"I believed when I first started dancing that some people have it and some people don't. That's just not true."

Harriet Ross, a New York native, studied dance at The Juilliard School. Once living in Chicago, she served as associate artistic director for Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre. She was the general manager of the Joffrey Ballet from 1995 to 2006 and founding managing director of the Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey Foundation. Ross was instrumental in creating Dance For Life in 1992 and founded the Dancers’ Fund in 1994. She continues to serve on the board of Chicago Dancers United and coach dancers at the Chicago Academy of the Arts.

May 18, 2017: Harriet Ross spoke about her early dance education in New York City and how that influenced how she coaches dancers. She remembered many rewarding and challenging experiences during her time with Joseph Homes and the Joffrey Ballet, including the making of the film The Company by Robert Altman. Ross also described the impact that HIV/AIDS had on the Chicago dance community and how she and others responded by creating Dance For Life.

"We were no longer just a nice, well-meaning little bunch... we were a professional company."

"I realized that we were all feeling so helpless, he [Keith Elliot] needed to do something." 

All images and video on this site are the property of Chicago Dance History Project. To request permission to use these materials, please contact CDHP.

Full interview videos and transcripts also available upon request.

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Harriet Ross teaching at Chicago Academy for the Arts; photo by Jennifer Girard