We bid farewell to the remarkable Jermel Johnson after
19 years with Philadelphia Ballet.


Photos by Alexander Iziliaev

This is a special performance for us at Philadelphia Ballet, not only because this marks the end of our 2021/2022 season, but also because we celebrate beloved principal dancer Jermel Johnson’s last performance with Philadelphia Ballet as he finishes an astounding 19-year tenure with the company. An integral part of the Philadelphia Ballet family since 2003, Jermel first came to the company as a member of PBII, quickly moving on as an apprentice only one year later. After further promotions to the corps for the 2007/2008 season and to soloist for the 2008/2009 season, Jermel became a principal dancer for the 2012/2013 season, where he has spent the last nine years. Jermel was the first company dancer to begin in PBII and move all the way through the rankings to Principal Dancer and remains the last principal dancer hired by Roy Kaiser, the Ballet’s former Artistic Director.

Making a name for himself through his flexibility, powerful jumps, and high energy, Jermel has enjoyed a multifaceted career with the company, dancing in productions like Robert Weiss’s Messiah, Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake (Prince Siegfried), Jerome Robbins’s Afternoon of a Faun, and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® (Cavalier). His featured roles include such works as William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, Matthew Neenan’s Keep, Jerome Robbins’s N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz (Statics), and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Jermel’s interest in dance piqued after watching a performance of The Nutcracker on TV. He began his formal education at the Baltimore School for the Arts where he spent seven years before moving on to the prestigious School of American Ballet during his senior year of high school. At the School of American Ballet, Jermel danced under prominent choreographers Peter Martins, Peter Boal, Jock Soto, and Andrei Kramerevsky, and received a scholarship to study at the School of American Ballet’s Summer Program in 2001.

A dancer with wide critical acclaim, Jermel has received many accolades for his work. During the 2007/2008 season, he received notice for his standout performances at City Center as well as for his performance of Matthew Neenan’s world premiere Pampeana No. 2. In October 2008, Jermel received a prestigious Princess Grace Award, a program known for its commitment to elevating extraordinary young artists through career-advancing grants.

Jermel is looking toward a bright future ahead as a massage therapist, having graduated from massage therapy school during time off from the stage due to COVID. As Philadelphia Ballet’s only Black principal dancer, Jermel leaves behind an unparalleled legacy. Our own Shelly Power puts it best when she says, “Jermel has set the tone for generations to come both as an exceptional dancer and as an African American male dancer. His contributions to the art form and Philadelphia Ballet will be memorialized. We are proud of his accomplishments, and he will be sorely missed as a dancer but now a welcome partner contributing to dancers’ wellness through his massage therapy practice. We are thankful to his family for sharing him with us over the years and are excited to see Jermel flourish in his next chapter in life.”