Ali Pourfarrokh was appointed in 1999 as artistic director of the Eglevsky Ballet Company of Long Island. He has ably led the company in what they describe as an "exciting transformation." One former board member (a parent-volunteer) said, "He made many changes that brought new life into the company."
For Pourfarrokh, this represents a "coming home" in more than one way. He moved to Port Washington in 1976, having married a Port Washington woman (from whom he is now divorced). During that period, he founded the Dance Theater of Long Island South Washington Street. The school still exists, now known as the Berest School. Although his work took him to many places in the world, including a 15-year stint in Canada as the artistic director of the Alberta Ballet, he said that he has always maintained a residence in Port. Now the community is his permanent home. He said, "I love it here. It is a sophisticated community, close to Manhattan, with the charm of a fishing village. The people are so nice and there are a lot of artistic people."
It is also, in a sense, a "coming home" artistically; Pourfarrokh studied with the eminent André Eglevsky, who founded the Eglevsky Ballet in 1961. (André Eglevsky was the premier danseur of George Balanchine's New York City Ballet.) Pourfarrokh described him as "a great teacher, a great dancer, and a great man. He left his mark."
At Eglevsky, Pourfarrokh has taken a more eclectic approach. He has added to the classical ballet, introducing elements of contemporary dance, what he described as "crossovers." He described his major accomplishment as "influencing the company to be in the here and now." His enthusiasm and love of his art are boundless. He appears to be committed to making the dance more accessible. "It doesn't need great knowledge to enjoy it," he said. "These days, people are more aware of the body, and can appreciate it more. Even football players do yoga and ballet stretches."
Pourfarrokh appreciates the other musical arts, and, in fact once played the violin and guitar, but the dance has a special place in his heart. He commented, "It is an art form that takes you to a special place. It is immediate and uplifting. Although it has all the sophistication of opera or theater, but it is not that imposing. It does not have the rigidity of opera or musicals or Shakespeare. The audience has the freedom to take from it what they will."
Pourfarrokh's energy appears limitless. In addition to his demanding position as artistic director, he choreographs the company's productions and teaches in the Eglevsky's affiliate school, the American Theater Dance Workshop. He directs and teaches at the Eglevsky Ballet Summer Workshop, which will be held at Hofstra University from July 5 to July 25. (For information, call 516-746-1115 or fax 516-746-1117.) In his "spare" time, he is an adjunct at Adelphi and sometimes teaches at Juilliard, Alvin Ailey Masters, and elsewhere. He also served as guest choreographer for the New Jersey Ballet. "I like to be busy," he said. Indeed.
Immediately prior to coming to the Eglevsky, Pourfarrokh was for 10 years the artistic director of the Alberta Ballet, which he said is the fourth largest Canadian ballet company. He has performed, taught and choreographed all over the world, with credits too numerous to mention. They include positions as associate director and ballet master for Alvin Ailey's American Dance Theater, artistic director of the Iranian National Ballet, and co-director and resident choreographer of Germany's Essen Opera Ballet. He recently choreographed works for Ballet du Nord in France and the Ballet Contemporáneo de Venezuela. He has performed with (among others) the Joffrey Ballet, the Harkness Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and the Frankfurt Opera Ballet.
Pourfarrokh began dancing at about age 10 in his native Iran, but came here in his teens, and did most of his studying in the United States. He studied at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School and the American Ballet Theater School in New York City.
Pourfarrokh takes great pride in the very high quality of the Eglevsky Ballet and affiliated school, which The New York Times described as "a national treasure." "You don't have to go to New York to get this standard of training and performance," he said. "You have something right in your own backyard." The school is located 999 Herricks Road in New Hyde Park, just after you make the turn from Searingtown Road. It is part of the Herricks Community Center.