Ashley Wheater from the Joffrey Ballet Chicago

Ashley C. Wheater has dedicated his life to dance. Born in Scotland and trained at the Royal Ballet School in England, he worked with Frederick Ashton in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice, and performed at Covent Garden in numerous productions such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and The Dream. Having graduated to the upper school of the Royal Ballet, Mr. Wheater danced in many of the full-length productions and performed with Rudolph Nureyev in Nureyev and Friends at the London Coliseum.

In 1982 he joined the Australian Ballet where he continued dancing principal roles in both classical and contemporary work, especially in the John Cranko full-lengths. At the invitation of Gerald Arpino in 1985, Mr. Wheater joined The Joffrey Ballet. Joining the San Francisco Ballet in 1989 he continued to cultivate his creative career while working with Helgi Tomasson, James Kudelka, David Bintley and many more.

Since his appointment in 2007 as artistic director of The Joffrey Ballet, his passion and commitment to the Joffrey have been evident in the quality that he has brought to the dancing as well as the repertoire. Under his direction he has brought world-class choreographers as well as young, up and-coming choreographers to create for the company. In 2008 Mr. Wheater was the recipient of the Boeing Game-Changer Award in recognition of his commitment to reaching out to Chicago communities promoting diversity through the many forms of dance. In 2010, Mr. Wheater, representing The Joffrey Ballet, was named Lincoln Academy Laureate, the highest honor presented by the State of Illinois.

Where were you born?

Bigger, Scotland, just outside of Edinburgh.

How long in Chicago:

I moved to Chicago in 2007, after 18 years in San Francisco.


After living in a few Chicago neighborhoods, I found an apartment that I love in Wicker Park.


I am the artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet.

Favorite Restaurant:

My new favorite is Trencherman, in the old Russian-Turkish bathhouse on North Avenue at Damen.  The new Pump Room is calm and beautiful: the food is flavorful.

Best Ethnic Food:

Having grown up in the UK, I have a warm spot for bit of curry.  Cumin is excellent.

Best Italian:

Summer dinner in the patio at Piccolo Sogno is pretty special.  I have great memories of dinners at Coco Pazzo and Campagnola in Evanston, as well.

Best dessert:

Any place with salt caramel or dulce de leche gets my vote.

Best place for a romantic date:

I love the theater…a bit of Sondheim at Chicago Shakespeare or Writer’s Theatre works for me.

Best Sunday brunch:

The Gage is located half way between the Joffrey Studios, where we rehearse, and the Auditorium Theatre, where we perform. The Gage has become my drop-in stop.  I had the best Eggs Benedict ever at Bistro Zinc in the Gold Coast.

Haute Night Club/Lounge:

My neighborhood favorite is the Violet Hour. I exercise real discipline in not spending more time there.

Best place for a power business meeting:

We have accomplished quite a lot in my office at the Joffrey Tower. Nate Berkus did the design.  It does not have a traditional conference table and chairs…more like a gathering in your den at home.

All-around favorite spot in Chicago:

It is difficult to select just one:  the view of the Pritzker Pavilion and Millennium Park from the terrace at Terzo Piano, Michigan Avenue and the Water Tower on a warm summer’s evening, the canyon formed by the buildings and the river looking from the Michigan Avenue bridge.  This city is filled with iconic places.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend?

There are many good choices, depending on the guest.  I am lucky to have an extra bedroom, and dear friends and family stay with me whenever possible.

Favorite shopping venue/boutique:

I always find things I love at Jayson Home and Garden or Material Possessions.

Favorite Charity Event:

I would be foolish (and wrong) not to say the Joffrey Ballet Spring Gala.

Favorite Cultural Event:

In a city as rich and diverse as Chicago, there are many choices.  I have been fortunate to attend several great events since arriving here.  The jewels include Millennium Park performances (perhaps the new gathering spot within the city), Green City Market, Ravinia.  I see as much theater as possible.  I attend the opera and the symphony and love them.  The dance community is thriving, and I am happy the Joffrey Ballet is part of this renaissance.

Favorite Cultural Institution:

I have to place the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum near the top of this list. Few of us have any idea the extent of these collections or the work these institutions do to preserve and advance our understanding of nature and culture.  These are treasures, right in our midst.

Best Aspect of Chicago:

The neighborhoods, and the sense of community.

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore:

I am proud of the architecture of the city.  Many American cities have not valued their built heritage, and have replaced structures and parks with parking lots. Other cities have grown smug with their architectural gems and have turned neighborhoods into static museums.  Chicago has managed to preserve some of the best of the past while finding room for innovative and dynamic buildings and urban spaces.