Jeraldine Mendoza has had quite the first season at The Joffrey—and it just got better. The 20-year-old dancer was chosen as the first performing artist in Chicago to win a grant from the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund in the Performing and Visual Arts. The award comes with $50,000 and a load of prestige.
"I'm really, really honored," says Mendoza, noting that it feels especially rewarding since she was nominated for the prize by Joffrey artistic diretor Ashley Wheater and executive director Chistopher Clinton Conway. The company seems eager to tap her talent: She was cast as Queen of the Dryads in the Joffrey's new Don Quixote by Yuri Possokhov, she performed one pas de deux in Edward Liang's Age of Innocence and another in Wayne McGregor's Infra. ("It was amazing to work with Wayne," she says. "He moves like this insane creature; when he demonstrates, it's like he has no bones in his body. And he talks really fast, but somehow never mumbles and always makes sense!")
Mendoza has already developed a plan for what she's going to do with the grant. After The Joffrey's season ends in a couple of weeks, she'll head home to San Francisco to train with her former teacher, Galina Alexandrova at City Ballet School. From there, she'll fly to her old stomping grounds in Moscow to take class at the Bolshoi, where she also studied, then hop on a train to St. Petersburg. Her last stop will be London, specifically the Freed store. "I'm going to have them customize a pointe shoe for me," she explains. "I haven't yet found a shoe that fits like a glove. When I point my foot, the knuckles of my toes stick out so it looks like I'm going over even when I'm not. I want something with a harder box, something that accentuates my arch." It seems Mendoza will also have quite the off-season this year.