Abbott Academy Director Raymond Rodriguez. Photo by Tim Whalen.

CHICAGO, Dec. 15, 2020 – Joffrey Board Chair Anne L. Kaplan, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE, and Joffrey President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Cameron are pleased to announce that The Joffrey Ballet has established a newly named position at the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet. Effective immediately, current Academy Director Raymond Rodriguez assumes the new title of Abbott Academy Director, Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet. The new position has been created through a $3 million gift from the Abbott Fund, the foundation of the global healthcare company Abbott. This is the second named position at the Joffrey, in addition to The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director position, currently held by Wheater, and will directly support the Joffrey Academy’s expanded efforts to provide dance education to students and communities around the city of Chicago and beyond, including scholarship and performance opportunities.

"Supporting the sustainability of our vital cultural institutions like The Joffrey is important for all of us here in Chicago," said Jenna Daugherty, divisional vice president, Global Citizenship and Sustainability and vice president of the Abbott Fund. "Under Raymond’s leadership, we look forward to the exciting future of the Joffrey Academy, and to see the many ways it helps to make dance accessible to all in the years ahead." 


“Learning allows one to develop and grow. I remember my days as a dance student and eventually becoming a professional,” said Joffrey Academy Committee Member Brendan Fernandes, Northwestern University’s Visiting Art Theory and Practice professor. “I am honored to serve on the Joffrey’s Academy Committee and, as a practicing artist, have the good fortune of working directly with the trainees as well. It is so incredibly important to keep dance education accessible for young people of all backgrounds and communities, whether for students with a lifelong passion or those exploring dance for the first time. The Joffrey and Abbott know that investing in education will move the art form forward."

Abbott Academy Director, Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet

The Abbott Academy Director works in partnership with The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE, directing the strategic planning for the Academy and its related program growth and development. This position works collaboratively with staff and the Board of Directors to formulate the Joffrey’s long-term goals and objectives in the Academy and oversees programming that includes school, youth, adult, and family programs, as well as teacher training and ballet training of the highest caliber. The Abbott Academy Director represents the Joffrey Academy internally and externally in areas of dance training, program partnerships, philanthropic outreach and arts advocacy.

In October 2019, The Joffrey Ballet announced the appointment of Raymond Rodriguez as the next Academy Director, following the departure of former Director Karine Provost, under whose seven-year leadership the Academy saw exponential growth. Rodriguez served as the Academy’s Head of Studio Company and Trainee Program for almost three years and has also been instrumental to its growth over that time. Under his guidance, former Studio Company members and Trainees have gone on to perform with prestigious institutions around the world, including at the Joffrey, and his advocacy has led to more professional performance opportunities beyond Chicago.

Impact on the Joffrey Academy of Dance

During the 2019-2020, the Joffrey marked ten years since the establishment of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet. Since 2009, the Academy has grown from 100 students to more than 1,000, with the Academy’s annual summer intensive welcoming thousands more from across the world to train with Academy staff and coaches each summer. Additionally, the Joffrey Academy’s Winning Works choreographic competition remains one of the country’s most visible competitions aimed at providing ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, or Native American) artists with opportunities to present newly created work, in collaboration with Academy Trainees and Studio Company members.

The establishment of the Abbott Academy Director, Joffrey Academy of Dance, marks another transformative turning point in the growth of the Joffrey Academy. This newly endowed position ensures the continuation of extraordinary leadership and provides the financial freedom to conduct advance planning for bold ideas that will be essential for the Academy’s long-term growth. In the next few years alone, the Joffrey Board of Directors and the Academy have identified priorities to attract and retain the best talent from around the world, including dancers and teaching artists. This is achieved, in part, through competitive salaries, scholarship funding, and the expansion of touring opportunities — both locally and nationally — for Joffrey Trainees and Studio Company members.

The prioritization of these and other Pre-Professional programs at the Academy also allows the Joffrey to cultivate local talent with the intention of promoting that talent to the main Company. Currently, 13 Company Artists of The Joffrey Ballet are alums of the Joffrey Academy — a reflection of the Joffrey’s commitment to cultivating homegrown talent. The Joffrey Academy is also home to accessible year-round training and non-auditioned classes for children, youth, and adults that range from classical to contemporary to jazz training. 

Added Cameron: “During my tenure at the Joffrey, Abbott has played a central role in helping us bring Ashley’s artistic vision to life, which in turn has led to some of the most memorable moments in Chicago’s cultural history. Abbott has now made a significant investment in our Academy. The Joffrey and the Joffrey Academy of Dance are stronger because of this visionary gift.”


“This newly endowed position will have an immediate impact for the Joffrey Academy, its students, our amazing faculty, and our main Company,” said Wheater. “I send my sincere thanks to Abbott for believing in our strategic vision, and its ongoing commitment to the Joffrey.” 


“I am personally honored to be the first to carry this new title, and excited by the opportunity to put so many vital plans into action,” said Rodriguez. “Abbott is helping the Joffrey Academy write its next chapter. What a chapter it will be.” 

About The Joffrey Ballet­­

The Joffrey Ballet is one of the premier dance companies in the world today, with a reputation for boundary-breaking performances for more than 60 years. The Joffrey repertoire is an extensive collection of all-time classics, modern masterpieces, and original works.Founded in 1956 by pioneers Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey remains dedicated to artistic expression, innovation, and first-rate education and engagement programming.

The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE and President and CEO Greg Cameron.The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of its 2020-2021 Season Sponsors: Abbott Fund, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, The Florian Fund, and Live Music Sponsors Sandy and Roger Deromedi, Sage Foundation, and The Marina and Arnold Tatar Fund for Live Music. The Joffrey also acknowledges our Season Partners Chicago Athletic Clubs, and Athletico Physical Therapy, official provider of physical therapy for The Joffrey Ballet.

For more information on The Joffrey Ballet and its programs, visit Connect with the Joffrey on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.