Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux has served as Artistic Director since 1996 and President since 2003of the North Carolina Dance Company, where has greatly expanded the repertoire and increased the size of the company. Since 1983 has been the artistic director, resident choreographer, and principal teacher for the dance program at Chautauqua, where he has developed a national program of intensive training for young dancers. During his tenure at Chautauqua, Bonnefoux has choreographed more than 60 ballets, including full-length versions of Romeo & Juliet, Coppélia, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake, among others.
Born in France, at age 10 Jean-Pierre began his dance training at the school, and at age 14 joined the company of the Paris Opera Ballet. By age 21 he was named Danseur Etoile, a title reserved for the most distinguished dancers in France. He performed extensively in the rich classical repertory with the Paris Opera, the Bolshoi Ballet, and Kirov Ballet. In the late 1960s he was awarded the prestigious Prix Nijinsky, and in the early 1970s he was awarded the Officier De L’Ordre Du Merite by the French government.
In 1970 Bonnefoux was invited by George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet as principal dancer. During his 10 years with the company, he performed more than 40 ballets, including principal roles created for him by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins: Balanchine’s Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Cortege Hongrois, Union Jack, Sonatine, and Four Bagatelles. At Balanchine’s request, Bonnefoux choreographed one third of Tricolore with Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins for New York City Ballet. In 1976 with fellow City Ballet principal Patricia McBride and other dancers from City Ballet, Bonnefoux co-founded a company which successfully toured the United States until 1980.
Jean-Pierre stopped performing in 1980 to devote all his energy to his work as a choreographer and teacher. From 1980 to 1982 he taught company classes at New York City Ballet at the invitation of George Balanchine, in addition to teaching at the School of American Ballet, and he was also invited by Rudolph Nureyev to teach company classes at Paris Opera Ballet. He has served as choreographer and ballet master for the Pittsburgh Ballet; jury president for the international dance competition, the Prix de Lausann; master artist in residence by the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida; chairman and artistic director of the ballet department for the School of Music at Indiana University; and he has commissioned choreographers from around the world and created more than 20 ballets, including Shindig, a rollicking ballet set to traditional bluegrass music; Carmina Burana, performed with the Charlotte Symphony and three choral groups; and a full-length Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Romeo & Juliet. In 1989, he was awarded New York City’s prestigious Lion of the Performing Arts for his exceptional contribution to dance.