Chautauqua Institution on Friday announced that Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux will retire following 38 seasons leading Chautauqua’s resident dance programs, currently in the role of director of the School of Dance. Bonnefoux’s legacy at Chautauqua includes hundreds of alumni who have gone on to dance with renowned companies around the United States and the world.
A large Chautauqua community celebration of Bonnefoux will be planned for 2022, and include many alumni of the resident dance programs.
“Jean-Pierre has revolutionized the summer dance program experience by focusing on performance and giving students exposure to a variety of choreographic styles to help them prepare for company careers,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, and interim senior vice president and chief program officer. “The list of alumni who credit their success to their time at Chautauqua and working with Jean-Pierre is simply stunning. That many of them continue to perform and teach here regularly is a testament to his many gifts and generous spirit. We will miss Jean-Pierre, though we know Chautauqua will still hold a special place in his life, and we dedicate ourselves to building on this extraordinary legacy.”
Following his arrival at Chautauqua in 1983, Bonnefoux quickly made his mark as an innovator in the world of dance festivals. Among his many feats include establishing an annual teacher symposium, using Chautauqua’s setting and convening power to build a network of fellow dance artists and educators; he established the Artist Teacher Award with the late Chautauquan Kay Logan to recognize exceptional dance educators. A hallmark of Bonnefoux’s program for dance students is the emphasis on performance.
This “makes Chautauqua somewhat different from most summer schools,” according to a 2000 New York Times piece about Bonnefoux and dance at Chautauqua. “Although the students … have a full program of daily ballet, jazz and modern classes — with an extra point work and variation class in the afternoon for the older girls — the focus of their stay in Chautauqua is learning and rehearsing the ballets that they will perform before an audience.”
Bonnefoux also created and for many years led the Chautauqua Ballet Company, bringing together an exciting and diverse group of dancers and choreographers and providing employment during layoff seasons. Though no longer a resident Chautauqua program, the company was another outlet for the Institution to connect with professional dancers.
Bonnefoux’s longtime partner and collaborator Patricia McBride, long a muse of George Ballanchine, also has joined him as master teacher on the School of Dance faculty throughout his tenure.
Bonnefoux retired in 2017 as artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet. Previously known as the North Carolina Dance Theatre, the company for many years enjoyed an annual summer residency at Chautauqua, and still appears frequently among the several companies the Institution invites to perform each summer.