American Masters Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, premiering nationally tonight, December 28, 2012 at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings), tells the story of the first quintessentially American dance company, the Joffrey Ballet.
Founders Robert Joffrey (12/24/1930 - 3/25/1988) and Gerald Arpino (1/14/1923 - 10/29/2008) revolutionized American dance by combining modern with traditional ballet to create a new and daring art form. Narrated by Tony and Emmy Award-winner Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), the 90-minute documentary is the first to chronicle the Joffrey Ballet's pioneering dance philosophy. Award-winning filmmaker Bob Hercules traces the company's struggles and triumphs: from its humble beginnings in 1956, touring the United States in a borrowed station wagon, to becoming one of the world's most exciting and prominent ballet companies.
Using rare archival footage and behind-the-scenes photos, American Masters Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance features excerpts from signature company works, including Astarte, Trinity and Billboards (the latter with music by Prince) as well as its breakthrough collaborations with legendary choreographers Kurt Jooss (The Green Table) and Leonide Massine (Parade). The Joffrey Ballet also commissioned early works by Twyla Tharp (Deuce Coupe, As Time Goes By), Laura Dean (Night, Creative Force) and Margo Sappington (Weewis, Face Dances), introducing these innovative choreographers to larger audiences.
American Masters Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance illustrates the dynamic trajectory of the groundbreaking company through archival interviews with Joffrey and Arpino and original interviews with former and current Joffrey star dancers and ballet notables, including Gary Chryst, Trinette Singleton, Helgi Tomasson, Kevin McKenzie, Ashley Wheater, Christian Holder, Francoise Martinet, Davis Robertson, and Adam Sklute. These insiders describe what it was like to be a part of the company, Joffrey's and Arpino's different teaching styles, and how the Joffrey Ballet broke barriers by: accepting and cultivating a diverse group of talented dancers regardless of race and body type, integrating pop and rock music scores and art with social commentary, and resurrecting nearly lost early 20th Century masterpieces. They also explain how the company repeatedly resurrected itself after devastating financial and artistic setbacks such as the Rebekah Harkness funding power struggle, National Endowment for the Arts cutbacks, Joffrey's death, and the move from New York City to Chicago in 1995.
Since its 1986 premiere, American Masters has earned 24 Emmy Awards - including 8 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and 5 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special - the 2012 Producers Guild Award, 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, and 3 Grammys. Now in its 26th season on PBS, the series is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York's public television stations, and operator of NJTV. For 50 years, THIRTEEN has been making the most of the rich resources and passionate people of New York and the world, reaching millions of people with on-air and online programming that celebrates arts and culture, offers insightful commentary on the news of the day, explores the worlds of science and nature, and invites students of all ages to have fun while learning.