The Joffrey Ballet Receives $500K Challenge Grant From Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation to Launch Endowment

September 16, 2013
Official Press Release



(September 16, 2013) – The Joffrey Ballet, led by Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron, announced today that the Company has been awarded a $500,000 challenge grant from the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation expressly to launch an endowment for the creation, production and performance of full-length story ballets.

The new Rudolf Nureyev Fund at The Joffrey Ballet, as it will be known, represents one of the largest awarded to a single cultural institution in the Foundation’s history, with the Joffrey joining such other high profile organizations as the New York City Ballet, School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and The Joyce Theatre. The Joffrey Ballet will be responsible for raising an additional $1 million to complete the Fund.

“The Board of Directors of the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation believes that The Joffrey Ballet has established a solid foundation on which to develop into a premiere ballet company that can uniquely represent itself and Chicago, nationally and internationally” said Barry L. Weinstein, Board President, Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation. “In the spirit of facilitating this development, the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation has presented a $500,000 challenge grant creating an endowment for the Joffrey to perform full-length ballets on a continuing basis. Both The Joffrey Ballet and the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation are committed to telling stories through the art of ballet.”

Founded in 1992, the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation has contributed over $4,000,000 in grants to benefit dance in the United States in memory of Rudolf Nureyev. The Joffrey Ballet has, in the past, received funding from the Foundation for a revival of Nijinsky's L'Apres Midi D'Un Faune in honor of Rudolf Nureyev (1997), for An Evening of Nureyev (2004), and for programming surrounding the company’s two-year 50th Anniversary celebration (2005-2006). “When I was a young dancer with the Royal Ballet and London Festival Ballet, Rudolf Nureyev became a mentor and a friend,” said Wheater. “Now, thirty-five years later, through this generous grant from the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation, I find that Rudolf’s legacy supports my work still. As a dancer and as a creator, Rudolf had a passion for full-length narrative ballets. Story ballets serve as a great entry point for new audiences to discover dance and for dancers to discover their art. With this grant and the support of matching donors, we have the opportunity to explore what it means to tell a story through dance in the 21st century.”

“The City of Chicago is proud to have The Joffrey Ballet as one of its many cultural treasures and receiving this recognition from the prestigious Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation further reinforces The Joffrey’s influence in the national dance community. Augmenting the Joffrey’s ability to create and present more evening-length works will help enrich our cultural landscape and continue to solidify Chicago as our country’s dance capital,” added the Honorable Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Joffrey Ballet Board of Directors will undertake matching the challenge grant under the leadership of newly appointed Board Chairman Zachary D. Lazar, Jr. “This past weekend, some 200 children auditioned for roles in the upcoming production of Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker. The Joffrey is committed to creating opportunities for Chicago’s children to grow and learn; story ballets are aligned with this mission,” said Lazar.

The Joffrey Ballet will present its next full-length story ballet, Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère: The Temple Dancer, set in the fairytale-like India of the past at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway, October 16 – 27. Based on Marius Petipa’s classic choreography – including the famous Kingdom of Shades scene, which Welch has left intact – Welch breathes new life into a 19th century classic full of the exotic appeal and fantastic mysticism of the Orient, complete with live snakes. La Bayadère is presented over 10 performances with live orchestral accompaniment by the Chicago Philharmonic conducted by Joffrey Music Director Scott Speck.


About Rudolf Nureyev

Rudolf Nureyev, born in 1938 in Irkutsk, Russia, became a soloist with the Kirov Ballet after graduating from the Leningrad Ballet School. Among his many contributions, he emphasized the role of the male dancer in ballet and brought it to prominence. In 1961, Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union to the West when the Kirov toured Paris, despite KGB efforts to stop him. At that point in history, the Nureyev name stood for freedom and he became a Cold War icon. The same year, he also made his London debut with ballerina Margot Fonteyn at the Royal Academy of Dancing. Their chemistry as a dance team would captivate audiences for years to follow. Nureyev's gala performance was also the start of his long-lasting relationship with the Royal Ballet, his home base up until the mid-1970s, when he began his esteemed solo career, leading to his stardom in every country in the western world. Concurrently, Nureyev began to choreograph revised versions of the story ballets, Don Quixote, Raymonda and Swan Lake. He would go on to choreograph revisions of three more ballets during his career. He died in 1993 in Paris.


About the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation

In tribute to Rudolf Nureyev, whose love of the new in dance sprang from a profound faith in ballet's traditional past, the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation seeks to preserve and protect the history and tradition of dance while simultaneously encouraging its progress and development. Specifically, the Chicago-based Foundation aims to perpetuate Rudolf Nureyev's name, and to advance his vision and contribution to dance through its study, performance and appreciation. Financially, through grants to benefit dance, the Foundation aims to carry on the legacy that Rudolf Nureyev has left behind – his extraordinary dedication to the art of dance.

About The Joffrey Ballet

Since 1995, The Joffrey Ballet has been Chicago’s own ballet company, reaching over 150,000 people annually through its performances, classes and outreach initiatives. Just over five years ago, the Joffrey moved into its first permanent home, Joffrey Tower, at the corner of State and Randolph Streets, in the heart of Chicago’s revitalized theater district, reinforcing its commitment to Chicago and taking its place amongst the city’s preeminent cultural institutions. Joffrey Tower, with its 52,000 square feet of space, is home not only to the Joffrey’s world-class company of dancers, but has become a family center for dance in the North Loop, dedicated to nurturing young talent while also promoting diversity and inclusion in the field of classical ballet. For more information on The Joffrey Ballet, La Bayadère, and ways to contribute to the challenge grant, please visit