This week’s Humans of Chapelboro features Joy Javits, the daughter of former U.S. Senator Jacob Javits and a local business entrepreneur. Ms. Javits runs DooR to DooR, a hospital program that brings the arts to patients, and In the Public Eye, where she coaches clients in public speaking and presentation. She resides in Chapel Hill. 

“I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. I lived there until I went away to college and didn’t really go back much after that.  I went to amazing schools, including the Riverside Church, which is very famous for splendid speakers, and I went then to Ethical Culture Society school, which was great and I had no homework through sixth gradenone. We had shop class and we went to Central Park, which was across the street, every day pretty much. The learning was at our tempo. It was just amazing. And it was very much about ethics. Then I went to [the Dalton School], which was another extraordinary school, but I got slammed with not only homework but a monthly assignment, having previously had no homework and no idea how to do it. We were given monthly the work we were to do for all of our courses and expected to handle it ourselves. It was a great, great school in New York which still is beautiful. And then I went to Brown University, which is another amazing place to study, and in the years I was there, Ira Magaziner and Elliot Maxwell changed the curriculum. I think it’s called open curriculum, or new curriculum, and it’s maintained since then, which was decades ago. I majored in Theater Arts, and later worked in the field quite a bit. Brown is very famous for letting people not only mix what they studyscience and artsbut they also go out into the community quite a good bit and out into the world to change things. I was just reading about three Rhodes Scholars named maybe a year ago at Brown. So that was a phenomenal education.” 

Ms. Javits at her home in Chapel Hill

“After college I came back to New York, pretty briefly, and I worked for a choreographer named Patricia Birch, who choreographed Grease. She had five different shows, four on Broadway and one off, at the same time. She was really extraordinary. Patricia herself had played Anybodys in West Side Story. So I worked as her assistant for a couple of years, and I got to choreograph for the Electric Company, which was a children’s TV show that was supposed to be next up from Sesame Street. I don’t think it exists anymore. But Rita Moreno and some amazing actors were in it. I said to Patricia, put me in one of your shows, and so she did, and the one she chose was written by two gentlemen from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The show was called Diamond Studs and it was about Jesse James, and the band, the Red Clay Ramblers, were actors as well as the band. It played in New York at the Chelsea Theater off Broadway for only 10 months, and then it went on an 8 month tour. It was great because some tours are one night stands but this was a month at the Ford Theater in Washington, and the Charles Playhouse in Boston, and the Coconut Grove Theater in Florida, but it also played six weeks here in Chapel Hill, at a place that doesn’t exist anymore, called the Ranch House. That was amazing.”

“I still didn’t think, oh, I can live here in Chapel Hill. I thought, oh, I can move out of New York. So for the first time since college I went back to New York and I moved to Boston and I got myself in a dance company called the New England Dinosaur. I was doing a little PR for the Boston Ballet Company full time, and I got a beautiful apartment up in Cambridge nearby Fresh Pond Park. Six months later, the man who ran the theater here at UNC called, and he said, you come down here and choreograph a show. So I did in September of that year, long ago. That lovely man, Tom Hoss, had me do A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which is one of the funniest, greatest plays. And like the first day I arrived the man who had been teaching movement to actors and dance and such for thirty years retired. So they looked to me, and said, 27 year old miss, can you teach? And I said, oh yes, of course. And so I got this phenomenal job teaching. I was also company choreographer of Playmakers. That was awesome. I stayed 7 years until I lost the job, and after that I went back to New York, thinking, I guess that’s where I have to be. I stayed there for five years and my life twirled around again.” 

“It’s really a crazy story because it’s so fortuitous. I worked in a kitchen, mostly, chopping vegetables and I was part of a small dance company there too. Then, my girlfriend Ruby Shang Salzman, who is a pretty well known choreographer in the world, she invited me to come back to Chapel Hillto Durham, actuallyto live in an apartment with her and a bunch of people who were going to put together a dance for 150 people, mostly students at the American Dance Festival. And I did a solo and was part of this beautiful dance, which took place in the park in the Duke Gardens. It was gorgeous. I imagine there was video of it that was taken by this wonderful fellow, Doug Rosenberg. So there might be video to see. But it took place at night and Bill T. Jones swam in that dreadful pond and then was in a boatthere was a boat with fire in it that went slowly across the lake. Oh my god, and then all 150 of us jumped into the lake. It was just totally wild.”

Joy Javits, dancing for the Carolina Dancers

“So I did that dance and in August of that summer, I picked up the phone and made one phone call to the North Carolina Arts Council. The woman who answered the phone wasn’t a menu and wasn’t an operator. I said I’m looking for a job, I want to see if there’s anything. She said, oh I just had lunch with Janice Palmer of Duke University Medical Center, and she’s looking for a program director [for the hospital arts program]. And I got the job, and stayed. Both times, I was handed a reason to stay here in [Chapel Hill], in this amazing place. And so I did, and I haven’t left since.”

Stay tuned next week for part two of Ms. Javits’ story. Peruse the entire Humans of Chapelboro series here.