Ballet West

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Ballet West
General information
Name Ballet West
Year founded 1963
Artistic staff
Artistic Director Adam Sklute
Official school Ballet West Academy

Ballet West is an American ballet company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was founded in 1963 as the Utah Civic Ballet by Willam F. Christensen, the company's first artistic director, and Glenn Walker Wallace, who served as its first president. Christensen had previously established the first ballet department in an American university at the University of Utah in 1951.[1]

In 1968, the Federation of Rocky Mountain States chose the company to represent that group, and by extension, to represent the western United States. Due to that choice, the group's name was changed to Ballet West.[2] This is not to be confused with Ballet West in Taynuilt, Scotland.[3]

The Ballet West Academy is the official school of Ballet West and is located in Salt Lake City.[4]

Ballet West was featured in the reality TV series Breaking Pointe in the Summer of 2012 and 2013 aired on the CW Network, part of a BBC Production.

History of Ballet West[edit]

From Balanchine to Bournonville and Petipa to Tharp, Ballet West boasts a rich and varied repertoire, elegant and versatile artists and an American style and legacy that is as dynamic, expansive and unexpected as the Rocky Mountain region it represents. Ballet West has toured the world several times over presenting the very best in American classical ballet.

Ballet West was established in Salt Lake City in 1963. Willam F. Christensen was the company’s first artistic director, co-founding the company together with Utah’s “First Lady of the Arts” Glenn Walker Wallace. In 1951, Christensen had established the first ballet department in an American university at The University of Utah and with the tireless assistance of Mrs. Enid Cosgriff this program grew into the Utah Civic Ballet, Ballet West’s first incarnation. But this was not the first ballet company Willam Christensen’s founded. Along with his brothers Lew and Harold, Christensen made history by establishing the oldest ballet company in the western United States, the San Francisco Ballet. There he went on to create the first full-length American productions of Coppélia, Swan Lake, and his evergreen production of The Nutcracker, which remains in Ballet West’s repertoire to this day.

With 40 company members, 10 second company members, and a thriving academy that trains dancers of all ages, many of whom have gone on to professional careers with Ballet West and companies around the world, Ballet West ranks among the top professional ballet companies in America. Since its inception, the Company has had five artistic directors – its founder Willam Christensen, Bruce Marks, John Hart, Jonas Kåge and currently Adam Sklute, each who have helped to build Ballet West’s unique and expansive profile.

A 20th Century ballet pioneer, Christensen developed a distinctly American and theatrical repertoire for his company based on his early training in Utah and New York City as well as his years traversing the American Vaudeville circuit. He also built a strong connection to the works of George Balanchine. In 1975 Christensen invited the great American dancer Bruce Marks to join him as Ballet West’s Co-Artistic Director. Marks became Artistic Director in 1978 when Christensen retired. Under Marks’ direction, the company presented its first full production of Swan Lake and it earned a reputation for developing emerging choreographers of the time. Also during this period Marks made history, along with his wife, the acclaimed Danish Ballerina, Toni Lander, by presenting the first American full-length production of Abdallah by renowned 19th Century Danish choreographer, August Bournonville. John Hart, C.B.E., former dancer, administrator, and Assistant Director of The Royal Ballet in England succeeded Marks as Artistic Director of Ballet West In 1985. Under his leadership, the company’s repertoire was expanded to include more well-loved 19th Century classics such as The Sleeping Beauty. Hart further enriched the company’s treasure trove of ballets with the works of many early 20th Century masters, most notably the great English choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton. From 1985 to 1996, Hart engaged San Francisco-based Val Caniparoli as Ballet West’s resident choreographer. Internationally known dancer and choreographer Jonas Kåge served as Artistic Director from 1997 to 2006. During this time Kåge maintained Ballet West’s repertoire of classics while revitalizing its profile with notable late 20th Century choreographers such as Christopher Bruce, Hans van Manen, Glen Tetley and William Forsythe.

Since 2007, Artistic Director Adam Sklute, former dancer, Ballet Master and Associate Director of The Joffrey Ballet has further energized and expanded Ballet West’s remarkable repertoire with works by the most renowned choreographers of today such as Ulysses Dove, Jiri Kylian, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, and Stanton Welch. Sklute has also introduced the elegant historical masterpieces from the great Ballets Russes of the early 20th Century and continues to preserve Ballet West’s classical legacy. Sklute has further strengthened Ballet West’s heritage by introducing new creations by local, national and international choreographers.

For 50 years, Willam Christensen and Ballet West have developed and influenced innumerable great artists in the ballet world. Some notable figures include Bart Cook, Finis Jhung, Jay Jolley, Victoria Morgan, Tomm Ruud, Michael Smuin, Richard Tanner, and Kent Stowell.

With this eclectic and ever expanding outlook, Ballet West is truly an American pioneer in the world of dance.

Artistic directors[edit]

The founding artistic director, Willam Christensen, retired in 1978. He was succeeded by Bruce Marks, who had been co-artistic director since 1975. Starting in 1985, the company's third artistic director was John Hart, C.B.E., a former dancer, administrator, and assistant director of The Royal Ballet. From 1997 through 2006, the position belonged to Jonas Kåge, a dancer and choreographer.[1]

The company's fifth and current artist director is Adam Sklute, who has served in that capacity since 2007. Sklute was dancer, ballet master and associate director with The Joffrey Ballet.[1][5]

Dance company[edit]

Dancers with Ballet West as of March 2014 include:[6]

Principal artists[edit]

Name Birth Place Date Joined Training
Hayley Henderson Smith Ventura, Calif 2010 Clarissa Boeriu in Ventura, Calif
Christiana Bennett Townsend, Massachusetts 1999 Pennsylvania Ballet, School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet
Katherine Lawrence Fairfield, Connecticut 2004 Connecticut Dance School, followed by The Harid Conservatory
Christopher Ruud San Francisco, California 1998 San Francisco Ballet School, University of Utah Department of Ballet
Tom Mattingly Ridgecrest, California 2008 Virginia School of the Arts
Arolyn Williams Rowe, Massachusetts 2006 Pioneer Valley Ballet and University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Rex Tilton San Diego, California 2008 Pacific Northwest Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet School, and School of American Ballet

First Soloists[edit]

Name Birth Place Date Joined Training
Beau Pearson San Francisco, California 2007 The Academy of Ballet in San Francisco
Elizabeth McGrath Miller Place, New York 2001 The Seiskaya Ballet and The Harid Conservatory
Jacqueline Straughan Carson City, Nevada 2006 National Ballet School in Toronto
Christopher Sellars Huntington Beach, California 2006 Orange County Dance Center and The Rock School for Dance Education
Adrian Fry Omaha, Nebraska 2010 Omaha Theater Ballet School, School of American Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School


Name Birth Place Date Joined Training
Sayaka Ohtaki Tokyo, Japan 2010 Inoue Ballet School in Japan
Emily Adams Newtown, Pennsylvania 2007 The School of American Ballet, Studio Maestro, Ballet Technique, and Princeton Ballet
Allison DeBona Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2007 The Parou Ballet, followed by the Pittsburgh Youth Ballet
Christopher Anderson Baltimore, Maryland 2001 The Baltimore School for the Arts, followed by the Purchase College Conservatory of Dance
Beckanne Sisk Longview, Texas 2011 The Rock School for Dance Education


Name Birth Place Date Joined Training
Lindsay Duerfeldt Modesto, California 2009 Central West Ballet and Utah Regional Ballet
Katie Critchlow San Diego, California 2006 The San Elijo Dance Academy in San Diego, followed by Pacific Northwest Ballet
Katlyn Addison
Tyler Gum
Alexander MacFarlan
Chase O'Connell

Corps Artists[edit]

Ballet West II, Second Company Artists[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "About Us". Ballet West. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  2. ^ Willis, Cherie N. (1994), Powell, Allan Kent, ed., Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917 
  3. ^ "Ballet West - Ichrachan House - Taynuilt - Argyll - Scotland". Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Ballet West Academy". Ballet West. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Artistic Director". Ballet West. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Artists". Ballet West. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 

External links[edit]