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Gerald Arpino obituary

Posted Oct 31 2008 12:02pm

Gerald Arpino passed away yesterday. The following is the obituary that was posted on the Joffrey Ballet website.

October 29, 2008 (Chicago, IL) -- Gerald Arpino, internationally-renowned Co-Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of The Joffrey Ballet, passed away peacefully today in his Chicago home after a long illness. He was 85 years old.

Arpino was born in Staten Island, New York, and received early dance training in Seattle by Mary Ann Wells. He co-founded The Joffrey Ballet with Robert Joffrey in 1956 and served as associate director for many years. Upon Mr. Joffrey’s death in 1988, Mr. Arpino succeeded him as artistic director.

A leading dancer with the company in its early years, Mr. Arpino choreographed his first work for The Joffrey, Ropes, in 1961. Shortly thereafter, he became The Joffrey’s resident choreographer and created more than one-third of the company’s repertoire. His amazingly diverse work ranges from social commentary to pure dance gems. His ballets are in the repertoires of companies around the world.

Mr. Arpino was the first choreographer commissioned to create a ballet to honor the Office of the American Presidency: The Pantages and the Palace Present Two-a-Day. He was the first American commissioned by a city, San Antonio, to do a ballet, Jamboree. In 1993, Mr. Arpino produced America’s first full-evening rock ballet, Billboards, set to the music of Prince. In addition, he was the only choreographer to have had four of his ballets performed at the White House.

Mr. Arpino served on numerous boards and councils including the national advisory council of the ITI/USA International Ballet Competition and the board of the Dance Notation Bureau. He was a member of the Arts Advisory Committee of the New York International Festival of the Arts. He served as an advisor to the Artists Committee for The Kennedy Center Honors and was also a member of the board of The Chicago Academy for the Arts. Among many awards and tributes, Mr. Arpino held honorary doctorates from the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, and Wagner College. He was recipient of the 1974 Dance Magazine award and the Vaslav Nijinsky Medal. In 2005, Mr. Arpino received several prestigious awards, including the first award for Visionary Leadership from the Arts and Business Council of Chicago, the University Club of Chicago’s Cultural Award, and the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters’ 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also honored by the Chicago Tribune for the third time as one of the “Chicagoans of the Year” for his important contribution to the arts in Chicago and the world. In the summer of 2006, Mr. Arpino was presented with the prestigious Grande Ufficiale OSSI (Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana) by the President of the Republic of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Mr. Arpino became Artistic Director Emeritus in July 2007. He was succeeded in the position of Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director by Ashley Wheater, former Joffrey dancer and Ballet Master of the San Francisco Ballet.

Arpino is survived by a cousin and great-grand nephew, both of Staten Island, New York.

Memorial Service:
Monday, November 17, 2008
10 a.m. Service; Reception-to-Follow
RSVP to Jaclyn Stacy at 312.386.8927 or

Gerald Arpino Studio (4th Floor)
Joffrey Tower
10 East Randolph Street

Donations in his name are being accepted by
The Joffrey Ballet
Joffrey Tower
10 E. Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601.

Readers of JPointe, the official Joffrey Ballet blog are being encouraged to share thoughts and memories of Mr. Arpino in the comment section of this post. He will be missed by many.

Stay on your toes,


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