Gerald Arpino


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(orig. Gennaro Peter Arpino; b Staten Island, NY, 14 Jan. 1928; d29 Oct. 2008)

US dancer, choreographer, and director. He began studying ballet at the age of 19 in Seattle with Mary Ann Wells and a year later moved to New York where he studied at the School of American Ballet, also with May O'Donnell and Gertrude Shurr. Between 1949 and 1953 he danced in O'Donnell's company, and in 1952 with the Nana Gollner/Peter Petroff company as well as occasionally performing on Broadway. In 1953 he co-founded a school with Robert Joffrey (the American Ballet Center in New York) and in 1956 they founded the Robert Joffrey Theatre Dancers (becoming the Robert Joffrey Ballet). He was principal dancer with the company and created his first work for them in 1961. In 1965 he became the company's assistant director, and sole director in 1988 after Joffrey's death. Nearly all of Arpino's ballets were made for that company. His choreography fuses classical and modern idioms, often taking dance to extremes of athleticism while at the same time dealing with political, sexual and spiritual themes. Among his best-known works are the all-male Olympics (mus. T. Mayuzumi, 1966), The Clowns (mus. Kay, 1968), the rock ballet Trinity (mus. Ralph Holdridge, 1970), which became the company's signature work, and the pure dance work Suite Saint-Saëns (1978). As director of Joffrey Ballet (since 1995 renamed Joffrey Ballet of Chicago) until his retirement in 2007 Arpino was committed to maintaining the company as a popular showcase for new American choreography. He was responsible for mounting the box office hit Billboards in 1993, with music by Prince and choreography by L. Dean, Sappington, Moulton, and Pucci, and his later works included Footnotes for R.J. (mus. Teo Macero, Chicago, 1998). On retirement he was appointed Artistic Director Emeritus of the Joffrey company.

Subjects: Dance.

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