Back in October, Joffrey Ballet School started a brand new youth ensemble. With the vision of Artistic Director Jo Matos, the performance group aims to share the power of art and public service with New York City. Check out Ms. Jo’s inside look on how this all got started and what the Youth Ensemble is looking forward to this year!
How it all began
Back in August when I was finishing up my Miami Dance Intensive, I received a phone call from Sophia Coppola. She wanted to know if I wanted to do a collaboration with her and sculptor Rachel Feinstein! The main event was going to be a huge multi arts presentation, in Madison Square Park, in early September. I was honored to say the least! After contacting my colleague Irene Hogarth-Cimino, who has created beautiful choreography for JBS Youth Ballet Program in the past, I set out to contact all of our Level 3 and 4 students that might still be in the City. As you might guess, this was no easy task as most New Yorkers are leaving for summer holiday in mid August. I needed six dancers, capable of working quickly; we only had two weeks.
The piece came together seamlessly. We performed the first Wednesday in September to applause and acclaim. The whole park was transformed into a living piece of art. It was magical. Dancers, musicians, performance artists, and strolling minstrels were everywhere. A human fountain mesmerized the young children who had come with their parents to see living art. I was so proud watching my dancers step in front of Rachel Feinstein’s soaring sculpture and bring it to life. They danced with maturity, skill and professionalism. Lil’ Buck, world renowned hip hop/ballet dancer and choreographer stood watching in the wings, smiling and approvingly shaking his head. I was so impressed that he took the time to congratulate each of the young dancers before taking the stage himself.
While I was walking home from the subway after the performance, glowing with pride, a thought came to me, “Why not form a youth ensemble?” We could always be at the ready, with our own repertoire, when future opportunities present themselves. And with that seed of an idea, the necessary steps were put in place to see this idea realized.
Putting in the work
Two weeks later, we had our first audition. I definitely wanted the six dancers from our Madison Square Park performance to be part of this inaugural group, but we needed six more dancers to have a complete ensemble of 12. Much to my delight, the Joffrey Ballet School Youth Ensemble was born with 12 new, talented and hard working members.
Before we could even celebrate, it was time to get to work. Our first performance was in 6 weeks! We started rehearsals right away. We typically rehearse for 2 hours a week, which has its challenges during Nutcracker season. As a young company, our dancers have to be responsible for going to class, warming up and reviewing material on their own time. There is so much more to being part of an ensemble than dancing together in the studio. There are lessons to be learned in individual responsibilities as well as being aware of the responsibilities each dancer has to one another – Our ensemble is a team and we must support each other in everyway possible.
The ensemble performed their first official gig at a show presented by Kat Wildish in NYC in November, and two of our founding members danced the role of Clara in the JBS Nutcracker! I’m so proud of these young dancers. Thanks to Miss Irene Hogarth, Sophia Coppola and Rachel Feinstein for the inspiration to form The JBS Youth Ensemble.
My vision for this ensemble is to perform beautiful ballet works, for as many audiences as possible. I want the ensemble to perform in the streets, in schools, at fairs and festivals. I want it to be a vehicle to demonstrate to the greater New York City community the power of dance, the power of young people and the power of public service.
Always dance like everyone one is applauding!Jo Matos, Artistic Director Joffrey Ballet School Children’s and Youth Ballet Programs JBS Youth Ensemble