June 10, 2022 (Chicago) — The Joffrey Ballet is proud to present the world premiere of Rita Finds Home, a family-friendly program and collaborative project between the Joffrey and Miami City Ballet, which will make its debut at the Navy Pier Lake Stage, July 9–10, 2022. Rita Finds Home is conceived by a nationally recognized, women-led creative team including Amy Hall Garner, a featured choreographer of the Joffrey’s Winning Works Choreographic Competition in 2011; Karla Estela Rivera, the Chicago-based author and Executive Director of Free Street Theater (West Town); as well as award-winning children’s book author Elisa Chavarri, and will be danced by the Joffrey Studio Company and Academy Trainees of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet. Rita Finds Home is free-to-the-public and travels from Navy Pier on July 9-10 to parks throughout Chicago from July 14-17 as part of the Chicago Park District Night Out in the Parks series, bringing vibrant dance and artistry to neighborhoods across the city. For a full list of venues and schedule, see below or visit Joffrey.org.

Rita Finds Home, a roughly 45-minute production, centers on Rita, a young artist who paints and dreams of one day living in the big city despite the lush tropical island in which she now lives. When a hurricane thrusts Rita and her mother into a new life in an urban metropolis, she struggles to adapt to her new environment. Feeling lost and like everything she knew, including her talents, were washed away by the storm, Rita embarks on a journey that helps her re-define what home means to her. With help from her new friends and her family, Rita's spirits lift as she explores the beauty of her new city, igniting a new sense of home, and the realization that her talents never left her.

The story is accompanied by original watercolors by Chavarri that come to life in the performance and become inspiration to an immersive set design, with props like dancing butterflies and palm leaves, and costumes that transform dancers into iconic landmarks of Chicago such as the Buckingham Fountain, John Hancock, and Willis Tower. Written with young audiences in mind, but suitable for all ages, the piece will convey universal themes about community, belonging, and resilience.

“Using personal experience as inspiration for their process, Amy, Karla, and Elisa have created a story that is emotive, relatable, touching, and powerful,” says Ashley Wheater MBE, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of the Joffrey. “It has been a joy working with this world-class creative team and connecting them with the tremendously talented dancers-on-the-rise within the Joffrey Academy.”

“Art is at its best when people and organizations come together. With Miami City Ballet as a co-commissioning partner, this visionary new work and performance structure reflects our mutual commitment to accessibility,” says Greg Cameron, President and CEO of the Joffrey. “We hope to inspire future generations by putting ballet in front of the community, inviting youth across Chicago neighborhoods to see what is possible when they dream big and follow their passions.”

Miami City Ballet Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez adds, “We are thrilled to partner and collaborate with Joffrey Ballet, who share in our mission to make ballet accessible to all regardless of financial barriers, location, or age. With a first-class creative team, Rita Finds Home is a work that I am sure will resonate with the cultures and communities of both Miami and Chicago. We look forward to announcing our South Florida tour of Rita Finds Home after its opening in Chicago.”

Chicago Schedule

Dates:   Saturday, July 9 – Sunday, July 10 at 11:00 AM and 6:00 PM
Location: Navy Pier Lake Stage at Polk Bros Park, 600 E Grand Ave (Gold Coast)

Date: Thursday, July 14 at 6:30PM
Location: Harrison Park, 1824 S Wood St (Pilsen)

Date: Friday, July 15 at 6:30PM
Location: Hale Park, 6258 W 62nd St (Clearing)

Date: Saturday, July 16 at 3:00PM
Location: Eugene Field Park, 5100 N Ridgeway Ave (Albany Park)

Date: Sunday, July 17 at 4:00PM
Location: Music by the Lake, 350 Constance Blvd, Williams Bay, Wisconsin (Lake Geneva)

The above performances will take place outside, weather permitting.  Any changes to the performance schedule can be found at www.joffrey.org.

Box Office: Advance registration not required for these free-to-the-public performances.

The Joffrey Ballet extends special thanks to all of the Rita Finds Home Commissioning Sponsors: Presenting Sponsors Pritzker Foundation and Denise Littlefield Sobel, Major Sponsors Lorna Ferguson and Terry Clark, and Sponsors Greg Cameron and Greg Thompson, Chicago Park District, National Endowment for the Arts, Dr. Rebecca L. Sherrick, and Lloyd A. Fry Foundation with Amina Dickerson.

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 2022–2023 Season Sponsors: Abbott Fund, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, The Florian Fund, Anne L. Kaplan, Nancy and Sanfred Koltun, and Live Music Sponsors Sandy and Roger Deromedi, Sage Foundation, and The Marina and Arnold Tatar Fund for Live Music. The Joffrey also acknowledges 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 joffrey.org. Connect with the Joffrey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

About The Joffrey Academy of Dance

Founded in 2010, the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, provides students of all ages, levels, and backgrounds with a world-class education, built on a foundation of classical ballet.

Based in the heart of Chicago’s theater district, the 20,000 square foot Exelon Education Center at Joffrey Tower, home to the Academy, boasts four state-of-the-art studios and facilities. In 2021, The Joffrey Ballet acquired two more state-of-the-art studios in the South Loop of Chicago.

The Joffrey Academy received the distinguished honor of being named four-time Outstanding School by the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest international student ballet competition, and the Boeing Game Changer Award in recognition of its efforts to make dance accessible to everyone.

The Joffrey Academy, located in Chicago, Illinois, is the only school that follows the organizational mission, training syllabi, and artistic vision of The Joffrey Ballet. No other program, including those holding the Joffrey name, is sanctioned by The Joffrey Ballet.

About Miami City Ballet

Miami City Ballet has a diverse roster of 53 dancers and a repertoire of more than 130 works. As one of the most renowned ballet companies in the country, Miami City Ballet performs for nearly 125,000 patrons annually during its South Florida home season in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and tours to major cities domestically and internationally, including recent visits to New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and Paris.

Miami City Ballet School, the official school of Miami City Ballet, is one of the most respected ballet training academies in America. The School trains students, ages 3-18 year-round, and grants more than $650,000 in scholarships annually.

Miami City Ballet’s Community Engagement programs, serving more than 12,000 people annually in schools and communities; our free programs use the power of dance to uplift, teach and bring joy. 

Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez leads the company. Lopez was recently awarded the prestigious Dance Magazine Award in 2018 and was named one of “The Most Influential People in Dance Today.” She is on the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees, the first artist to ever serve on its Board.

Miami City Ballet was founded in 1985 by Miami philanthropist Toby Lerner Ansin and Founding Artistic Director Edward Villella. It is headquartered in Miami Beach, FL, at the Ophelia & Juan Js. Roca Center, a facility designed by renowned architectural firm, Arquitectonica.