Jeffrey Edwards has been hailed as one of the most talented dancers to emerge from the Balanchine School in the last 25 years (Vanity Fair, 1993). He began training as a gymnast when he was five years old. His initial dance instruction began in his hometown north of Pittsburgh in a dance school started by acrobats who had fled the Bulgarian circus. Serious classical training began a few years later when Mansur Kamaletdinov, former director of the Bolshoi Ballet, relocated to Pittsburgh to establish his own ballet school. Rigorous training in the Russian style provided Mr. Edwards with a technical base that helped him win a Ford Foundation scholarship at age 14 to study at the School of American Ballet in New York.
After his third year of study at SAB, George Balanchine instituted the Special Men's Class to nurture male talent at the school. Chosen by Mr. Balanchine, Mr. Edwards became one of the class's seven charter members. After five years of study under the tutelage of the great Danish teacher Stanley Williams, Mr. Edwards starred as the Prince in the school's annual workshop performance of Alexandra Danilova's Aurora's Wedding. He was invited to join the New York City Ballet in 1984, one year after Balanchine's death.
During his first season with NYCB, Mr. Edwards was presented with the challenge of dancing the title role created for Baryshnikov in Jerome Robbins's Opus 19/The Dreamer with Patricia McBride. Soon after, he took on several principal roles in other Robbins's repertory, including Afternoon of a Faun and The Goldberg Variations. His Balanchine repertory includes the role of Melancholic in The Four Temperaments, Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Cavalier in The Nutcracker, as well as starring roles in Duo Concertante, and Une Porte et une Soupir. He originated roles in Peter Martins's Les Petits Riens, Fearful Symmetries, and Mozart Serenade. Mr. Edwards was promoted to soloist in 1989.
At NYCB, he was inspired to break out of the Balanchine mold in roles created for him by visiting choreographers. William Forsythe created both of his NYCB works Behind the China Dogs and Herman Schmerman on him. During his years with NYCB, Mr. Edwards was featured in more Diamond Project creations than any other dancer in the company. Excited by the creative process of these groundbreaking works, Mr. Edwards left NYCB to work with other European-based choreographers who do not often work with American companies.
In 1992, he joined the Zurich Ballet as a premier danseur. There, he expanded his artistic range in dances by Hans van Manen, and Mats Ek, as well as in historic works by Nijinsky and Petipa. He choreographed his first work, Pas Menu, for the company in 1994. That same year, he decided to expand further his experience as a contemporary dancer by joining the Lyon Opera Ballet in France - a company famed for its eclectic repertory. Under resident choreographer Bill T. Jones, Mr. Edwards toured more than 30 countries dancing modern works by Jones, theatrical works by Maguy Marin, the role of Romeo in Angelin Prejlocaj's Romeo and Juliet, and Nacho Duato's role in Jiri Kylian's Stamping Ground.
In addition to his stage experience, Mr. Edwards has danced on television both in the U.S. and abroad. He has contributed articles for numerous publications including Dance Magazine and Ballet Review and has been featured in Time, Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, and Interview magazines. He is presently featured with Merrill Ashley and Suki Schorer in the video-release The Balanchine Essays, a documentation of the Balanchine technique.
Mr. Edwards was named company teacher of the Lyon Opera Ballet in 1997 and has taught at the Conservatoire Nationale Superieur de Lyon, one of only three national conservatories in France. He has also taught for the Boston Ballet, the Boston Ballet School, the Frankfurt Ballet in Germany, and Le Ballet du Grand Thęatre de Genčve, and the Zurich Ballet in Switzerland. Mr. Edwards has lectured on dance at Yale, U.C.L.A, and Williams College and has taught at Cornell University and Juilliard. Last May, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude, with honors from Brown University earning a degree in Modern Culture and Media. While at Brown he designed and taught a course on contemporary dance repertory. Mr. Edwards was involved in the production of several dance documentaries with Dance in America at PBS.
In 2002-2003 Mr. Edwards worked and studied with Michael Kaiser as a Vilar Fellow at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Currently he is the Artistic Associate of the Washington Ballet where he rehearses and sets ballets and collaborates with Artistic Director Septime Webre on the administration and management of the company. Mr. Edwards is also working with Twyla Tharp on a project to make her repertory accessible to universities and conservatories around the world.