But he's contemptuous of "ballet dancers who think they can do anything just because they can do ballet," and scornful about the current detente between ballet and modern dance. "I'm all for the old resentments, the old dance wars," he declares. "It fires you up. I like the things that make modern modern and ballet ballet."
"After 'Episodes,' Balanchine invited me to join his company. It was a hard decision, but I didn't want to do it--not even with Balanchine. I'm a modern: That's my heritage. And to hell with the ballet!"
To Joffrey, however, "movement is movement; it doesn't matter if it's ballet or modern as long as it's creative. American modern dance is a strong, vital force. Why shouldn't we use it? Choreographers who are important, innovative, individual should be included in our repertory."
Joffrey has commissioned more new works and revivals from modern dance choreographers than anyone else in ballet. He knows exactly how difficult it is for ballet dancers working under repertory conditions to catch the essence of this eloquent, unorthodox, demanding body of work.
"You must maintain the (choreographer's) style," he says, "so we always try to get people who originally danced a work to help us. They remember things, images that the choreographer told them that give us the quality we want."
"Of course, it's a challenge to the dancers to be secure enough in a new way of moving. But dancers now have more training in all fields--ballet and modern. I think if the mind is stretched, then the body will be stretched."