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Fabrice Calmels leaving the Joffrey Ballet

The principal dancer will depart the world-renowned Chicago company at the end of the month following his final performance in “The Nutcracker.”

Fabrice Calmels, who has dazzled audiences in Chicago as a lead dancer with the Joffrey Ballet for more than 18 years, announced he will be leaving the company following his final performances later this month in “The Nutcracker.”

The French-born, six-foot-6.3 artist (the tallest ballet dancer in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records), made the announcement via his Instagram account last week.

“Leaving was a hard decision given my passion for ballet and my love for the Joffrey and our audience. I am not leaving because of age or health or a desire to retire. Rather, I’m leaving to pursue my next adventure as an artist,” the 38-year-old artist wrote, in part, in the post.

In an interview with Dance Magazine, Calmels revealed that “next adventure” includes a move to sunny California, “because a lot of things that I want to do could be movie related. I also feel like it’s far away from ballet. There are a few companies out there, but not that many, and I like that challenge. I’m interested to see what California has to offer.”

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It is with great sadness that I am announcing my departure from the Joffrey Ballet, the company I have loved and called my home for almost 19 years. My last performance will be December 29, 2019, at 2 pm. Leaving was a hard decision given my passion for ballet and my love for the Joffrey and our audience. I am not leaving because of age or health or a desire to retire. Rather, I’m leaving to pursue my next adventure as an artist. I’ve had some time to think about the role I’ve played at the Joffrey throughout my career and what I still want to accomplish. I do not believe in becoming stagnant but always growing and achieving. As I watch new dancers make their debuts, I am inspired to pursue new dreams and take on new challenges. I wish to use my talent and drive to create a positive impact in the world of art. So for now, I will also be saying goodbye to my other home and love, Chicago, for Los Angeles. I want to thank each and every one of you who has lifted me up and supported me unconditionally. I will always carry you in my heart. I also want to thank the Joffrey Ballet and especially Gerald Arpino, who gave me the opportunity to do what I love. Mr. Arpino carved and molded me when I was just a raw stone. He was and will always be a significant influence to me for which I am forever grateful. For now, I’m moving forward on to my next adventure. This is not goodbye but a see you soon. And if the Joffrey Ballet ever wants me in the future as an Artistic Director, my answer will be an enthusiastic Yes!

A post shared by Fabrice Calmels (@fabricecalmels) on

In an interview with W Magazine in 2016, Calmels talked about his height (quite unusual in the world of ballet) and its distinct advantage for the highly coveted pas de deux: “A normal-sized guy could be hidden behind the ballerina,” he said. “My height frames her like a contour.”

Calmels was recruited for the Joffrey by the company’s legendary co-founder Gerald Arpino in 2002, and quickly established himself as one of the most-accomplished dancers in troupe.

Highlights of his work at the Joffrey have included roles in “Apollo,” “Othello,” “After the Rain,” “Anna Karenina” and “Continuum,” among others. Audiences at this season’s production of “The Nutcracker” have seen him perform various roles including The Impressario, The Rat King and Arabian Dancer. His final performances will be Dec. 18, 19, 21, 26, 27 and finally at the 2 p.m. show on Dec. 29.

April Daly and Fabrice Calmels in the Joffrey Ballet’s 2013 production of “Othello.”
April Daly and Fabrice Calmels in the Joffrey Ballet’s 2013 production of “Othello.”
Cheryl Mann

Television viewers may know Calmels from his former role as a guest judge a few seasons back on the hit reality series “So You Think You Can Dance.” Fashionistas know him from his foray into modeling.

Born and raised in Colombes, France, Calmels began his ballet training at the age of 3, eventually studying at the Paris Opera Ballet School. He began his U.S. career with the Pennsylvania Ballet and The School of American Ballet, and later the Boston Ballet.

His work during his tenure at the Joffrey has also included community outreach, training young dancers and teaching them ballet through various Joffrey workshops and school programs.

“If the Joffrey Ballet ever wants me in the future as an Artistic Director, my answer will be an enthusiastic Yes!,” Calmels wrote on Instagram.

Attached is photo from the 2004 Joffrey Ballet production of “Apollo” with Fabrice Calmels (as Apollo) and Victoria Jaiani (as Terpsichore) in the foreground, plus Kathleen Thielhelm (as Calliope) and Valerie Robin (as Polyhymnia).
Attached is photo from the 2004 Joffrey Ballet production of “Apollo” with Fabrice Calmels (as Apollo) and Victoria Jaiani (as Terpsichore) in the foreground, plus Kathleen Thielhelm (as Calliope) and Valerie Robin (as Polyhymnia).
Joffrey Ballet