Volume 73, Number 49 | April 7 - 13, 2004


Super soccer mom gracefully balances DUSC and dance

By Judith Stiles

These days many mothers are under pressure with the dual demands of work and family, a balancing act that leaves them all wishing there were a few extra hours in the day. Joni Petre-Scholz of Greenwich Village manages this juggling act superbly, along with the added attraction of being the business manager of Downtown United Soccer Club, where she is better known as DUSCJONI.

Does this sound like three balls in the air? It is more like five seeing how she is not only a principal dancer in Dances Patrelle Ballet Co., but she is also a choreographer, assistant rehearsal director and youth ballet instructor, working alongside world-renowned choreographer Frances Patrelle.

It is hard to imagine how jam-packed her days are this spring as soccer registration and team management are heating up while the dance company is preparing for its 15th Anniversary Repertory Season. Picture this — eight to 12 hours of rehearsal every day, while intermittently fielding soccer queries on the cell phone and sometimes driving sons Danny and Taylor to their soccer practices on rehearsal breaks. If you ask 11-year-old Danny what he knows about ballet, he will tell you he has learned a lot by osmosis in the back seat of their SUV, listening to animated conversations about choreography between his mom and other dancers who hitch a ride Downtown.

Joni describes the upcoming ballet “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered,” as a work in which “drama meets dance.” Three ballets will be performed, and one of the favorites in the retrospective is “Madame X,” based on a John Singer Sargeant painting. “The painting hanging in The Frick called ‘Madame X’ was the inspiration for the work,” explains Petre-Scholz. “Frances stood between two paintings, which portrayed the torrid affair of well-known gynecologist, Dr. Pozzi and his lover, which created a huge scandal in Paris at the time.” As Patrelle stood there in awe of the paintings, his imagination started racing and the ballet was born. From studying videos of previous performances, Joni knows every dancer’s part and is responsible for teaching the other dancers what to do. There is a lot of collaboration involved in fine-tuning every piece. Suggestions often erupt spontaneously as they rehearse, and unlike other ballet companies, input from the dancers is highly valued.

Another jewel of a dance called “Glad to Be Unhappy” grew out of the question,
“Where do people gather? Where does good drama happen?” This piece takes place in a bar of course, where a love triangle (a married couple and a gay bartender) try and sort out their complicated relationships in a beautiful and sometimes incendiary dance.

Being able to shift gears between soccer world and ballet world is a skill that Petre-Scholz has mastered. Like most extremely talented artists, she is always dogged by the ballet, burning a hole in the back of her mind; but she is facile at multi-tasking and can easily change channels from dance to efficiently chairing a DUSC managers meeting with no time wasted.

When Petre-Scholz was 8 years old her mother brought her down to the Big Apple from the Albany area to see the ballet “Coppelia.” Young Joni was smitten and in her heart became a dancer on that day. For several years she studied tap and ballet and because of her talent was chosen at the tender age of 14 to leave home and become a resident of the Berkshire Ballet in Massachusetts. As a young adult she worked with the Manhattan Ballet Co. and then Dances Patrelle, with which she toured the world. In her 20s she took almost eight years off to raise her boys and when they were launched into school, she went back to the dancing she loves.
Ms. Petre-Scholz readily acknowledges that being a kind of superwomanmomballetdancer would not be possible without the unqualified support of her husband, Albert, who fell in love with her when her first saw her dance. He and Frances Patrelle were instrumental in encouraging her to go back to dancing after the boys started school. Albert was well aware of the enormous time commitment and some of the sacrifices the family would have to make, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now in the home there is a buzzing excitement and a palpable anticipation of the upcoming performance. All the soccer families who only know Joni as that person from DUSC who keeps the engine running smoothly are looking forward to seeing her on stage for three enchanting evenings at the Kaye Theater at Hunter College, April 22- 24, where this time Joni doesn’t talk but instead speaks the stories of being bewitched, bothered and bewildered in a magnificent ballet.
For information, e-mail info@dancespatrelle.org.

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