Ashley Wheater, artistic director of The Joffrey Ballet, has dedicated his life to dance. He was born in Scotland and trained at the Royal Ballet School in England. While at the school he worked with Frederick Ashton in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice, and performed at Covent Garden in numerous productions including Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and The Dream. Having graduated to the upper school of the Royal Ballet, Mr. Wheater danced in many full-length productions and performed with Rudolph Nureyev in Nureyev and Friends at the London Coliseum.
After leaving the Royal Ballet, Mr. Wheater joined the London Festival Ballet where he continued to work with Nureyev in his Romeo and Juliet and Sleeping Beauty and Glen Tetley in Sphinx and Greening, along with a huge repertoire of classics and new creations. Under the artistic direction of John Field, he was promoted to principal dancer at the age of 21. In 1981 he joined the Australian Ballet where he continued dancing principal roles in both classical and contemporary work, especially in the John Cranko full-lengths.
Mr. Wheater joined The Joffrey Ballet in 1985 at the invitation of Gerald Arpino. For the next five years he performed various works by American choreographers including William Forsythe, Gerald Arpino, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, and Laura Dean, as well as repertoire by Ashton and Cranko.
Joining the San Francisco Ballet in 1989, he continued to cultivate his creative career while working with choreographers Helgi Tomasson, James Kudelka, David Bintley and many more. In 1997, he became Ballet Master at the San Francisco Ballet, and in 2002, assistant to the artistic director.
Since his appointment in 2007 as artistic director of The Joffrey Ballet, Mr. Wheater has built upon the vibrant legacy of founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino. True to Joffrey’s vision for the company, he honors ballet masterpieces and seeks to preserve them, he is constantly in search of new creative voices and he presents work relevant to our community and our times. Under his direction, world-class choreographers are creating new work for the company. He has introduced choreography by Val Caniparoli, Alexander Ekman, William Forsythe, James Kudelka, Jessica Lang, Edwaard Liang, Lar Lubovitch, Wayne McGregor, Yuri Possokhov, Stanton Welch and Christopher Wheeldon. Mr. Wheater has added new full-length works, including Lar Lubovitch’s groundbreaking Othello, Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, the world premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s Don Quixote, Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo and Juliet, Stanton Welch’s La Bayadere: The Temple Dancer and Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake.
In 2008 Mr. Wheater was the recipient of the Boeing Game-Changer Award in recognition of his commitment to community engagement in Chicago and to the celebration of diversity through dance. In 2010, Mr. Wheater, representing The Joffrey Ballet, was named Lincoln Academy Laureate, the highest honor presented by the State of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune selected Mr. Wheater as 2013 “Chicagoan of the Year” for his contributions to dance. In 2014, Mr. Wheater accepted the Chicago Spirit of Innovation Award for The Joffrey Ballet and in 2015, he received the University of Chicago Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Creative and Performing Arts. He also serves as the Artistic Director of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, the Official School of The Joffrey Ballet.