#MyJoffreyLife: Personal Stories From Real Dancers
Joffrey Ballet School Success Story Tovi Wayne
Q and A with Tovi Wayne
I attended the Joffrey Ballet School’s Jazz and Contemporary program from 2014-2017. At the time the Jazz and Contemporary program was coordinated by Michael Blake, who brought a beautiful vision, passion, and discipline to the program.My time at the Joffrey Ballet School was my college experience and education. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned about hard work, admirability, to learn from your mistakes, and to understand your values as an individual and artist.
Before my time at the Joffrey Ballet School I wasn’t sure what I wanted for my future. I had always done theater growing up but I knew there was something more that I wanted to accomplish. For me, that was educating myself in dance.Dance was something that didn’t come naturally to me. I didn’t start dancing until I was 17 and even then I was known for having “two left feet on backwards”. Dance was an insecurity, which then transformed into an activity I wanted to get better at doing. Then it became something I LOVED. Now it’s what I strive to get better at, every chance I get.
That’s a very hard question to answer. Every experience stood out to me. I like to say “every opportunity is an experience, and every experience is an opportunity”. But if I had to narrow it down to one it would be my time working with Angelica Stiskin in her piece called “Pride,” in which I was one of the soloists.At the time, Joffrey Ballet School presented a dance concert called Billboard’s II in 2017. It was dedicated to the forever iconic Prince Rogers Nelson. (May he rest in peace.) I remember feeling so privileged to represent Prince’s songs and artistry through movement. That was an experience that I will forever cherish and to this day I’m still a hardcore Prince fan.
Shout out to Joffrey Alumni Robert Redick as well, for educating me on the genius of Prince!
My favorite classes would include Bradley Shelver’s ballet class, Beatrice Capote’s jazz class, and Michael Blake’s modern class. These classes were all taught with passion, influence, and a desire to inspire. I always appreciated those instructors for their ability to share their knowledge of an art form that they so clearly love.
My overall experience summed up in one word would be growth. I learned so much, what it was like to socialize authentically, how to cook for myself, to take care of my body when it asks for rest, to constantly be surprised and inspired by everyone around me, and my favorite part, exploring New York City. The list goes on.NYC was literally my campus. Everyday was a new adventure and to this day I am still discovering new things about this magical place. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, so give it a shot while you can!
If I had to give you any advice, it would be to simply TRUST YOURSELF!To quote Hamlet: “To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”Dream on and thanks for reading!
Could You Become the Joffrey’s Next Success Story?
“The children here aren’t exposed to all of the different styles we have in the US,” said Amber. “They have their traditional Zulu dancing and now we are introducing them to techniques like Jazz, Ballet, and Hiphop.”
Finding Her Voice at Joffrey
When I was about 12 years old I did my first Joffrey Ballet School summer dance intensive. It was the Jazz and Contemporary program in New York City. Being exposed to so many new artists and experiences in that short intensive allowed me to find a deeper love for dance and for NYC.After that, I continued to do the intensives every year, mostly the Jazz and Contemporary intensives but also the Experience, and one year I did the ballet intensive in Denver because I’m from Colorado.When I was 16, my mom and I decided it was time to get serious if being a dancer was really what I wanted. I squeezed in the last of my credits and graduated high school a year early in order to move to NYC and join the Joffrey Ballet School’s Jazz and Contemporary year round trainee program.After three years of being in the Jazz and Contemporary program, especially under the direction of Angelica Stiskin, I found my voice as an artist, was able to work with some of the best teachers and choreographers, gained so many life-long connections with other dancers, and received my Certificate of completion.
Before attending Joffrey I grew up competing with a small studio from my hometown. My few hours a night of dance class after school wasn’t cutting it for me and I was always craving more. I decided I wanted to make it a priority and Joffrey allowed me to do so.
Immersed In Dance and City Life
I loved getting to work with MADBOOTS dance company. They’re my favorite dance company in the city and it was really surreal having them come and set work on us at Joffrey Ballet School.I also loved doing an Immersive art gallery installation with Terk Waters. It was such a great experience getting to perform so close to your audience. Because of that experience I now know that I would love to do immersive dance theater one day.
I always loved Bradley Shelver’s ballet classes. Bradley is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Not just in dance but in everything. It seemed that almost every class with Bradley I would have some sort of huge epiphany and things would just click in my mind and body a way they never have before.I also loved Contemporary with Angelica Stiskin. I’ve never felt so safe and yet so uncomfortable in a class all at once. A safe space to be pushed out of your comfort zone. Angelica’s class also gave me a newfound appreciation for movement and all of the different textures your body is capable of.
I stayed in the dorms my first year of the Jazz and Contemporary trainee program. It was a great transition to living in the city because I wasn’t alone. I had all of the other students who were also new to New York and Joffrey Ballet School.The dorms also allowed me a chance to grow really close to the other students. I met my best friends through Joffrey, one of whom I live with today. Some of my favorite memories are from my time at Joffrey. One of my favorite memories is that after classes my friends and I would go eat at By Chloe or hang out in Washington Square Park.
My advice would be to stay open minded while taking classes from all these different teachers who have different ideas. Also, try to take everything in during those few weeks. I used to keep journals of corrections and quotes that my teachers had given me.
Right now I’m focused on my work with the young dancers in Memel. In the past SheWinS has provided soccer and track and field opportunities for the kids there. But this is the first time a real dance program is being offered to the students. Depending on how this program turns out SheWinS is considering continuing dance classes in the future.So right now I am laying the groundwork for dance technique with the kids and developing a curriculum that makes sense for an introductory dance program. At the end of the semester, we will be holding a showcase for all of the students providing them a chance to perform and show the community all that they’ve learned throughout these few months.
Where Might Dance Take You?
Rachel Neville Photography
Q and A with Joffrey Success Story Angelina Barbosa
I attended the Jazz and Contemporary summer dance intensive for three weeks. Then, a year later, I joined the Joffrey Jazz and Contemporary trainee program. If you do the whole program it is four years, start to finish, and that’s what I did.I started kind of young. At the time I started, the Joffrey program was mostly dancers 18 and up, with a couple of 18 year olds and mostly 20 year olds and up. I attended my first summer dance intensive when I was 13, and a year later began attending as a year round trainee when I was 14. The four years at Joffrey was basically my four years of high school. I stayed so that I could graduate at 17. After Joffrey I started auditions that summer as soon as I turned 18. And I mean, who doesn’t want to dance all day long?I ended up being accepted as a year round trainee by trying out for the summer intensive. I was accepted into the Jazz and Contemporary and Ballet intensives, and both year-round trainee programs.
Joffrey Was the Perfect Door
Prior to being accepted into Joffrey, I was a “studio kid.” I am from New Jersey and as a kid I spent all my time at the dance studio when I wasn’t at school. Where I’m from in Jersey, dance is huge. I started at three and by the time I was in school I had a full studio life, attending public school and going back and forth to the studio every day.By the time I was 11 or 12, I knew I wanted to pursue dance professionally. Joffrey was really my entrance to the life. If I hadn’t gone to Joffrey I’d be a different dancer: Joffrey was the perfect door.
So I attended the summer intensive when I was 13. It was a year between that and attending the trainee program.The intensive is obviously different than the trainee program. In the intensive they’re trying to pack a year of teaching into three weeks. So my experience that first summer was very fun and I learned a ton.I stayed in the dorms during the intensive and it was my first time being in the city on my own. Being from New Jersey, I had only ever gone into the city on day trips with my family. The intensive was my first time living and being there for three weeks straight.
The intensive was a great introduction to my Joffrey trainee experience. It made me want to come back and attend the trainee program full time. It was really fast paced because it was such a short time. We had classes all day long and learned so much, so quickly.
Our showcase at the end was so much fun, too. I remember one choreographer, Bradley Shelver, was amazing and so intelligent about dance. I loved his piece. I was really happy when he ended up being my ballet teacher later in the program.Another great instructor in the intensive was Candace Franklin. She’s a well known Jazz teacher, and is just a high energy, fun and sweet woman I’m so happy to still be in contact with, five years later. You can form such great relationships with the intensive instructors, and if you later decide you want to pursue dance professionally, those relationships are only going to help you.
I mentioned Candace and Bradley during my first intensive. During the trainee program they remained two of my favorites.The trainee program actually changed while I was attending. I had Michael Blake, the previous Artistic Director, for the first two years.Under him, the program was more modern-based, less emphasis on commercial dance. But he really focused on a lot of the basics dancers need to practice to get good at their craft.One of my favorite teachers from that faculty was JoiLynn Hopkins. She taught a lot of classes: hip hop, street jazz, and jazz technique. She was a good mentor and I looked up to her for always being so genuine and kind.Later the Artistic Directors changed. Angelica Stiskin became director my third year. She’s Joffrey’s current Artistic Director. With her came new faculty. I enjoyed meeting new teachers and making new connections.Angelica made the program more well rounded with additional emphasis on the commercial aspects while still holding the foundation and basic technique: all the styles a well rounded dancer needs to succeed.Out of all the schools I know of that have trainee programs, Joffrey is the only one that offers such a well rounded program to make you the best dancer possible.As I went through I realized Joffrey was the only program where you can get such well rounded exposure to so many styles of dance.
That First Intensive Changed Me
I’ll be honest, it was scary at first and overwhelming, but also exciting to step into the city life, coming from a suburban or small town. I was completely immersed in the classes. After hours, I remember going out for ice cream with other girls at the dorms. We always went with an RA – you’re always supervised if you’re under 18, which is different from some of the other dance intensives offered in the city so it’s great even if you’re a bit younger..Right away you really feel how in New York City, people are so busy and driven. They have places to go, things to do. It’s different than what I or the other students were used to. I feel that the experience of being a student in that first intensive changed me because before that, even though I’d been dancing for years, I had little knowledge of what it really took to succeed as a dancer. Not just as a dancer – but as a dancer in New York. It made me want to come back and continue to learn and grow.In terms of friendships, I did make friends at that first intensive, even though I was a bit younger than some of the other students. I’m still good friends with another student now, five years later. She was from Jersey too, so after the intensive we met up. In fact, we kept seeing each other everywhere! I ended up becoming an assistant for a dance convention called Artists Simply Human (ASH) and she was there too. She helped me get that job and we’re still good friends today.Dance is such a small community and those relationships are so important. She’s in college now at USC but when she’s home I’m sure we’ll still see each other.
Go for it! If you are able to go, showing up is half the battle.A lot of people get intimidated walking into that first audition or class and it’s easy to be stressed in a room with others you think have more experience. It can hold you back and is scary because you’re putting yourself out there. But I would say go for it. Showing up is half the battle, and once you’re in the room, it’s up to you to try your hardest. You just have to get out of your own way. Everyone in the room wants you to succeed, especially the people that sit on the other side of the table. You can feel the love and support.Auditioning or working with a higher level of instructor is not really as much about who is the best in the class as you might think. So just let yourself have the experience. At the end of the day it’s not about who’s first or up in the front, so just focus on you and let yourself become a better dancer. And most of all, have fun!
Well, I just finished the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and took a break. I went home and gave my body a break from doing 16 shows a week, and then 20 shows my last week. It was a super intense schedule and high intensity show so I had to take a short vacation. Now I’m back taking classes, working on my craft. It’s audition season during January and February so for the next little while I’ll be going to every audition I can and trying to find that next perfect role.
You know, it’s never what you expect. Joffrey’s programs prepare you as much as possible to live this life by making you a versatile dancer capable of working anywhere. But there’s no security blanket. You’re going from job to job.You’re always hustling and working so hard to get each job. But the dance community is great; we help each other out and we’re all devoted to our craft and passionate about it.So I guess what I’d say is that it’s never what you expect, but it’s everything you want it to be. I do really love it and the fact that I get to do it as my job is amazing. Even if I have to do a side hustle, it’s okay because I’m living the life I want. It’s stressful but rewarding. And the best part is when you get that yes: that makes all the rejection and hard work worth it.
Dance Into Your Future With Joffrey!
“Kenedy came to my Joffrey SF program for two summers in a row where her love for classical and contemporary ballet and concert dance grew. I continued to mentor and choreograph on her for years after; She is an extraordinary talent and on the path to becoming an international star!”
Kenedy Kallas Finds Her Direction at Joffrey
Questions and Answers With Kenedy Kallas
I attended the Joffrey San Francisco contemporary ballet program in 2014 and 2015. It was such an amazing, diverse program that I attended two years in a row! The program was three weeks which was a perfect time frame for me.
The Joffrey Ballet School’s San Francisco intensive was my very first summer intensive. I obviously loved it enough to come back the following year.
Discovering Process and Performance With Joffrey
One experience that stands out to me from the Joffrey San Francisco program is the creation process and performance. The last two weeks of the program you get a chance to be created on by an incredible choreographer. You then perform the work at the end of the program. It’s a glimpse into the professional concert dance world and I think it’s a very important experience for young dancers.
I truly enjoyed and learned so much from all of the classes and instructors in the intensive. All of the teachers at the intensive had so much knowledge to share and pushed me to be my best!
One instructor that I can genuinely say has changed my life and dancing is Josie Walsh, the Artistic Director of the San Francisco intensive. She tremendously helped my technique, introduced me to the concert dance world and most importantly, she believed in me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her guidance.
I overall had a great experience at the intensive. I was very young at the time, just 14 and 15 years old, and I always felt very safe in the dorms. The dorms provided food and it was always great. I remember the intensive provided fun activities for after hours or days we weren’t in the studio. I also developed friendships that will last a lifetime!
Go for it! I always improved and learned the most at dance intensives. If you go into a dance intensive with an open mind and heart, work your hardest and have fun, you will definitely grow as an artist and human.
Ready to Discover Your New Direction? Register With Joffrey Today!
I have only been at the Joffrey Ballet School for a little over a year. I have taken classes, participated in the summer intensives and had privates. I have definitely improved my dance technique while at Joffrey. It’s been a lot of hard work!
Last October, was especially exciting. I was asked to be in JBS’s Youth Ensemble – it was like a dream! We have been able to perform a few times so far and it has been a wonderful opportunity for me. The first time we performed, we only had a few days to prepare. I thought it was fun to have to rush to learn the dance – it was hard but it was also so fun. The performance was in Madison Square Park – we had such a beautiful dance, beautiful costumes and special music. Thanks to Ms. Jo and Ms. Irene for working with us. I love to perform and any chance to be on stage is magical for me. I was lucky to be with such talented dancers and I look up to all of them.
Competing at YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) was another first experience for me this year. The competition was fierce and I learned a lot by watching the other participants. There were so many talented dancers. I also learned just how much work goes into doing a short two-minute variation and how to adjust spacing depending on what kind of stage I’m dancing on and how big it is. I followed Ms. Irene’s advice and didn’t compare myself to other dancers while I was waiting backstage. Another tip: having classmates supporting you makes a big difference, especially when you are nervous at the last second. It was great having my friends there!
I hope I will be able to keep improving my dance day by day. I am so thankful for the Joffrey Ballet School and especially for my teacher, Ms. Irene. She has truly been my inspiration and has helped me get ready for all my performances. She has really worked with me to be more aware of my hands and to help me keep improving my transitions and turnout.
I love the Joffrey Ballet School and I love being in the performances and dancing everyday. Being part of the ensemble has given me an idea of what it may be like to dance with a company. I really hope that I will be able to continue improving and someday be part of a professional company. I would love to be a first soloist in a company one day – isn’t that every dancer’s dream? I know it is hard work but dance is my passion and it is worth all the sweat, sore muscles and sore feet.
Joffrey Ballet School strives for excellence not only in dance training, but also encourages students to pursue academic educations outside of the studio. Many of our students are enrolled in independent study, home schooling, or online high school and college programs. Some even attend local high schools and colleges around the city on top of their full-time curriculum at JBS! We are incredibly proud of these students who showed academic excellence this past semester and made it on to our Academic Honor Roll with straight A’s.
Note: This post is updated twice a year for the Fall and Spring semesters and includes students enrolled in the trainee programs. (more…)
A normal day for me starts at about 7:00 a.m. I roll out of bed, sit up and stare at the wall for about 10 minutes while I contemplate life. I wonder why I feel so tired despite getting to bed early the night before. Once I’m up and ready for the day, I down a protein shake and try to catch the train before 8:05 a.m., (which doesn’t always happen) in order to make my 9 a.m. ballet class. While walking to class, I mentally prepare myself for the intense week ahead. (more…)
Check out this inspiring video from 2014 summer scholarship recipient Jermaine Turnbow – who has overcome many challenges in his life to follow his passion to dance. Joffrey Ballet School student spotlights bring you closer to the students at our school that are just like you! Real stories from real dancers that inspire you to always give one hundred percent, check out the #MyJoffreyLife tab for more Student Spotlights! (more…)
We received an outpouring of videos for this contest and we want to congratulate all of the contestants! Thank you for sharing your passion, talent and enthusiasm with us. It was so much fun to watch all of you dance, but after much deliberation, we have made up our mind. All eight winners have been awarded a 2-week summer scholarship to the JBS summer intensive of their choice (international intensives excluded). Without further ado, we present our 2014 #RisetoJBSChallenge Video Contest Winners: (more…)
Dear Aspiring Ballerinas,
With Nutcracker performances right around the corner, this is such a fun and exciting time, but it is also a time for hard work and sacrifice. This year we have been given the exciting opportunity to perform the principle role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Joffrey Ballet School’s production of The Nutcracker. It’s been a difficult and exhausting process, but also a very rewarding one. There have been times when we weren’t sure how the role was going to come together. Days when we were sore and tired and felt like nothing was working,. These times truly test your ability as a dancer. The times when you must push through even though you feel you can’t. These are the moments you become stronger.