Joffrey Ballet performs Saturday and Sunday at MOT
When Chicago's famed Joffrey Ballet performs at the Detroit Opera House this weekend, it will be something of a reunion for Michigan Opera Theatre Artistic Adviser for Dance Jon H. Teeuwissen, who was executive director at the Joffrey from 2001-2008.
The program Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, "Beyond the Shore," will feature three works by young European choreographers currently hot on the ballet scene — Liam Scarlett, Alexander Ekman and Nicolas Blanc.
Teeuwissen described the opener, Scarlett's "Vespertine," as "sort of baroque in style," while noting that the third, Ekman's "Joy," might strike some as more performance art than dance.
But that's typical for the Joffrey, he said, "whose DNA is still all about pushing boundaries and pulling ballet forwards." This weekend's program, he added, "really showcases different dimensions of the Joffrey."
Teeuwissen himself is relatively new to MOT, having come on board Aug. 1. (His name, by the way, is pronounced "TAY-vissen." His explanation? "My father came from Holland, so my name carries a bunch of extra vowels.")
Seven years at the helm of the Joffrey would be enough to win you serious consideration anywhere in the dance world, but Teeuwissen's put in time with an extraordinary series of top companies.
Interestingly, he was never a dancer himself and didn't catch his first ballet, "Swan Lake," till he was 19.
"I don't usually share this," Teeuwissen said, "but I was an accounting major."
While an undergraduate at West Virginia State University in the late 1970s, he started doing the books for a friend who ran a dance school, and before he knew it he was getting pulled in at the administrative level.
Working backward through his C.V., Teeuwissen has most recently been an arts consultant, as well as heading the California Center for the Arts, Ballet Arizona and the Joffrey.
He's also put in stints with American Ballet Theatre, the New Orleans Ballet Association, Pilobolus Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, PepsiCo Summerfare and -- at the dawn of his career -- the West Virginia Dance Theatre.
While new to MOT, where he'll be a consultant until coming on full-time next July, Teeuwissen's no stranger to the Detroit Opera House.
"I knew David DiChiera," he said, "and toured Dance Theatre of Harlem, the American Ballet Theatre and the Joffrey to MOT. So the theater itself is not new to me."
Still living in Chicago and spending about eight days a month in Detroit, Teeuwissen has nonetheless been struck by downtown's recent changes. "It's a completely different city from what I experienced on those earlier tours," he said.
As for plans for dance at MOT, he called the current program "a really strong one," adding that he doesn't anticipate major changes right away.
"There may, however, be a greater emphasis on live music where dance performances call for it," Teeuwissen said.
He looks to continue the strong partnership MOT has built with Ann Arbor's University Musical Society and wants to expand the dance program's community engagement.
So, down to brass tacks — is Detroit really a dance city?
"Apparently," Teeuwissen said, "because our dance audience keeps growing. Last year we had 20,000 attend operas at MOT, while 17,000 came for dance."
Quite naturally, he hopes to give an additional lift to dance's numbers.
Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Detroit
7:30 p.m. Sat. Nov. 2
2:30 p.m. Sun. Nov. 3