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GM Artists > Dancer Profiles > Joni Petre-Scholz



This Soccer Mom wears a tutu... and pointe shoes... and sometimes even a tiara. Joni Petre-Scholz not only returned to ballet after an 8-year maternity leave, she returned to top form and dances leading roles as Principal with New York City's Dances Patrelle. She does this while raising 2 boys in New York and serving as the company's Rehearsal Director and Assistant to the Managing Director.

In the years "B.K." (Before Kids), Joni performed with Dances Patrelle, Manhattan Ballet, Eglevsky Ballet and with various international touring companies. She grew up in upstate New York and Massachusetts, studying at the Berkshire Ballet and later as a special student at Skidmore College, earning some college credits while studying dance too.

When the time came to start a family, Joni says she was ready and happy to retire from ballet and focus on babies. But it was also "extremely frustrating" to change from a routine of daily classes to a regimen of class only once or twice a week . Jumping, and the strength and stamina it requires, was especially challenging. Only turning kept its, "sense of ease."

It didn't occur to Joni that she would - or could- return to performing at her previous level after such a long hiatus. She "eased" back into the studio as a Ballet Mistress for Dances Patrelle's Romeo & Juliet; once there she rediscovered her love for "the telling of a story". Joni was working with New York City Ballet's Jenifer Ringer, who herself was making a return to ballet as a guest artist of Dances Patrelle. Seeing Ringer's joy in dancing again was a great inspiration. Artistic Director Francis Patrelle asked Joni if she would serve as Ballet Mistress for the upcoming Yorkville Nutcracker, the company's annual Christmas time production, a hugely popular New York City event with a large cast of students as well as professionals. Joni replied by asking Patrelle if she might dance in it. "Do you really want to work that hard?" was his answer.

With only seven months to get in shape, Joni plunged into a routine of class 5 -6 times a week, supplemented by Pilates and yoga. The performances were a tremendous success, with Joni as a sparkling DewDrop Fairy. Having recovered her technique, her next challenge was to take on a highly dramatic role: Lady Macbeth in Dances Patrelle's production of Shakespeare's tragedy. Joni relished the opportunity to expand her range beyond the "happy Dew Drop type" and found it fun to "be the bad guy for a change." Most recently Joni starred in Pop!, Patrelle's stylish ballet about evolving social mores and customs, as seen through three different decades of New Year's Eve celebrations.

This is the Ballerina/Soccer Mom's typical day: rise at 6:30, get the boys (ages 9 and 12) fed, dressed and dropped off at (different) schools. Up and across town for morning class followed by rehearsal and a Pilates work out. Fly out of the studio at 2:30 to collect her sons and drive them to their after school activities (often soccer practice). Then homework and making dinner, and somehow grocery shopping and uniform laundering gets done too. Joni also helps Dances Patrelle's Managing Director with mailings, phone work and organizing programs.

She points out that most dancers have the luxury of focusing only on themselves, their own needs and the needs of their bodies. So she has had to become very adept at compressing all that into a smaller amount of time. As for her technique, she says that things that were hard before are harder now, on the other hand she has a greater awareness of what she is doing well.

Joni had been one of the original Gaynor Minden "test pilots", bravely trying prototypes during the long years when they were in development. After her eight-year break from pointe shoes, she sought out Gaynor Minden and found that the final product met her needs for a quiet, comfortable, consistent shoe. Joni says she dislikes the feeling of having a "foreign object" on her foot, and really needs to feel the floor and spread her foot. She also likes her shoes to be consistent, and remembers her frustration at other shoes whose maker, "had obviously had a bad day." She likes Gaynor Minden's pliability, and that they shape instantly to her foot with no banging. Quietness is also crucial, especially for moments such as Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene.

Joni looks back fondly on her years of "playdough and playgrounds" as a relaxing and lovely time. And it surely was relaxing compared to her present schedule. But despite its demands, there is an up side to being both an active professional and an involved Mom: a bad day in the studio can always be alleviated by time with the boys - and frustrations on the domestic front can be soothed by time in the studio.

Photo: (top) Phil Haggerty, (bottom) Eduardo Patino