Andrea and Rich Winship

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Andrea and Rich WinshipAndrea and Rich are two of the Joffrey’s most passionate fans who have attended performances since the organization made Chicago its home in 1995. Both are avid supporters and consider the Joffrey a defining force in their lives over the past two decades—and for Andrea, the Joffrey’s indelible impression extends even farther back.

At age four Andrea began her ballet training and commuted from the south side to downtown Chicago for daily classes as early as age eight. As a teenager she continued training at the Ellis-Du Boulay School of Ballet at the Fine Arts Building, and it was at this formative time when she first saw the Joffrey perform at the Auditorium Theatre. “It was 1972 and the Joffrey was in town for a two-week residency in February,” recalls Andrea. “A bunch of us from the Ellis-Du Boulay School would purchase the cheapest tickets for almost every performance. The dancers were infused with a meticulous technical ability that I strived to achieve and an energy and excitement that was pure magic. I was hooked for life.”

Andrea’s favorite memories of the Joffrey were the summer seasons in the early 1970s at the Ravinia Festival. “My sister Eden was also a huge ballet fan and we would watch rehearsals during the day and then come back at night to watch the performance,” describes Andrea. “We would often come armed with baked cookies for the dancers during the rehearsals. Rebecca Wright, Starr Danias, Francesca Corkle, Charthel Arthur, Dennis Wayne, Gary Christ, Christian Holder, Russel Sultzbach, Gregory Huffman, Glenn White—these were all my heroes.”

Andrea’s husband, Rich, first became interested in dance when he took a course on the history of dance as part of his theater degree at Rockford University. “The teacher was Jayne Poor, who had actually danced with Merce Cunningham and Alwin Nikolais,” recounts Rich. “Her stories of working with these giants really heightened my interest in the art form, but it was meeting Andrea that accelerated my appreciation of dance and made it a permanent part of my life. With her lifelong connection to ballet, it was inevitable that dance would become one of our many shared joys.”

One of Rich’s most cherished memories is of when he first saw Robert Joffrey’s production of The Nutcracker in the early 2000s, which was the first time he had seen any production of the perennial classic. “What a transcendent experience!” exclaims Rich, who appreciates ballet theater in large part through his professional lens as a set and lighting designer and technical director at Glenbrook South High School. “It was a visual and aural cornucopia that had me mesmerized from the first note of Tchaikovsky’s score.  My favorite moment of all was the ‘Kingdom of Snow’; the cool colors, beautiful forest setting, gorgeous costumes, amazing choreography, the children’s chorus, and, of course, the falling snow—all of these elements combined in the most perfect ephemeral way, it brought tears to my eyes. As much as I love and appreciate the new production by Christopher Wheeldon, the Robert Joffrey version will forever be with me.”

The Evanston-based couple has enjoyed seeing the Joffrey evolve over the years, from supporting Gerald Arpino’s tireless work to establish the Company in the Windy City to championing his successor, Ashley Wheater.

“When Ashley was chosen as the next artistic director in 2007, things really took off,” says Rich. “Ashley’s vision and commitment to artistic excellence have led the Joffrey to even greater heights. As he carries on the legacies of Mr. Joffrey and Mr. Arpino, it became evident that we needed to make the Joffrey part of our own legacy by including a bequest in our estate plans. The Joffrey Ballet is so important to us personally and to the city as a whole. We want to support it while we’re here and know that it will still be vibrant, strong, and vital for decades to come.”

“I simply cannot imagine a world devoid of classical ballet and great dance,” declares Andrea. “What I have learned about the arts, and dance in particular, is that it all has the power to connect us in an unspoken yet powerful language, which is not only invaluable, but irreplaceable. It allows us to dream, it  opens us up emotionally, and it’s part of what makes the human experience worth living. For me, there is no other art form as beautiful as ballet. Because it has defined my entire life and subsequently the life of my husband, we have chosen to include the Joffrey in our estate planning to ensure that our experiences can be passed on to future lovers of the art form, both dancers and audiences alike.”