Joffrey Ballet receives $3 million to endow academy director position

Joffrey Ballet receives $3 million to endow academy director position

The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago has announced a $3 million gift from the Abbott Fund, the philanthropic arm of healthcare company Abbott, to endow a new position at the Joffrey Academy of Dance.

Raymond Rodriguez, who currently serves as the academy's director, will assume the new title of Abbott Academy Director, effective immediately, and will work with artistic director Ashley Wheater to advance the academy's strategic planning. In that role, Rodriguez also will support the academy's efforts to cultivate local talent, with the dual aim of promoting young dancers to the main company and providing year-round training and non-auditioned dance classes for children, youth, and adults. 

Since its establishment in 2009, the Joffrey Academy has grown from a hundred to more than a thousand enrolled students, with thousands more training with academy staff and coaches during its summer intensive programs. In addition, the academy's Winning Works choreographic competition offers ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American) artists opportunities to present new work in collaboration with academy trainees and studio company members.

"Learning allows one to develop and grow," said Joffrey Academy Committee member Brendan Fernandes, a visiting professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern University. "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."

(Photo credit: Joffrey Academy of Dance/Todd Rosenberg)