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Pierre Lockett departs Joffrey Ballet after 25 years as dancer and educator
Pierre Lockett, the former Joffrey Ballet dancer who, in his more recent role as Director of Community Engagement, was instrumental in developing the company’s outreach work, will be stepping down from this position, ending an association with the Joffrey that has spanned 25 years. Lockett will serve as a consultant for the Joffrey’s Community Engagement Programs through 2015, and will spearhead the campaign to find his successor.
In a prepared statement, Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, observed: “Pierre Lockett’s commitment to Chicago’s youth is both inspired and inspiring. His work with students in the classroom, studio, and beyond has transformed lives and, as a result, has made our city stronger. As a dancer and educator he embraces discipline, commitment, and joy.”
Lockett, 54, departs the Joffrey to continue his extensive work with youth in Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District and service organizations, all with the intention of bringing dance to children who are not typically exposed to the art form. He expects to concentrate his efforts in the Bronzeville community (where he resides), partnering with the Mandrake Park, Quads Community Development Center, and several schools in the area.
“I am proud of my legacy at the Joffrey, and the impact the Community Engagement team has had on thousands of students,” Lockett said. “I am fully aware of the influence that dance has had on my life, and I am committed to helping others have the same experience.”
In addition to the physical connections associated with dance, Lockett said he feels the art also helps develop important life skills: discipline, confidence, respect, teamwork and knowledge of self.
“I see dance as a catalyst that can be used to transform lives, inspire imagination and increase possibilities,” said Lockett.
Lockett’s dance career spans an impressive 32 years, with 25 of them dedicated to the Joffrey — first as a dynamic performer and then as a champion of dance education. Prior to working with the Joffrey (1989-2002), he danced with Dance Theatre of Harlem (1982-1988) and the Princeton Ballet (1988-1989). After retiring from dance, he joined the Joffrey’s administrative staff as a Development Associate and soon took over the Community Engagement programs.. He was promoted to director in 2004.
“Bringing dance to the youth of Chicago has helped me realize that my true passion was not on the stage, but in the classroom and in the studio,” Lockett said.
“Pierre leaves a lasting legacy both at the Joffrey Ballet, and on Chicago’s vital dance community,” noted Greg Cameron, the Joffrey Ballet’s executive director. “We are thrilled that his work will continue, and that the Community Engagement program that he has built over the past 12 years will be a partner in his new initiatives. ‘Mr. Pierre,’ as he is known to his students, gives new meaning to the term ‘ballet master.’ His integrity, humanity, and bright smile are a gift to all that encounter him.”
In a further testament to Lockett, Aaron White, a former student who recently received his Masters in Dance from New York University, and is now a teacher and dancer himself, said: “Through the programs at the Joffrey Ballet, I was able to realize my dreams of dancing professionally. Pierre takes time to develop the mental, emotional, and physical prowess of his students. He is helping to create well-functioning and positive contributors to the larger society. Meeting Pierre, and working with the Community Engagement program, was truly life changing.”
The Joffrey’s Community Engagement department is a signature of the company. It provides arts education to over 5,000 students from under-served neighborhoods throughout Chicago, with approximately 86% of the program’s participants coming from low-income households and participating in the Chicago Public Schools’ free or reduced lunch program. These Community Engagement programs are often the only fine arts programs available to students in Chicago Public Schools and they not only provide dance instruction and performance opportunities, but foster a life-long learning in the arts. Participating students also are given with tickets to its repertory programs.
Lockett has been the recipient of the Princess Grace Award for Dance (1984) and the Black Theatre Alliance/Ira Aldridge Award for Best Performance in a Music or Dance Program (1999). In June, 2006, he received the Artist of the Year Award from The Hyde Park School of Ballet. In November of 2009, he received Bank of America’s Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Award for his commitment to the growth and vitality of helping neighborhoods achieve excellence. He has also served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and The City of Chicago’s Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP).
NOTE: The Joffrey Ballet will be celebrating its 20th year of calling Chicago home with its 2014-2015 season. It will kick off with Sept. 18-21, 2014, with a one-weekend-only (Sept. 18-21) engagement at the Auditorium Theatre of two Joffrey repertory favorites — George Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son” and Antony Tudor’s “Lilac Garden” — along with the Joffrey/Chicago premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s Asian-themed “RAkU.” For more information visit joffrey.org.