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In The News

Ballet Master Nicolas Blanc Receives Choreography Award at USAIBC

Joffrey Ballet Master Nicolas Blanc received the Choreography Award at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. Rendez-Vous was performed by dancer Aaron Smyth and Cara Marie Gary.

Read the full list of winners here.

Photo by Richard Finkelstein. 

Aaron Smyth Wins Bronze Medal at the USA International Ballet Competition

Dancer Aaron Smyth won a Bronze Medal in the Senior Division at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi last week. Congratulations Aaron!

Photo by Richard Finkelstein.

Mayor Emanuel Declares June 30, 2014 Pierre Lockett Day

Community Engagement Director and former Joffrey dancer Pierre Lockett announced last week he will be stepping down from his Joffrey position. In honor of his tireless efforts in community outreach and dance education, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared by Mayoral Proclamation that June 30, 2014 is Pierre Lockett Day in Chicago. Read the proclamation here

JW Marriott Launches Poise & Grace Training Initiative With The Joffrey


“At JW Marriott, we look to identify associates that live the brand vision of orchestrating the exceptional, crafting luxurious experiences for guests that are inspired by their passions,” said Mitzi Gaskins, vice president and global brand manager of JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts.  “Poise and posture are globally recognized cultural cues that reflect the care and dedication our associates provide in every service interaction.”

JW Marriott Hotels and Joffrey Ballet - EngageFeaturing Wheater and JW Marriott associates, the videos focus on the importance of Warming Up, Proper Breathing, Flow of Movement and Connecting to the Audience while emphasizing the importance of both verbal and visual cues including posture, squaring one’s shoulders and two-handed delivery and engagement techniques.  Videos are typically shown during Daily Rehearsal – a team stand-up meeting where associates focus on JW Marriott’s unique service culture and discuss the business of the day.  Videos are inspirational and flexible, not prescriptive, and can occur one-on-one, in a group setting or even during a hotel-wide meeting.  Associates can also access content via a web-based app called Orchestr8, which allows hotels to share with one another how they have orchestrated exceptional guest experiences.  The new program will be deployed across all 68 JW Marriott properties in 26 countries by August 30.

JW Marriott worked with brand partner and Chicago Tribune’s Chicagoan of the Year Ashley Wheater to identify the four core behaviors that help dancers embody poise and grace.  Although hotel guests do not see the videos, they do experience the end result – confident, intuitive associates who make an impact, from strong first impressions to establishing a meaningful connection guests.

“We are proud to partner with JW Marriott on the Poise and Grace video training series,” said Wheater. “Ballet technique breeds discipline, self-confidence and a genuine interaction between people. Dancers epitomize poise and grace, and this program is a wonderful way to both celebrate our brand partnership and enhance the JW Marriott guest experience.”

JW Marriott Hotels and Joffrey BalletThe JW Marriott Chicago (151 W. Adams) served as the host hotel for the creation of the Poise and Grace videos due to its longstanding relationship with The Joffrey Ballet and its standing as #1 in guest satisfaction among JW Marriott properties in the last two of three years. Director of Sales & Marketing Steve Conklin at the JW Marriott Chicago explains how associates have embraced the program on property:

“When you think of poise and grace, the perfect metaphor is ballet. It’s an easy association for the team. The exercises, which include everything from practicing flow of movement through an obstacle course of tight spaces to noticing eye and heart placement when making a connection with the guest, have truly helped our associates to carry themselves with confidence and deliver a superior level of service to our guests.” 

A Ballet Horse Trots Through Cow Country

Chicago will forever be “cow town,” even if the closest we now come to bovine sightings are those painted and decorated fiberglass sculptures remaining from the 1999 Cows on Parade spectacle.


But what if a cow/horse hybrid joined the parade — a cow with ballet-bred horse breeding by way of Picasso?


That is exactly what happened in Chicago late last week as the Joffrey Ballet’s veteran photographer, artists Herb Migdoll, watched his Cow in Horse’s Clothing from the long-ago Cow Parade, “trot” a few blocks from its stable in the Joffrey Tower at State and Randolph, to the Daley Center lobby, where it will be on display until Sept. 14.


Migdoll’s work is named the “Pi-Cow-So,” and it has complex DNA. Overlaid on a fiberglass cow is the sculptural costume form of a horse’s head from “Parade,” the Picasso-designed 1917 ballet that has been in the repertoire of the Joffrey Ballet for years. According to Migdoll, the sculpture’s name draws on both the ballet reference and Picasso’s monumental sculpture in Daley Center Plaza that has had many interpretations over the years, but certainly has the shape of a horse’s head.


Chicago pedestrians are accustomed to all sorts of strange street traffic, and true to form, they barely batted an eyelash as “Pi-Cow-So” crossed a couple of busy Loop streets. Here’s a photographic view of the journey:

(Photos by Bob Nick)