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Art with Impact Keeping the arts in business

The business behind the ballet

When Jessica Pedroza (BBA ’19) hung up her pointe shoes to pursue a degree in business, she didn't realize that her new career choice would lead her back to her dancing roots. But during her senior year at Loyola University Chicago's Quinlan School of Business, Pedroza found that her studies in supply chain management could lend a lot to the world of ballet she'd left behind.

For three years, Pedroza had lived her dream on stage by dancing in the Joffrey Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. That experience came in handy during an international business class during her senior year at Quinlan when she decided to focus her research project on the Joffrey Ballet's current operations.

Pedroza, who still dances in her free time, answered a few questions about how she molded her passions for business and ballet.

How did you end up dancing for the Joffrey Ballet?

When I was home sick as a little girl, my mom showed me the movie Singin’ in the Rain for the first time. I wanted to dance that day, but my body wasn’t having it because of my cold. So, my mom suggested watching this movie since there was a lot of dancing in it. If I couldn’t dance, I could watch them. When I started doing research on the film, I remember learning that Gene Kelly was very sick when he filmed his iconic dance scene in the rain. That inspired me as a little girl to go out and to try to be like Gene Kelly.

At my dance studio, they had flyers up for open auditions for the Joffrey Ballet, and I decided I wanted to audition. Eventually, I made it into the company and performed with Joffrey for three years in The Nutcracker.

Why did you choose to study supply chain management?

I got into the Joffrey Ballet’s prestigious pre-professional program, and at that point, I had to decide whether I would pursue a career in ballet or go to college. Ultimately, I found that business touched on a lot of my interests. I eventually decided on supply chain because it had a science-like thinking where you’re running experiments to diagnose problems, and that was really interesting to me.

The fine arts world needs people who have that interest (in operations) and the technical background to help.”
—Jessica Pedroza (BBA ’19), ballet dancer and Quinlan graduate

What sparked your research into the Joffrey?

At the beginning of the semester, Professor Mine Cinar encouraged each student group to choose a topic that interested us. We came across a case study done by the Joffrey Ballet and Stanford University, which led us to ultimately choosing to do our research on the company.

The case concentrated on Joffrey’s strategy in recent years when they were running into some financial and operations problems. We focused on their strategy of selecting new dance pieces and recruiting dancers from all over the world. This led us to ask, “What are some new markets that Joffrey can enter?”

I got to see how they ran things backstage, how they budgeted for things, and (how they) organized things. At the end, we made recommendations based on our findings and the techniques we learned in class.

It was neat to see how my interest in operations and my background with the company helped me with my research. Honestly, I haven’t seen anyone apply this knowledge to the performing arts world. The fine arts world needs people who have that interest and the technical background to help. It’s in moments like this when you realize how much you can contribute to companies like the Joffrey.

How did dance help in your business classes?

There are so many skills that I learned throughout my dance career, including being accountable for learning my routines and now being accountable for the team that I was working with. I was really setting the foundation for what I've been learning here at Quinlan. I’m very grateful to my experience, and I was very happy that I was able to tie it in this past year with the research.

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