s star will burn a little brighter for the experience.”

Wheater (a scholarship student early on in his own youth in England) noted: “Throughout its history, the Joffrey Ballet has always welcomed a diverse array of talented dancers. But without early access to quality training, few can achieve the skills necessary to pursue professional careers. Nothing is closer to my heart than a young person who finds a means of expression through dance. The Reva & David Logan Foundation’s support is critical to ensuring that the Joffrey Academy continues to grow in size and reputation; it is a commitment to the next generation of young dancers and dance audiences.

[NOTE: For a review of “Cinderella” visit: http://www.chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment/joffrey-ballets-cinderella-a-model-of-enchantment%5D

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