April 23, 2016
BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
What could tell the story of the Joffrey Ballet’s triumphant success in Chicago better than last weekend’s performance by the company’s dancers at the Auditorium Theatre, and the gala that followed at the Hilton attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 700 other guests?
Maureen Smith, one of the company’s original board members whom many feel brought the ballet to everyone’s hearts in Chicago, remembered those early days as she toasted the glamour of the 14th Annual Spring Gala hosted by the Joffrey Women’s Board.
“The Joffrey had a hard time getting started in Chicago. It moved everything – costumes, scenery, dancers, and Gerald Arpino – to Chicago, and it was initially difficult to get funding for a full-grown international ballet company arriving in our city. Eventually, some corporations such as Sara Lee, Boeing, and especially Abbott, took the lead in funding this new ballet company. In the beginning, we had many empty seats at our performances and so a group of us from the Board of Directors decided in 2000 to form a women’s board. We hoped to get about 20 people to join and wound up with more than 50 dynamic members who truly made the Joffrey the incredible success and the Chicago institution that it is now. Mayor Daley was a wonderful supporter and was instrumental in getting the Joffrey Tower built. Mayor Emanuel has also been an enthusiastic supportor, attending most performances. The Galas became the Party of the Year and the Women’s Board was instrumental in helping with outreach programs and with the School. The Gala is often chaired by two Women’s Board members, who perhaps don’t know each other very well at the beginning, but become close friends for life through their work on the Gala. During the rise of the Joffrey in Chicago, our city became ballet central in the country, attracting dancers, choreographers and designers from all over the world. Led by Ashley Wheater and Greg Cameron, the Joffrey is truly something of which we can all be proud.”
The 2016 Spring Gala was sponsored by BMO Wealth Management and hosted by co-chairs Annie and Dr. Kris Atzeff, Jamie-Clare and Nicholas Colvin, Yvette and Brian Karaba, Anne and Zachary Lazar, Amandaand Jess Merten, and Cheryle and Joel Williamson. Patti Eylar serves as Women’s Board President.
Community projects are among the programs made possible through funds raised from the Gala’s profits. A group of Community Engagement dancers, ages five through eighteen, wowed guests and Joffrey company members alike following dinner (before the Gala guests later proved their own love of dancing in the Chicago Hilton’s Grand Ballroom).
Photo credits: Dan Rest