By Terry Trucco
Hotels and dance. They happen to be two of my favorite interests, but they aren’t obvious partners. So cheers to JW Marriott for looking to the Joffrey Ballet to inspire its ground troops in matters of grace and poise.
Sometime over the summer Chicago’s elite dance company created a series of training videos for JW Marriott staffers. The JW Marriott in Chicago, hometown to the Joffrey and the idea, got first dibs on the videos. But all 67 JWs throughout the world will implement them in the coming months, including New York’s JW Marriott Essex House.
Guests won’t see the videos on the TV screens in their rooms, but they may notice their impact. If staffers seem to stand a bit taller, square their shoulders and carry out their duties in a more centered fashion, chances are good they took the tips from the dance team to heart.
Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater, who choreographed the videos and narrates the Youtube promo clip in engaging Scottish tones, brings serious dance cred to the project. A graduate of London’s Royal Ballet School, he danced the classics with the home team (full-length ballets by Frederick Ashton, Kenneth McMillan and Michael Soames), appeared with Rufolf Nureyev in the celebrated “Nureyev and Friends” touring company and was a member of the London Festival Ballet, Australian Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey.
As for the hotel/ballet match-up, he says, “Ballet technique breeds discipline, self-confidence and a genuine interaction between people.”
Marriott may be the hospitality industry’s largest company to seek the coaching services of dancers, but they’re not the first. Two summers ago, two members of the New York City Ballet — choreographer and soloist Justin Peck and dancer Andrew Scordato — taught a movement class to the staff at Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant. The idea was to help the cooks cope with standing while at work. Payment was a memorable meal, a nice deal for dancers who double as foodies. But dance training clearly extends beyond the stage.