Joffery Ballet Announces New Abbot Academy Director

Ashley Wheater MBE, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet, and Greg Cameron, President, and CEO, are pleased to announce that Suzanne Lopez, former Joffrey Company Artist and Rehearsal Director at the Joffrey, has been appointed to Abbott Academy Director of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet. Lopez takes over after nineteen years as a Company Artist, fourteen years as Academy Faculty, and most recently, seven years as Rehearsal Director. Educated by Joffrey Ballet co-founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, Lopez intends to embrace Robert Joffrey’s founding principles into the curriculum of the Academy and its Pre-Professional and Trainee Programs, leading it into a new area of excellence and elevating its reputation as a premier institution for dance education. 

Suzanne brings her profound amount of experience and unique perspective to the Academy,” says Wheater. “Trained under Robert Joffrey and steeped in his traditions and methodology, her inspiration is fueled by everything she has absorbed as a student, dancer, rehearsal director, and teacher. Her leadership, knowledge, and vision for the Academy will bring a new era of excellence to a future generation of artists.”

The Joffrey Academy of Dance is a pillar of our organization,” added Cameron. “Suzanne, who already has the great respect of our students, teachers, and Company, is the perfect person to drive it forward. Since its founding, the Academy has reached several milestones, including opening the Academy’s South Loop studios, which increases accessibility for students from the city’s south and west sides, and the launch of our Contemporary Ballet Trainee Program. Suzanne, whose history with the organization personifies the Joffrey mission to create avenues for all dancers, is committed to making our Academy even more available to students, families, and faculty, embodying our “Joffrey for All” philosophy.”

Lopez adds, “The Joffrey has been my home my entire professional career. I look forward to building on the foundation of the Company established by Robert Joffrey while bringing the Academy into the future, evolving the programs to meet the new demands of our ever-changing industry, and preparing students for professional dance careers through amplifying our Pre-Professional and Trainee Programs.”

As Abbott Academy Director of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Lopez leads the growth and development of the Academy as a world-class destination for students, implementing curricula and cutting-edge artistic programming for every Academy age and division, including Children’s, Youth and Adult Divisions, Summer Camps and Summer Intensives, Pre-Professional and Trainee, and Adaptive Programs. Lopez will focus on the principles, methodology, and values of co-founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, overseeing the Academy’s 67 faculty, 16 accompanists, and approximately 1,790 students who take classes in any given term.

Suzanne Lopez was born and raised in Summit, New Jersey, to Cuban parents. She first began training at the Garden State Ballet School under Fred Danieli and later studied at the New Jersey School of Ballet. Her introduction to the Joffrey Ballet started at age 12 when she attended her first summer intensive audition taught by Robert Joffrey. From that moment on, her training was steeped in his founding traditions and methodology taught to her by Robert Joffrey himself and his team of former Joffrey dancers, who became his protégés and her mentors.

After starting her professional career for a year and a half with the Joffrey II Dancers, Lopez joined The Joffrey as a Company Artist in 1991 and moved to Chicago with the company in 1995. During her nineteen-year career, Lopez danced principal roles in ballets by such choreographers as Robert Joffrey, Gerald Arpino, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alonzo King, John Cranko, José Limón, Antony Tudor, Twyla Tharp, Lar Lubovitch, and Sir Frederick Ashton. She was featured on the cover of Pointe Magazine as the Sugarplum Fairy in Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker. In addition to dancing, Lopez assisted Gerald Arpino in rehearsals for his ballets. She taught classes for the Arpino Apprentice Program and was one of the first instructors to begin teaching at the inception of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet.

After retiring from dancing in 2010, Lopez continued teaching and coaching at the Joffrey Academy, among other Chicago-area schools. In 2016, she was thrilled to return to The Joffrey as a Rehearsal Director, where she worked on a diverse repertoire, including new creations with John Neumeier, Yuri Possokhov, and Christopher Wheeldon. She has also been a guest teacher, répétiteur, and coach at schools and companies worldwide. As the Abbott Academy Director, Lopez embraces all her experiences as a student, dancer, educator, and rehearsal director and imbues Robert Joffrey’s vision into every facet of the Academy’s specialized curriculum. With her unique lineage and perspective, Lopez sets a firm foundation for the next generations of dancers.

Founded in 2010, the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, provides students of all ages, levels, and backgrounds with a world-class education, built on a foundation of classical ballet. Based in the heart of Chicago’s theater district, the 20,000 square-foot Exelon Education Center at Joffrey Tower, home to the Academy, boasts four state-of-the-art studios and facilities. In 2021, The Joffrey Ballet acquired two more state-of-the-art studios in the South Loop of Chicago. 

 The Joffrey Academy received the distinguished honor of being named four-time Outstanding School by the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest international student ballet competition, and the Boeing Game Changer Award in recognition of its efforts to make dance accessible to everyone.

The Joffrey Academy, located in Chicago, Illinois, is the only school that follows the organizational mission, training syllabi, and artistic vision of The Joffrey Ballet. No other program, including those holding the Joffrey name, is sanctioned by The Joffrey Ballet.  For more information on the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet and its programs please visit Connect with the Joffrey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.