She’s a winner!

Joffrey Ballet's Jeraldine Mendoza & Mauro Villanueva in Edwaard Liang's "Age of Innocence". Photo by Herbert Migdoll.

It was announced last week that Joffrey Ballet dancer Jeraldine Mendoza has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Leonore Annenberg Fellowhsip Fund.  Mendoza, 20, is the first performing artist in Chicago to receive this award. Originally from San Francisco, CA, she trained from an early age under the tutelage of Galina Alexandrova at the City Ballet School and was the first American female dancer to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy (now the Moscow State Academy of Choreography).

Mendoza, in her first season with the Joffrey, made an impression with her break out performances in Wayne McGregor’s Infra and a duet in Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence.  We chatted Friday evening via text as she was wrapping up rehearsals for Vaslav Nijinsky’s  Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) and a world premiere by Stanton Welch at Joffrey Tower.  It’s my first texterview!

Tell me how you got the award.  Did you have to apply? Did someone nominate you?

CCC (Christoper Clinton Conway, Executive Director) and Ashley (Wheater, Artistic Director) nominated me and, I think, sent in a letter of recommendation, along with my application, which included a bio, photos, a video of me dancing and a three-page essay explaining how it would benefit my career and future goals.

What does wining this mean for you – for your career?

Winning this award is a true honor and I feel a great amount of flattery.  To be given something like this by my first professional company and at a young age is amazing and I’m grateful!  For my career? It will help me improve my dancing both in technique and expressiveness.  There is still yet so much to more to learn and this grant will allow me to do so.  Plus, it looks really great on my resume!

What are your career goals (companies, dream roles)?

My career goal is to soon be a lead in a prestigious classical or contemporary ballet.  The Joffrey hopes to do “Romeo and Juliet” in the very near future and it would be amazing to be cast as Juliet.  But my absolute dream, dream role is Kitri in “Don Quixote”, which was my first professional program here at the Joffrey and where I was also cast to do Queen of the Dryads…so, almost getting the lead!  There’s something about that music and ballet that screams classics, and I love the classical ballet classics.

What are you going to do with $50K?

With this amazing grant, I plan on traveling this summer.  I plan on going back to San Francisco for two weeks and take classes with my teacher Galina Alexandrova.  Then, I plan on flying to Moscow/St. Petersburg to take some classes there and watch some performances, also try to find out more about possibly taking some courses of how to become a ballet teacher and achieve a teacher’s degree from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.  Then, I’ll head to London, where I will request from Freed to customize a pointe shoe for me.  I can’t wait for my adventures!

Congratulations to Jeraldine for this well-deserved award.  Perhaps there is a Juliet in her future?