Today we have another interview with a member of the company at the Joffrey Ballet. Derrick Agnoletti is with us to talk about his career…
1. How did you become involved with dance?
I was a water polo player and swimmer growing up. I don’t think dancing had ever crossed my mind. At the advice of a coach, I tried a class to improve my coordination. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. I loved the music and the body moving together. I remember specifically seeing the dancers doing ronde jambe at the barre and thinking it was so beautiful and opulent. It was from here (San Jose Cleveland Ballet School) I began my training and further moved on to San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet to name a few.
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
I am currently employed at The Joffrey Ballet as a dancer since 2003 (almost 10 years!!!). I also teach at the Joffrey Academy of Dance and choreograph for the Joffrey Academy as well as many outreach programs through out the Chicagoland area. I love choreographing on students who have never danced. Several of those works have opened The Joffrey Ballet gala as well as the Chicago Dancing Festival. Giving these students the chance to share the stage with companies like Joffrey, New York City Ballet, the Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theater.
3. Would you share a special moment from your career with readers?
I have so many favorite moments, and so many stick out so I will chose a few. I remember sitting in a chair after Mark Goldweber walked me from my audition class to Mr. Arpino’s office, and I had to sit there and wait for him to finish reading something, and then finally Mr. A (as we called him) said I looked like a Joffrey Ballet dancer and asked if I was Italian. Then immediately they offered me a job. It was surreal. I also remember very vividly my first principal role as Mercutio in Crankos, Romeo and Juliet. I enjoyed throwing myself into a “Derrick like” Mercutio. I loved fine tuning every moment to have inner dialogue and understanding what my relationship was to the rest of the cast. It was such a great experience. I carry those things with me in everything that I do.
4. What is the best advice you have received from a teacher or mentor?
I didn’t get a lot of advice or really have a mentor at a young age. It happened more when I got into the Joffrey Ballet. Mark Goldweber coached me and nurtured my artistry on many of the roles that I danced. I learned a lot of things by my own discoveries. I also had the amazing chance to dance aside many wonderful artists at Joffrey Ballet like Calvin Kitten, who were generous with their rehearsals and would make sure to help out younger dancers like myself.
I am the type of dancer who will not stop working until I understand what I am doing from the inside out. I want it to be complete. I will always finish my class, exercises and choreography. Doing things to completion makes the art form so rewarding and also makes it easier to free up and add artistic elements.
5. What has been your greatest challenge?
I think the dance career in itself is a constant challenge. I think one of my biggest challenges right now is understanding that not everyone sees dancing in the eye that I see it. For each person, it is a different thing, a different meaning and a different path. I am extremely passionate about the dancing art form. I think it is in a delicate place and takes a lot of heart and hard work and I hope to contribute to the very little bit I do. Knowing that not everyone sees it that way is difficult for me and at times poses problems with how I think people should treat it.
6. Do you have any advice for dancers that want to go on to a professional career?
I think my best advice for a dancer going into a professional career is to try to keep pushing and keep learning. To this day, I still learn even when I am having an off day or I hurt, I keep pushing because you learn so much in those “off” moments.
Always have a good laugh. I don’t know what I would do if the people at Joffrey Ballet didn’t have such a good sense of humor. We tend to have a good laugh everyday at work and it makes it fun.
Oh, and one more thing, have an outside life, have friends outside of the workplace.
7. Do you have a special routine that you go through before a performance?
I do. I always have a coffee, shower, warm up barre and center and then I sit and have “make up time” with the guys in my dressing room. We have sort of a quiet time where we chat about anything and everything and get ready for the show. Before certain roles, I do certain things. I always kiss the Nutcracker before doing Fritz, Snow Prince, Chinese (they are always done together in one show).
8. What is your biggest strength as a dancer?
I think my biggest strength in dancing is that I am able to dance. Not just perform technical exercises, but to make it move into something just beyond simple ballet technique. I always tell my students that its great to be technical and to work for that strength but to be able to dance the technique is another thing. You have to be able to add that element. With that being said, I love tackling contemporary movement. It requires so much but then you get so much back from it.
9. What do you enjoy most about your life in dance?
I think I enjoy the bonds you make with a lot of the people you share time and space with. Some of the people that used to dance with Joffrey Ballet and are now retired are like family to me. I love that. I try to go see all forms of dance in the Chicago area and the dance community here is a beautiful one.
I also enjoy the fact that what I do is speaking with my body. I mean when I think about that in the abstract, its really quite an amazing thing. The language of dancing is universal.
10. What’s next for you?
We are on a layoff period right now so next up is teaching the summer intensive at The Joffrey Ballet. Then we are off to our season start!!!
BIO: Derrick Agnoletti was honored to join The Joffrey Ballet under the late Gerald Arpino as a seasonal dancer in 2003. He became an Arpino Apprentice in 2004, and was promoted to full company dancer in August of 2005.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Mr. Agnoletti trained at the San Jose Cleveland Ballet School and received scholarships to San Francisco Ballet School and The School of American Ballet. He also attended American Ballet Theatre summer intensives for several years. Prior to joining The Joffrey Ballet, Mr. Agnoletti was educated at the University of California, Irvine. He completed his B.S. in Sociological Sciences as well as his B.F.A. in Dance, graduating with honors. Also a member of the UCI NCAA swim team, Mr. Agnoletti had the opportunity to study and dance works of Anthony Tudor, Jose Limon, Marius Petipa, George Balanchine, Nacho Duato, William Forsythe, Donald McKayle, Martha Graham and David Allen to name a few. For two consecutive years Mr. Agnoletti studied and performed with the Conservatoire National Superiuer du Paris exchange program as well as Donald McKalyle’s UCI Etude Ensemble.
Since joining The Joffrey Ballet, Mr. Agnoletti has performed in: Caught!, Celebration, Creative Force, Deuce Coupe, The Dream, The Green Table, Giselle (Peasant pas de duex), Light Rain, Motown Suite, The Nutcracker (Fritz and Snow Prince), N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz!, Petrouchka, Les Presages, Romeo and Juliet (Mercutio), Le Sacred u Primtemps, Sometimes it Snows in April, Square Dance, Cloven Kingdom, Waterbaby Bagatelles, PRETTY ballet, Crossed, Viva Vivaldi, Cinderella (the Jester), Age of Innocence, Postcards, Le Noces, Carousel: A Dance, Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Tarantella.
His other interests include Italian culture, beach volleyball, water polo, swimming, surfing, triathlons, The Chicago Cubs, The SF 49ers, volunteering and spending time with his family and friends.
Mr. Agnoletti is grateful for the love and support of his father, mother and brothers.