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"Joffrey Syndrome"

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#1 Alexandra


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Posted 25 December 2001 - 11:32 AM

An article in the Washington Post (that's also posted on Links) about aging audiences and reaching out to the young included the following paragraph:

"Everyone is well aware of what could be called the Joffrey Syndrome -- a few years ago that dance company, in a move to attract younger audiences, commissioned a work to music by Prince. That work, "Billboards," toured college campuses and was a brilliant success. But the company's core audience was alienated, the kids didn't come back for more, and before too long the Joffrey was facing bankruptcy (though not entirely because of "Billboards"). The company survived and moved to Chicago.

"The message from that experience was to avoid playing exclusively to any single audience segment."


The writer writes on the arts but is not specifically a dance person, so I was surprised at the terminology. I've heard people, in conversation, refer to "Billboards syndrome" but I didn't know it had entered common parlance.

(My take on this article: Despite a rather off-putting, to me, opening, it's one of the first I read that emphasizes that older people have ALWAYS made up the audiences for music, theater and dance, and that the reason young people aren't coming to performances is that they haven't been brought up to view theatergoing as something that's a normal and pleasurable part of adulthood.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 25 December 2001 - 03:48 PM

Actually, though not a part of the company for years and years, I was convinced from talking to friends and associates both inside and outside the company that "Billboards" had provided a momentary influx of cash to the organization at a time when cash flow was a sorely-needed commodity!

I had a feeling with the work that it was almost in the form of a "piéce d'occasion" the occasion being the draining of company operating capital.

I do not believe that the company would mount a new work like "Billboards" now, as the exigencies of good show business do not require it, however I would agree that dedicating one's whole effort to pleasing one audience segment is not usually a sensible thing to do. That is why the Joffrey's eclecticism has made it last as long as it has, and bodes to promote its continued survival.

#3 Alexandra


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Posted 25 December 2001 - 05:11 PM

Also, at the time, many critics hailed "Billboards" as being the wave of the future of ballet. It was very popular initially, and then people seened to get tired of it. Its successor -- "Legends" ? -- did not do as well, and then the tide, as they say, turned. But initially, this was the "answer" to the "oh no! Kids who like rock music aren't flocking to the ballet" situation. (Frankly, I think we -- rock 'n' rollers and balletgoers -- should exist happily in our respective spheres.)

#4 LMCtech


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Posted 04 January 2002 - 08:51 PM

I think that the article brought up some excellent points, but I don't feel "Billboards" can be blamed for the Joffrey move to Chicago or their financial problems at the time.

The point about us younguns not being brought up to go to the theater is true and untrue. Many of us were taught that going to a live performance was a part of adult life, but for most of my friends and acquaintances, it is too expensive.

#5 sandik


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Posted 08 January 2002 - 03:22 AM

Though I'm sure that part of the justification for "Billboards" was financial I also think of it as a descendant of the Joffrey's long-term interest in cross-over work, of which Tharp's "Deuce Coupe" is probably the best known (and in many ways the most succesful)

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