Chicago’s Joffrey Academy Launches Contemporary Ballet Trainee Program

August 16, 2022

Joffrey Ballet artistic director Ashley Wheater announced last month that the Joffrey Academy of Dance is starting a full-time Contemporary Ballet Trainee Program this fall. The school has appointed two new leaders to oversee the launch: Katlin Michael Bourgeois, who will direct the Contemporary Ballet Trainee Program, and former Joffrey artist Oğulcan Borova, head of the Studio Company and Ballet Trainee Program. “Both have a gift for nurturing students and talent, at a time when the models of training are quickly evolving,” Wheater said in a press release.

The new initiative, innovative for a major U.S. classical ballet company, is intended to prepare young dancers ages 17-plus for careers in contemporary ballet. The program’s curriculum, while offering coursework in ballet technique, partnering and pointework, will also provide classes in improvisation, floorwork, hip hop, modern and West African dance. The 15 selected dancers will train separately from Joffrey’s ballet trainees and Studio Company members, although Academy director Raymond Rodriguez said via email that they would still be considered for Joffrey’s main company.

The tuition-based program is part of an ongoing expansion of the Joffrey Academy, including new studios in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood and more inclusive pre-professional training opportunities.

“Our vision is to provide students with a range of skills and technique that will help them in whichever direction they take their careers,” says Rodriguez. “This is a great step forward in our commitment to training the best and most versatile dancers in the world.”

Interested dancers may audition for the one- to two-year program by submitting a video audition.