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Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance

4.9 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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(Jun 12, 2012)
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Editorial Reviews

Co-founded in 1956 by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey and dancer Gerald Arpino, The Joffrey Ballet began as a DIY company of six dancers touring the United States in a borrowed station wagon but quickly grew into one of the world’s most exciting and prominent ballet companies.

Weaving a wealth of rare archival footage and photographs along with new interviews with Joffrey star dancers and dance commentators, JOFFREY: MAVERICKS OF AMERICAN DANCE chronicles the full story of the company, from their founding in 1956 to the present. The film describes how the Joffrey repeatedly resurrected itself after devastating financial and artistic setbacks and how the company introduced cutting-edge choreographers such as Twyla Tharp, Laura Dean and Margo Sappington to a larger audience. Featuring excerpts from Joffrey’s seminal works Astarte, Trinity and Billboards and their breakthrough collaborations with choreographers Kurt Jooss (The Green Table) and Leonide Massine (Parade).

Special Features

  • 12-page Collectible Booklet
  • Full Dress Rehearsal of The Green Table Ballet
  • Making Of Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes (including one on the making of Robert Altman s film The Company)
  • French, Spanish, and German Subtitles

Product Details

  • Actors: Sasha Anawalt, Gerald Arpino, Charthel Arthur
  • Directors: Bob Hercules
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, German, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: June 12, 2012
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0071BY1HE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,960 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

It's hard to talk about ballet and modern dance without evoking the Joffrey name. A veritable institution since its inception in the late fifties (with some pretty notorious highs and lows), The Joffrey Ballet probably has enough history to fuel several documentaries. Filmmaker Bob Hercules takes a succinct 82 minutes, however, and does a noteworthy job outlining the big picture in "Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance." It may not be as comprehensive or as personal as I might have liked, but it is still a fitting tribute to the pioneers who created a new dance movement. The film focuses primarily on the contributions that Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino made to the company and to the art form.

Starting with a meager traveling band of six dancers, the film then barrels through the years with tales of huge companies, artistic highpoints, financial ruination, rebuilding, and relocating. With Mandy Patinkin narrating, the struggles and successes of The Joffrey Ballet in its various incarnations are laid out quite nicely. Additional perspective is provided with archival interviews with Joffrey and Arpino as well as many other participants of the company (a surprising array of dancers weigh in on the contemporary interviews). This is, however, a very professional tribute and not a lot of time is spent on the private lives of the principle subjects. The piece is focused on showcasing just what Joffrey and Arpino did that changed the face of ballet, and the many testimonials do just that. While that alone would make this a noteworthy documentary, it is the snippets of past performances that really stand out. You see a lot of famed ballets and dances briefly and it will leave you yearning for more, more, more.
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This movie is terrific on so many different levels, and is definitely NOT just for lovers of dance. There is story of Robert Joffrey himself & of his amazing foresight into his future at such a young age, and the development of the Joffrey Ballet as a company; the dancers, of all types and sizes - this was no cookie-cutter company -and the way they charged through adversity, where others might have folded. The film footage is fantastic - extensive, thorough documentation. The testimonials add to that. The historical footage I found especially interesting - it was incredible to see that The Joffrey Ballet went to Kabul in the 1960s! The footage of Kabul was, I think, unique. This certainly was a different Kabul than we know today.
Then there are the ballets... Joffrey's & Arpino's wonderful works, very apropos of their time. And, not to forget, the new, talented choreographers he invited to set pieces for his company; and the amazing, historic ballets he brought here, and with their original creators. Green Table & Parade, both of which I saw at City Center in NYC in the 1980s, should not be missed, or misplaced. We have Joffrey to thank for keeping those alive.
I could go on, but will finally say that, yes, Robert Joffery was truly a Maverick of American Dance!
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My fellow Amazon reviewer K. Harris has already detailed the contents of this DVD so I won't repeat what he covered but I will give my personal "take" on this wonderful film which is now available on home video from the great documentary distribution company Docurama. (I'm a "doc" junkie!).

I'm a huge "modern dance" fan and attend at least 10 performances each year. Surprisingly the Joffrey company has not come through Philly - mainly because they were so close in New York (now based in Chicago) so I've never seen them perform live. As I watch this wonderful film, I heard the name of philanthropist Rebecca Harkness - who supported the original Joffrey company in the 1950s - and I remembered seeing the Harkness Ballet Company in NY in the late 1960s. I never knew the connection between the Harkness and Joffrey companies before, but I do now. (No, I won't share the answer here; it's a spoiler alert.)

As we find out in the film, there were actually three phases of the Joffrey and their repertoire and each was distinct. Among the firsts that the company is known for is the first all American repertoire by a NY dance company. (Even Balanchine was basing works on classic European Ballet.). They were also the first to hire Twyla Tharp (for "Deuce Coupe" based on the Beach Boys Music) and the first to do a psychedelic piece with a rock band in the pit. Even Prince was so impressed by the company that he allowed them to use his music royalty-free to create "Billboards".

As is probably obvious from the music mentioned above, this is not "old style" ballet but dance that moved with the times. The film includes lots of interviews with past (and a few present) Joffrey dancers as well the last interviews with Robert Joffrey's partner (in both life and dance) Gerald Arpino.
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For those lovers of ballet who have ever been thrilled by a performance of the Joffrey Ballet, this documentary provides an opportunity, through interviews, still photos, and video footage, to learn how the company was formed and how it developed, and the drama behind the scenes! The dancers interviewed for this film have all expressed how their own artistic development and their dedication were shaped by the artistic vision of Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino. Truly, this film captures their maverick spirit - the determination to present as a classical ballet company and, at the same time, to be cutting-edge in choices of repertoire and styles, and the goal of bringing ballet to young people and to audiences unfamiliar with classical ballet. The interviews provide personal memories of Joffrey and Arpino that make the viewer feel like part of the family. You will want to own this movie, if you were ever present in a theater for the life-affirming vitality and youthful exuberance combined with the artistic integrity of the Joffrey Ballet.
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