Robert Joffrey

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Robert Joffrey was an American dancer and choreographer who, with his lifelong partner Gerald Arpino, formed the renowned Joffrey Ballet. The Joffrey Ballet is a well-known professional dance company that has collaborated with several well-known dancers and choreographers, including Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, and George Balanchine. Joffrey’s major contribution to the world of dance and choreography is the company, which has acted as a launch pad for many aspiring choreographers. He commissioned unique ballets and restored rare classics, and he was known for his inventive and experimental dancing forms. He is known for popularizing ballet classics among modern audiences, particularly for his precise recreations of Diaghilev’s famed ballets. He was born Abdullah Jaffa Bey Khan, and as a young child, he began dancing as a way to cope with his physical limitations. Soon after, he became enamored with dancing and chose to devote his life to it. He started out as a dancer and had a lot of success. He also began teaching dancing to students and quickly established himself as a capable instructor with a keen eye for spotting talent in children. He eventually established his own company and became known as one of the best choreographers of the twentieth century.

Childhood and Adolescence

Abdulla Jaffa Bey Khan was born in Seattle, Washington, on December 24, 1930, to a Pashtun Afghani father and an Italian mother; he was the only child of his parents’ useless marriage. His parents owned and operated a restaurant.
He was an asthmatic child who was frail and unwell. He began dancing in the hopes of alleviating the symptoms of his sickness. He was also inspired by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire when he was a kid and aspired to tap dance like them.

He started taking tap dance lessons, and one of his teachers inquired if he had ever tried learning ballet. He went to Mary Ann Wells, a famous dance teacher who had a big influence on the youngster, to learn ballet. When he was 11 years old, he discovered his passion for ballet and put together a full cast for ‘Sleeping Beauty.’

He met Gerald Arpino, then in his early thirties, when he was a teenager, and the two became great friends. They also became artistic collaborators and lovers over time. In 1948, he moved to New York City to study ballet at the School of American Ballet. He also trained under Alexandra Fedorova, a well-known Russian choreographer and dancer.

He began his professional career as a ballet teacher at the Gramercy School of Music and Dance in Brooklyn. He made his solo debut as a dancer in 1949 with the French choreographer Roland Petit and his Ballets de Paris. He started teaching at New York High School for the Performing Arts in 1950. He began staging his ballets here as well.
He formed the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City alongside Arpino in 1954, and premiered ‘Le bal masqué’ (The Masked Ball) to music by French composer Francis Poulenc.

His company premiered ‘Pierrot Lunaire,’ a ballet adapted to music by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, in 1955. Over the next decade, the brand grew in popularity across the United States and achieved international fame.
His ballets ‘Gamelan’ (1962) and ‘Astarte’ (1967) were well-received since they were both set to rock music and featured extraordinary lighting and motion-picture effects—a remarkable departure from the norm, as most ballets were set to classical music compositions.

He was a member of numerous art councils and organizations, and from 1975 until his death, he was co-president with Yuri N. Grigorovich, the Bolshoi Ballet’s director. He was a member of the National Council of the Arts and one of three juries for the Hans Christian Andersen Ballet Awards in Denmark.

Major Projects of Robert Joffrey

He is most known for co-founding the Joffrey Ballet, a Chicago-based professional dancing group. The company is a highly successful and popular dance company in the United States, performing both classical ballets and modern dance pieces.

Achievements & Awards

For his contributions to the world of dance, he received various accolades and distinctions, including the Dance Magazine Award in 1964, the Capezio Award in 1974, and the Handel Medallion of the City of New York in 1981.
He was accepted into The National Dance Museum in 2000.

Personal History and Legacy

He met another dancer, Gerald Arpino, who was serving in the Coast Guard, while he was barely a youngster. The two became great friends and then lovers over time. He was a quiet, soft-spoken man with a peculiar sense of humour. He was a consummate professional who was also regarded as a gifted educator. Joffrey was born with a promiscuous temperament. Despite being in a long-term relationship with Arpino, he had a number of one-night relationships and indiscretions. During the 1980s, he developed AIDS.

He was embarrassed by the stigma around AIDS and did not want the world to know about it. Due to AIDS-related issues, he grew weaker over time and died on March 25, 1988. Arpino, on the other hand, was unable to conceal the fact that Joffrey died of AIDS for long, and the cause of his death was quickly made public. Legend has it that this dancing teacher/choreographer was so passionate about teaching that he once continued to teach even though the building he was in was on fire.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Robert Joffrey is $16 Million.