The Joffrey Ballet Announces Winners of the Choreographers of Color Award

November 12, 2012
Showbiz Chicago
Michael Roberts


The Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, is pleased to announce the winners of the Third Annual Choreographers of Color Award:  Ma CongWilliam McClellan and Jeremy McQueen.  This announcement follows a national call for artists to submit applications, which began in August.  Rounding out the artistic talent on this year’s program is fashion designer LaQuan Smith, who will conceptualize and design the costumes for McQueen’s piece.  The Choreographers of Color Award was created to recognize promising young minority choreographers whose diverse perspective will ignite creativity in the field of dance.  Each of the three selected choreographers will be given a minimum of 30 rehearsal hours to set a new work on the Joffrey Academy Trainees.  Each winning choreographer will also receive a $2,500 stipend and an opportunity to work directly with Joffrey Academy Artistic Directors, Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik.  The three World Premieres will be presented in Choreographers of Color Award 2013: Winning Works at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, in one performance only, Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 4 pm.

“I am thrilled that we are able to present our Choreographers of Color initiative again this year,” said

Ashley C. Wheater, Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet.  “It is important that we actively seek and nurture these very talented choreographers.  Dance in America is as rich and diverse as its people, and we are confident that Choreographers of Color will showcase some of our most creative spirits.  New work provides an opportunity for choreographers and dancers to explore and grow.  We are deeply grateful to the MacArthur Foundation and Harris Theater for supporting these performances.”

“It’s an important part of the Joffrey’s role as a leading ballet company to bring the work of diverse choreographers to Chicago and to empower the creative vitality of rising artists,” said Christopher Clinton Conway, The Joffrey Ballet’s Executive Director.  “I am pleased that the Joffrey can provide these talented artists the resources to present their work and make an important contribution to dance.”

The Winning Works program will also include a world premiere by Alexei Kremnev, titled Carnival of the Animals.  The piece will include Camille Saint-Saens’s most famous music score, breathtaking costumes from Gabriel Hanson and stunning performances from the international cast of young dancers from Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Australia, France, Japan, Korea and US.


About the Artists

Ma Cong started his career at the Beijing Dance Academy training as a Chinese Classical dancer before he joined the National Ballet of China in 1995, then Tulsa Ballet in 1999.  He worked with international directors and choreographers and performed leading roles in works by Balanchine, Cranko, Robbins, Tharp, Duato, Kudelka, Kylian, Forsythe, MacMillan, Hans Van Manen and many others.  Cong has also appeared as a Principal Guest Artist on international stages across the world.

As a choreographer, Cong has created original works for Tulsa Ballet, Houston Ballet, BalletMet, Ballet Florida, Smuin Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Ballet Nouveau Colorado and Ballet Des Moines, among others. In 2006, Cong was named one of the “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine for his dancing and choreography as well as The Choo-San Goh award in 2007.  In 2008, Cong was the winner of the 21st Century Choreographic competition and also received the “Audience Favorite” and received the “Editor’s Choice Award” from Pointe Magazine.  Most recently, Richmond Ballet performed Cong’s Ershter Vals at the Linbury Studios at the Royal Opera House to sold out audiences.

William McClellan is currently an MFA candidate in the Department of Dance at University of Michigan.  Before coming to Ann Arbor, he was principal dancer and resident choreographer for ten years for the first and second Dayton Contemporary Dance Companies (DCDC/DCDC2) in Dayton, Ohio.  He worked with renowned artists such as Bill T. Jones, Bebe Miller, Eleo Pomare, Warren Spears, Ron Brown, Diane McIntyre, and Rennie Harris.  He represented DCDC at dance festivals, performing Talley Beatty’s signature solo Mourner’s Bench, and received numerous awards, including the JOSIE for Best Dancer in Performance and a Princess Grace Awards nomination.  He has created ballets for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and the Cincinnati Ballet and has received recognition for his choreography from the Ohio Senate.  He was also an original member of CounterGroove Dance Company in Detroit, MI.  McClellan hails from the South Side of Chicago, Illinois and is a Whitney Young High School graduate

San Diego native, Jeremy McQueen has appeared in the 1st Broadway National Tours of Wickedand The Color Purple in addition to the New York City and National Touring companies of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.  McQueen, a 2008 graduate of The Ailey School/Fordham University, BFA in Dance program, has presented his choreographic works throughout New York City, including the seventh annual Dance From The Heart concert presented by Dancers Responding to AIDS, theYoung Choreographer’s Festival held at Symphony Space, and the Dance Gallery Festival.  In July 2012, McQueen’s choreography was featured in the 80th Anniversary of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival – Inside/Out series.  Most recently, McQueen was named a finalist for the 2012 Capezio Award for Choreographic Excellence (Capezio A.C.E. Award).

McQueen began his training at the California Ballet School and the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts.  McQueen has also trained as a scholarship recipient with the San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet.  He has taught at the Peridance Capezio Center, Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Steps on Broadway, and numerous high schools, universities and dance studios around the country. He is currently on faculty at Broadway Dance Center in New York City.

LaQuan Smith has always had a love for fashion and design, but at the age of 13, his grandmother passed on her old Singer sewing machine for him to practice on.  Smith began with simple patterns and then developed his own techniques on creating garments.  In 2007, after graduating from high school, Smith began working as an intern at Blackbook, a prominent magazine in New York City.  After realizing his fashion thirst was not yet quenched, Smith began exploring his design talents.  In 2008, he created his self-titled designer brand.  Multiple fashion experiences and pure ambition have opened doors for Smith, allowing him to work with some of the industry’s top models and photographers.  He started off designing custom pieces for an array of celebrities, pop culture icons, and artists including: Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks, Sessilee Lopez and fashion personality Andre J, among many others

Ticket Information

Tickets for the Choreographers of Color Award 2013: Winning Works at the Harris Theater are $18 in advance or $22 at the door and will be available as of January 8, 2013 by calling the Harris Theater Box Office at 312-334-7777 or online at

About the Joffrey Academy Trainees

Students are selected to participate in the Trainee Program by invitation from The Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director, Ashley C. Wheater, and Academy Artistic Directors, Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik.  The Trainee Program is a rigorous program in which students train in ballet and other dance disciplines.  Graduates from this program have been accepted into ballet companies around the world, including The Joffrey Ballet, Staatsballet Berlin, Dresden Semperoper, Atlanta Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballet Met, Richmond Ballet, Complexions and many more.

Trainees rehearse and perform classical and contemporary works from The Joffrey Ballet’s extensive repertoire and have the opportunity to work with world-renowned guest choreographers.

For more information on the Academy Trainees of the Joffrey Ballet, or other programs at the Academy of Dance, Official School of the Joffrey Ballet, please visit