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Greg Cameron takes the helm at Joffrey Ballet July 1

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Updated: July 23, 2013 6:09AM

Afixture of Chicago’s cultural scene is gracefully leaping to the Joffrey Ballet’s top management position.

Greg Cameron, 55, starts as the ballet’s new executive director on July 1, replacing Christopher Clinton Conway, who stepped down in April.

“I looked at it as an incredible opportunity for someone to take an internationally acclaimed dance company and further secure its connection to Chicago, and better position Chicago locally, nationally and internationally,” Cameron said. “It’s a real opportunity to lead an organization at a time of transformation for it.”

A native of the western suburbs whose family regularly sought out the city’s cultural fare, Cameron’s first job in Chicago was as an intern in the Department of Cultural Affairs under Mayor Harold Washington.

He worked at the Art Institute of Chicago and
the Museum of Contemporary Art, rising to deputy director and chief development officer. For the past five years he served as
chief operating officer for the parent company of WTTW-Channel 11 and WFMT-FM.

When the Joffrey came calling, he couldn’t resist the lure of supporting a live performance organization, currently under the artistic direction of Ashley C. Wheater.

“The experience of live performance — it’s never the same,” he said. “The audience is different, the performances, the dances are different. And there is something just incredibly exciting, a goose-bump kind of experience. I’m looking forward to working in that space.”

Cameron, who lives in Lake View, will be tasked with building the ballet company a substantial endowment.

The Joffrey Ballet under Conway raised $35 million for its first permanent headquarters, a 48,000-square-foot facility at State and Randolph. The building, called Joffrey Tower, opened in 2008 and is debt-free.

“I think the endowment will be something that we will have Greg very focused on,” said Zachary Lazar,
who chaired the search committee and is incoming 2013-14 board chairman. “We have to continue to grow the
Joffrey so we can do more in terms of community outreach, do more with the dance academy, and that we can do more to bring new quality works of ballet to the city.”

While Cameron doesn’t have a specific background in dance, he did take a non-credit ballet class while at Illinois State University, something that gave him an appreciation for the art’s incredible challenge. He also celebrated his 40th birthday by spending Saturday mornings in a basic jazz class through Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, a class that taught him dance moves not typically perfected at the Joffrey.

“I learned about ‘jazz hands’,” he said.

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