The Joffrey Academy’s Summer Intensive Is *The* Path to a Company Contract

January 4, 2021

When José Pablo Castro Cuevas got scouted by The Joffrey Ballet at Youth America Grand Prix Mexico back in 2015, he’d never even heard of the company—let alone its official school and training program, the Joffrey Academy of Dance. Now in his second year as a full-fledged member of the company, Castro Cuevas says with certainty that he’s where he is today because he spent that fateful first summer intensive at the Joffrey Academy in Chicago, Illinois.

“I’d never even considered that joining a company could be possible for me,” he says. “Those five weeks prepared me physically, mentally and technically for everything that would come after.” Five years from now, you could well be saying something similar about your own journey to becoming a professional ballet dancer.

A Proven Track Record

Academy Director Raymond Rodriguez leading class at the Joffrey Academy Cheryl Mann, Courtesy the Joffrey Academy

As Abbott Academy Director Raymond Rodriguez is quick to point out, the numbers don’t lie: “Twelve out of 43 dancers in the company started at the Academy’s summer intensive.” That figure becomes even more impressive when you consider that the Joffrey Academy of Dance has only been in existence for 11 years. (Though they’re easily and often confused, it’s important to note that New York City’s Joffrey Ballet School is completely separate from Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet and the Joffrey Academy of Dance.)

How have so many dancers successfully progressed from summer intensive to Pre-Professional Division to Trainee Program to Studio Company to main company? In large part, it’s simply because the summer intensive is mandated for any dancer hoping to join the year-round residential training program.

“We want to get to know them a lot better than we can in one audition,” explains Rodriguez. Spending five weeks assessing all aspects of an aspiring dancer’s readiness—not just technical ability, but also maturity and drive to improve—helps the Academy faculty set dancers up for success as pre-professionals and, eventually, as professionals.

“Joffrey-centricity”

Castro Cuevas during his first summer at the Joffrey Academy Courtesy Castro Cuevas

Thinking back on the summer of 2015, Castro Cuevas fondly remembers the variety and novelty of the Joffrey Academy’s summer curriculum. “I was taking so many kinds of classes for the first time ever, from amazing teachers with incredible backgrounds,” he recalls. “I can’t believe how much I progressed in those five weeks.”

Rodriguez notes that while breadth of curriculum is a Joffrey Academy hallmark, that variety is grounded in a consistent group of world-class instructors who really get to know students well. “One thing that sets us apart from other intensives is that we don’t bring in guest faculty,” he says. “If a new teacher comes in for a week, the line of communication is broken as soon as they leave. We believe that dancers at our intensive stay mentally and physically healthier when there’s as much consistency as there is in the year-round program.”

That’s not to say that choosing the Joffrey Academy summer intensive means you’ll miss out on the excitement of learning from dance-world celebrities. Just this past summer, Christopher Wheeldon and Justin Peck Zoomed in to discuss excerpts from works they’ve created on Joffrey dancers. The difference, as Rodriguez says, is that “we bring in international icons who are deeply connected to The Joffrey Ballet.”