By John Hounihan
As the signs of fall hit Chicagoland, MSLCE students trekked into the heart of downtown to explore the inner workings of Chicago’s premiere dance company, The Joffrey Ballet.
Nestled into the bustling streets of the Loop, the Joffrey’s office space is tight and cozy. The world-renowned performances they are able to create are nothing short of majestic, and visiting their office space gave us a great sense of a dichotomy we talk about every day in our courses – the creative versus the industry. In a sector that is filled with flash and spectacle, we look to understand the day to day. We want to know how the sausage gets made.
Our visit started with a conversation between us and Joffrey Executive Director Greg Cameron. Sporting jeans and fall jacket and heading to another meeting 30 minutes into ours, he brought with him such a down to earth nature. He impressed us on so many levels, and his enthusiasm was contagious as he told us the Joffrey story, and how his days look as a leader at the top level of an arts enterprise. He had a way to make the boardroom we sat in more quaint, and his story made his advice seem more genuine. He stressed alignment of organizational mission and cited one of the arts’ biggest takeaways being that it “is much easier to control than to predict.”
We continued our visit with the Joffrey’s Marketing Director and Director of Human Resources. The talked about their roles and how their stories fit into an organizational structure of nearly 200 employees. One thing that seemed to resonate with all of us was how they all worked to build and strengthen the Joffrey brand. Everything from flyers to seasonal programs to the way they spoke about the company felt connected to the Joffrey’s values – Excellence, Athleticism, and Art at the top of a field.
Our visit concluded with a tour of the office and rehearsal spaces for the Joffrey mainstage and academy. This culminated in watching a few minutes of rehearsal for their world premiere of a brand new Nutcracker. From the Industry to the Art – we watched artists doing what they do best. And as MSLCE student Paige Lester said, “It’s great to see a company be so successful in business while still maintaining such a high caliber of artistry, commitment, and technique.”
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