When you see the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago perform today, it is hard to imagine that the company was—like many fine men and women—conceived in a car: The now-famous company started most humbly, in 1956, when six dancers packed into a station wagon, threw their tutus and toe shoes in the back and hit the road. The original troupe, led by co-founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, traveled across the country performing in a different city each day. Though their grass-roots start was long ago, you still gotta love artists with practical life experience—not only do they dance circles around their peers, but the performers of the Joffrey can change a flat tire and stretch a Cup O’ Noodles far enough to feed four. The group has indeed come a long way from the days of sucking back cheeseburgers at remote rest stops and arguing about whose turn it is to pay the toll. Its dancers have performed all over the world, and the company boasts an impressive repertoire of more than 225 ballets by 85 choreographers. But the real proof that the Joffrey has transcended that road-trip era—an almost weeklong Kennedy Center engagement that includes three Vaslav Nijinsky works, L’Apres-midi d’un faune, Le Sacre du printemps, and Jeux—begins Tuesday. Don’t let the snooty French names intimidate you: All you need to know is that they dance real pretty. Check it out at 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday to Thursday; and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, to Sunday, Mar. 3 at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House. $26-$65. (202) 467-4600. (Sarah Godfrey)