The Joffrey Ballet will present the world premiere of Rita Finds Home, a family-friendly program and collaborative project between the Joffrey and Miami City Ballet, which will make its debut at the Navy Pier Lake Stage, July 9–10, 2022. Rita Finds Home is conceived by a nationally recognized, women-led creative team including Amy Hall Garner, a featured choreographer of the Joffrey’s Winning Works Choreographic Competition in 2011; Karla Estela Rivera, the Chicago-based author and executive director of Free Street Theater (West Town); as well as award-winning children’s book author Elisa Chavarri, and will be danced by the Joffrey Studio Company and Academy Trainees of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet. Rita Finds Home is free-to-the-public and travels from Navy Pier on July 9-10 to parks throughout Chicago from July 14-17 as part of the Chicago Park District Night Out in the Parks series, bringing vibrant dance and artistry to neighborhoods across the city.
Rita Finds Home, a roughly 45-minute production, centers on Rita, a young artist who paints and dreams of one day living in the big city despite the lush tropical island in which she now lives. When a hurricane thrusts Rita and her mother into a new life in an urban metropolis, she struggles to adapt to her new environment. Feeling lost and like everything she knew, including her talents, were washed away by the storm, Rita embarks on a journey that helps her redefine what home means to her. With help from her new friends and her family, Rita’s spirits lift as she explores the beauty of her new city, igniting a new sense of home, and the realization that her talents never left her.
The story is accompanied by original watercolors by Chavarri that come to life in the performance and become inspiration for an immersive set design, with props like dancing butterflies and palm leaves, and costumes that transform dancers into iconic landmarks of Chicago such as the Buckingham Fountain, John Hancock, and Willis Tower. Written with young audiences in mind, but suitable for all ages, the piece will convey universal themes about community, belonging, and resilience.
“Using personal experience as inspiration for their process, Amy, Karla, and Elisa have created a story that is emotive, relatable, touching, and powerful,” says Ashley Wheater MBE, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of the Joffrey. “It has been a joy working with this world-class creative team and connecting them with the tremendously talented dancers-on-the-rise within the Joffrey Academy.”
“Art is at its best when people and organizations come together. With Miami City Ballet as a co-commissioning partner, this visionary new work and performance structure reflects our mutual commitment to accessibility,” says Greg Cameron, President and CEO of the Joffrey. “We hope to inspire future generations by putting ballet in front of the community, inviting youth across Chicago neighborhoods to see what is possible when they dream big and follow their passions.”
Miami City Ballet Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez adds, “We are thrilled to partner and collaborate with Joffrey Ballet, who share in our mission to make ballet accessible to all regardless of financial barriers, location, or age. With a first-class creative team, Rita Finds Home is a work that I am sure will resonate with the cultures and communities of both Miami and Chicago. We look forward to announcing our South Florida tour of Rita Finds Home after its opening in Chicago.”
Rita Finds Home will make its debut at the Navy Pier Lake Stage, July 9–10, 2022. For more information on the production or its local touring schedule, visit Joffrey.org.