Pierre Lockett was born ca. 1960 and raised in Mobile, Alabama. As a child, Lockett had only seen one Black person perform: a member of the June Taylor Dancers on television (Chicago Tribune).
Planning on becoming a pharmacist, Lockett attended the University of Montevallo in Alabama, but during his first year, he was encouraged to audition for the school’s dance company, beginning his training at the late age of 20. He was later accepted into New York’s Joffrey Ballet School and as a student, performed with Lexington Ballet in their production of The Nutcracker. After only two years of training, Lockett became a full company member of Dance Theatre of Harlem. His first award came not long after—he was awarded the Princess Grace Award in 1984.
As a dancer with DTH, Lockett was part of the company’s original cast of David Gordon’s Piano Movers (1985).
He performed with the Princeton Ballet in the late 1980s before joining Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet in 1989. Lockett was considered a “lead dancer” and danced many principal roles. Here he remained for 13 years, until he retired in 2002.
Lockett has several movie credits including Save the Last Dance as Les Presages Dancer (2001) and The Company as Ballet Master #2 (2003).
He joined Joffrey’s administrative staff in 1996, serving as the Director of Community Engagement and growing the school’s programming. He has worked with numerous dance schools, Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Park District. It has been said that “Mr. Lockett combines his passion for dance and his desire to inspire youth through invigorating dance programs” (Princess Grace Foundation).
After his time at Joffrey, Lockett founded, and currently serves as the executive director of, Forward Momentum Chicago in 2013.
Lockett’s awards include the aforementioned Princess Grace Award (1984), the Black Theatre Alliance/Ira Aldridge Award for Best Performance in a Music or Dance Program (1999), the Artist of the Year Award from the Hyde Park School of Ballet (2006), and Distinguished Service to the Arts Award from the Lawyers for the Creative Arts (2018). He has also served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.