Chicago … Check!

The tour to Chicago couldn’t have gone better.  Bringing such a huge amount of dancers, staff, ballets and sets can usually be a bit stressful, but everything ran very smoothly.  The only bumps in the road were things we had no control over; the rain and the theater deciding to turn all stage lights off for ten seconds in the middle of a show for no reason.  Oddly enough, the lights went out while four of our guys were dancing a mini variation pass.  When the lights turned back on, the audience commended us with applause since the dancers kept dancing in the dark.

The three shows of Sleeping Beauty were praised with standing ovations.  I even got comments from people who said things like, “I’m not really a classical ballet kind of person, but that was really entertaining.”  What makes our Sleeping Beauty more entertaining than the typical five thousand minute Sleeping Beauty is the fact that Adam (Sklute) really worked on taking out the slow parts, leaving in all the good stuff, all while telling the whole story.  Adam also had the skilled Pam Robinson Harris and Mark Goldweber by his side, re-choreographing a lot of the ballet.

Not to sound like I’m beating a dead horse (gross), however, the gala performance on Sunday went really well.  The evening of ballets were very diverse and were all gems in our repertoire.  Nicolo Fonte’s world premiere, Presto, was one of the crowd favorites, and everyone in the audience was stunned by the closing ballet, The Lottery (Caniparoli).  The Lottery is an amazing ballet to take on tour because there isn’t another ballet like it out there.  Val never left a dull moment in The Lottery and before you know it, you’re taken into this eerie village with nothing to do but watch in suspense.

After the gala performance, an evening of dinner and dance was enjoyed at the Hilton, a couple blocks south of the Auditorium Theater.  Dancers from Chicago companies, including dancers from The Joffrey Ballet, attended the event.  The people of Chicago really came together  not only to make the tour possible, but also to support Ballet West; I was extremely grateful and honored.

Sadly, I hardly had any time to photograph our days in Chicago, but I clicked when I could (often in costume about to go on stage).  Below are pictures from stage rehearsals, dress rehearsals and performances.

Haley Henderson Smith & Zack Prentice in a SLEEPING BEAUTY dress rehearsal

Christopher Ruud rehearsing RUBIES by George Balanchine (c) The George Balanchine Trust

Katherine Lawrence rehearsing PRESTO

Jaqueline Straughan & Adrian Fry rehearsing PRESTO

Beckanne Sisk with Christopher Ruud rehearsing RUBIES by George Balanchine (c) The George Balanchine Trust

Katherine Lawrence & Christopher Ruud in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Elizabeth Weldon with company dancers in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Joshua Whitehead in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Katherine Lawrence & Christopher Ruud in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY


Arolyn Williams & Christopher Sellars in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Katherine Lawrence in PRESTO

Barbara Barrington Jones, who played the Queen in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, with her cat, C.K. (Cute Kitty)



… And Away We Go

Adrian Fry warming up (outside the studio) at the Salt Palace

Trolley’s old movie theater has been replaced with bright white walls, marley floors and a whole bunch of tights (and sweat).  The company spent the last week in our new, temporary home at Trolley Square.  Other than our fourth change in venue, everything Ballet West has been the same.  Last week was spent preparing for the Chicago tour and upcoming rep.  Resident choreographer, Nicolo Fonte, was in the house for a few days to make sure his Chicago world premiere, Presto, is still on point (the answer is “yes”, it’s still en pointe).  Cameron Basden, former Joffrey Co-Associate Director and current Director of Dance at Interlochen Center for the Arts, was also “in da house”, staging Gerald Arpino’s Light Rain.  Light Rain will be one of the ballets performed for our upcoming Salt Lake City Gala.

Tomorrow we all fly to the windy city to perform for the first time this season.  Not only are we excited to bring the whole company to perform the huge ballet, Sleeping Beauty, but we are also fortunate to present a whole separate evening of dance for The Auditorium Theater’s annual gala.  Touring is always exciting and a little bit nerve racking.  Showing the country that we are top notch at what we do always feel good.  The nerve racking part of touring is not being at your home, relying on your normal routine to help you feel comfortable going out on stage.  Luckily the excitement of being on stage always outweighs the extra butterflies of a new environment.

We’ll be back in a week to report how everything goes!  Up, up, and away we go!

Amy Potter & Alex MacFarlan rehearsing the PUSS IN BOOTS divertissement

Katherine Lawrence & Christopher Sellars rehearing the BLUEBIRD pas de deux

Beckanne Sisk & Christopher Ruud rehearsing RUBIES by George Balanchine (c) The George Balanchine Trust

Elizabeth McGrath & the company rehearsing RUBIES by George Balanchine (c) The George Balanchine Trust

The company rehearsing THE SLEEPING BEAUTY



Soon To Be A Trolley-ite

Since my last blog post, the company has moved from the Utah Opera studios to the Salt Palace.  Yes, some of the costumes that walked into Comic Con were impressive, but nobody looked as good as us in tights.  After this upcoming week, we travel to our more permanent temporary studios at Trolley Square, where the Ballet West offices have been this whole season.  Our new temporary studios are located where the old movie theaters were on the south side of Trolley Square.

The Salt Palace has been an interesting place to dance, but we’ve been getting the job done.  One of the studios has windows covering the north wall, which welcomes viewers (and mooners on skateboards, yes you read correctly) passing on South Temple.  Most of our time is focused on the rep we are bringing to Chicago (Sklute’s The Sleeping Beauty, Balanchine’s Rubies and Diamonds, Caniparoli’s The Lottery and Fonte’s Presto), but we also work on Kylian’s Petite Mort and William Christensen’s Firebird for the fall program here in Salt Lake.  Victoria Simon will come to Salt Lake after we get back from Chicago to set Balanchine’s Who Cares.

The pictures below are from a few rehearsals in the Salt Palace.

Katherine Lawrence & Christopher Ruud rehearsing William Christensen’s FIREBIRD

Arolyn Williams & Christopher Ruud rehearsing William Christensen’s FIREBIRD

Christiana Bennett rehearsing Adam Sklute’s THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Katherine Lawrence & Christopher Ruud rehearsing William Christensen’s FIREBIRD

Ronald Tilton rehearsing the monsters in William Christensen’s FIREBIRD

Katherine Lawrence & Christopher Ruud rehearsing William Christensen’s FIREBIRD

Haley Henderson Smith & Adrian Fry rehearsing Kylian’s PETITE MORT

Arolyn Williams & company rehearsing William Christensen’s FIREBIRD

Katherine Lawrence & Christopher Ruud rehearsing Adam Sklute’s THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

The company rehearsing Adam Slute’s THE SLEEPING BEAUTY



Beer & Ballet

First, I would like to apologize to everyone.  The company has been in the studios the last three weeks and I haven’t said a word about what’s going on.  Our resident choreographer, Nicolo Fonte, has been in the house, choreographing up a storm.  We’ve been working with Nicolo on his new work, premiering in Chicago, and his new Rite of Spring.  The company has also been working on Christensen’s Firebird, Kylian’s Petit Mort, Caniparoli’s The Lottery and Adam Sklute’s The Sleeping Beauty.  So, Breaking Pointe isn’t the only craziness happening in the world of Ballet West.  Everything is going well, though … really well.  When I have a second away from rehearsal (may not ever happen), I’ll snap some shots of the company to post.

Adam’s annual process of selecting dancers (or someone in the community) to choreograph for Innovations starts with simple proposals.  From those proposals, six dancers are chosen to work with Ballet West II for a week (about six hours each) to create a couple minutes of material.  Three of the choreographers are then chosen to finish their works on the Ballet West main company.  These three ballets will then appear in the last program of the season.

The week before the company returned for rehearsals this season, Emily Adams, Christopher Anderson, Adrian Fry, Tyler Gum, Alex MacFarlan, and Thomas Mattingly workshopped with Ballet West II on new works.  Patrons were able to see the work the choreographers created, danced by Ballet West II, at Beer and Ballet.  The event also gave patrons a chance to hear the choreographers speak about the ideas and concepts that sculpted their works.  After the performance, audience members had a chance to ask any questions they had for the Ballet West II and company dancers.  I almost forgot, while socializing, patrons also drank beer provided by Epic Brewing, hence the beer section of Beer and Ballet.  This year Beer and Ballet was hosted by Ballet West, Blue Iguana and Epic Brewing.

Guess what!?  I photoed the event.  Is photoed a word?  Pictures below.

Daniella Spitelli & Sanford Placide in Thomas Mattingly’s new work

Alex Cambie, Sanford Placide & Stephen Nakagawa in Tyler Gum’s new work

Mercedes Rice in Thomas Mattingly’s new work

Logan Martin & Stephen Nakagawa in Emily Adams’ new work

Daniella Spitelli in Alex MacFarlan’s new work

Daniella Spitelli & Sanford Placide in Thomas Mattingly’s new work

Lauren Denny, Kazlyn Nielsen, Logan Martin & Lucas Horns in Emily Adams’ new work

Jordan Veit & Lucas Horns in Adrian Fry’s new work

Sanford Placide in Alex MacFarlan’s new work

Kazlyn Nielsen & Jordan Veit in Christopher Anderson’s new work

Alex Cambie & Sanford Placide in Tyler Gum’s new work

Jordan Veit & Lucan Horns in Adrian Fry’s new work

Jordan Veit in Alex MacFarlan’s new work

Lauren Denny & Stephen Nakagawa in Thomas Mattingly’s new work

Kazlyn Nielsen & Jordan Veit in Christopher Anderson’s new work

Jordan Veit & Lucas Horns in Adrian Fry’s new work



Fashion Show 2013

This last May, Ballet West partnered with HMG Productions and ten local boutiques to feature Ballet West dancers in the Couture in Motion runway show.  The event was hosted in the company’s own production warehouse, located in the historic warehouse district of Salt Lake City.  Three hundred guests participated in the event, touring the warehouse space, visiting with artists and board members, and watching over ninety looks come down the runway.  Landis Salon did hair and makeup on the dancers and Brio Tuscan Grille generously donated hors d’oeuvres, dessert, and cocktails.

The day wasn’t just a nice stroll down the runway.  The dancers spent the first part of their day receiving tips on their strut down the runway and learning the order of the different looks.  After a food break the dancers spent a few hours on their bums, moving from multiple make-up and hair stations.  I was the only Ballet West dancer in my own outfit for the evening because I was given the opportunity to photograph the whole event.  I’m so grateful because so many shots came out.  Below are just a few photos from the night.

Christopher Ruud

Arolyn Williams, Emily Adams & Allison DeBona

Alex MacFarlan

Emily Adams

Allison DeBona

Christopher Anderson

Sayaka Ohtaki

Amy Potter

Christopher Ruud

Lindsay Duerfeldt

Christiana Bennett

Adrian Fry with Christiana Bennett

Beckanne Sisk

Katie Critchlow

Rex Tilton

Jenna Herrera with her dog Fiyero

Arolyn Williams

Owen Gaj

Allison DeBona

Emily Adams with the company

Featured boutiques: Bra Bar Boutique, Danny Nappi, Farasha, Koo de Ker, Misc. Boutique, Perfectly Suited, Porsche Design, Q Clothing, Tempest, Unhinged

Event sponsors: HMG Productions, Strong Audi, Botanica, Brio Tuscan Grille, Landis Salon, Diamond Rental, Royal Restrooms, Webb Audio, Visual, Talon Printing, InterNet Properties




So, it’s summertime and the Ballet West dancers are dispersed around the country.  Most dancers use this time to visit with family or to go on vacation or to stay in beautiful Salt Lake editing photos all day (living the life!).  Whatever we’re doing, taking a needed mental break from ballet is usually part of our plans.  Like anything that is extremely intense, you will go crazy if you don’t turn your back to ballet and face Maggie Moo’s.  For all you vegan ballet dancers out there, you’re just gonna go crazy.  A milkshake a day keeps the abs away, by the way (that rhymed three times).

I wanted to bid a few of our dancers farewell.  Katherine Hein will be attending the honors college here at the U in the fall.  Owen Gaj will be studying to be an EMT at Cole Holland College here in Salt Lake.  Easton Smith will be doing all kinds of crazy stuff, because that’s what he does.  Owning a helicopter company and starting a business to sell ultra supremely healthy dog food will be part of Easton’s new life.  He might be on Broadway again sometime too, you never know.

Stay posted for photos from the annual fashion show that happened in May and from Johann Jacob’s going away party.  Below are a few pictures from our last sightings on stage.

Beckanne Sisk in Christopher Ruud’s TRAPPED

Emily Adams & Christiana Bennett in Christopher Anderson’s BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Jacqueline Straughan & Christopher Ruud in Easton Smith’s MECHANISM

Beckanne Sisk & Trevor Naumann in Christopher Ruud’s TRAPPED

Emily Adams and Chase O’Connell in Christopher Anderson’s BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Elizabeth McGrath, Alex MacFarlan & Owen Gaj in Adrian Fry’s SPUN

Jacqueline Straughan & Christopher Ruud in Easton Smith’s MECHANISM

Katherine Lawrence & Chase O’Connell in Christopher Anderson’s BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Katlyn Addison, Elizabeth McGrath & Arolyn Williams in Adrian Fry’s SPUN

Dancers of Ballet West in Easton Smith’s MECHANISM

Katherine Lawrence, Amy Potter & Lindsay Duerfeldt in Christopher Anderson’s BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Katlyn Addison & Trevor Naumann in Adrian Fry’s SPUN

Elizabeth Weldon & Alex MacFarlan in Easton Smith’s MECHANISM

Katherine Lawrence, Amy Potter & Lindsay Duerfeldt in Christopher Anderson’s BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Arolyn Williams in Adrian Fry’s SPUN



Yes, the Golden State Warriors had an amazing season, and their playoff run ended tonight.  However, this blog is about Ballet West, and this post is about a good season soon coming to an end.  I know, I’ve been super lame with the blog lately (or lack of blog), but I’ve been pretty busy … dancing – yes, Summer Wilson, that is a good thing.  So, tonight was our final dress rehearsal which means tomorrow is opening night of Innovations 2013.  The show is far from customary as each ballet explores new ways to present dance to an audience.  I experience walking through an audience, partnering using only ropes and being boxed in (literally) all in one night … woo hoo!  You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you see the show.  Anyway, I took a few pictures (as usual) from studio rehearsals a week ago.

Arolyn Williams rehearsing Adrian Fry’s SPUN

Trevor Naumann & Katlyn Addison rehearsing Adrian Fry’s SPUN

Christiana Bennett, Arolyn Williams & Katlyn Addison rehearsing Adrian Fry’s SPUN

Arolyn Williams & Alex MacFarlan rehearsing Adrian Fry’s SPUN

Lindsay Duerfeldt rehearsing Christopher Ruud’s TRAPPED

Amy Potter, Tyler Gum & Joshua Whitehead rehearsing Christopher Ruud’s TRAPPED

Arolyn Williams & Alex MacFarlan rehearsing Adrian Fry’s SPUN

Lindsay Duerfeldt rehearsing Christopher Ruud’s TRAPPED



Time To Innovate

The atmosphere in the studios this time of season is always different than the rest of the year at Ballet West.  In some ways everybody is more relaxed, not worrying so much about technique and enjoying different movement qualities since the ballets in Innovations tend to be contemporary.  A few others may be freaking out because they only have a few hours to choreograph a new ballet (I don’t blame them).  Innovations rehearsals also tend to make our bodies extremely sore because we work our tails off.  For the most part, Innovations is a really nice time us dancers get to express ourselves with our bodies in our own way.  The weather change probably adds to people being a little bit more happy too.

This season’s picked choreographers are first time choreographer, Adrian Fry; second time choreographer, Christopher Anderson; and second time choreographer, Easton Smith.  The evening’s bookend ballets will be Christopher Ruud’s Trapped and a new work by Jodie Gates.  I think this program is always a real treat for the audience since we perform at the Rose Wagner Theater; patrons get a chance to be up close and personal with us no matter where they are sitting.

My days have been full so I haven’t been able to click my camera as much as I’d like, though I got a few pics while I took breathers from rehearsals.

Emily Adams & Trevor Naumann working on Christopher Ruud’s TRAPPED

Christopher Ruud working with Joshua Whitehead

Christopher Ruud working with Emily Adams & Trevor Naumann

Christiana Bennet & Chase O’Connell in Christopher Anderson’s rehearsal

Christopher Anderson working with Emily Adams, Christiana Bennett & Chase O’Connell

Jacqueline Straughan & Adrian Fry working on Jodie Gates’ new ballet



Aladdin Pics

Yesterday morning Ballet West II and the Ballet West Academy performed Aladdin for the last time this season.  The tag team duo of Pamela Robinson Harris and Peggy Dolkas proved themselves as top notch choreographers for the second year in a row.  I’m always impressed by how well Pamela and Peggy are able to incorporate so many dancers into their ballets, creating very full and lively stages.  The stories are well portrayed and there is never a dull moment.  I also really love how there is a diverse cast of characters in Robinson Harris and Dolkas’ ballets, not only for entertainment purposes but because there are many opportunities for the dancers.  Aladdin entertained and impressed me this year, just as The Little Mermaid did last year.  An anonymous patron said that they had never seen a room full of children so quiet (except when something was funny).  I would say that’s a huge compliment to the choreographers!  Below are photos I took in the wings during the Tuesday evening show.

Emily Liu as an Odalisque

Logan Martin as The Snake Charmer

Logan Martin as The Snake Charmer with his snake, Cobra, danced by Scout Sutton

Mercedes Rice as an Odalisque

Jordan Veit as Aladdin with his monkey, Malik, danced by Kennedy Stapley

Matthew Cunningham as a Guard

Jordan Veit as Aladdin, Lauren Zaharis as Aladdin’s Mother & Kennedy Stapley as Malik

Paige Adams as an Odalisque

Ian Tanzer as The Sorcerer

Kennedy Stapley

Lauren Zaharis, Kennedy Stapley & Jordan Veit

Kazlyn Nielsen as Princess Kalila & Jordan Veit as Aladdin

Kazlyn Nielsen

Ian Tanzer

Kazlyn Nielsen & Jordan Veit

Zachary Prentice as The Sultan

Ian Tanzer & company

Jordan Veit with Bronwyn Marshall as The Little Genie & Chase O’Connell as The Big Genie

Deanna Karlheim & Alex Cambie as Hajar, The Sorcerer’s camel

Kazlyn Nielsen, Jordan Veit & Ian Tanzer



Jewels Shines

The first week of Balanchine’s Jewels was a blast to perform.  Dancing Diamonds is such a privilege and Emeralds feels like second nature.  I don’t get to dance in Rubies but I really enjoy watching the company perform the sassy ballet.  Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds compliment each other so well as an evening of dance (somewhere Balanchine is saying, “duh”).  This program has definitely been one of my favorites I’ve performed with Ballet West.

A patron, who goes by the name Beth attends all of Ballet West’s programs and always leaves a comment about the shows here on the blog.  Recently she wrote: “I’m fresh from opening night of Jewels, and it was spectacular!  Once again, Emeralds was lovely, but it was the other two sections that particularly caught my attention.  I find myself at a loss over which pair of partners to praise higher, Tom and Beckanne in Rubies, or Beau and Christiana in Diamonds.  While Rubies overall was a thrill ride from beginning to end, utterly entertaining, it was Tom and Beckanne who owned that portion of the show.  They were electrifying.  But I have to say that it was Diamonds that stole my heart. I’ve never seen so many dancers on the stage at one time, and that was fascinating and beautiful.  And not only were the two leads amazing *throughout* the performance, but Christiana’s and your dance alone together on stage, Beau, was one of the most mesmerizing things I’ve ever seen in a ballet.  It was absolutely stunning.  I count myself lucky to have seen this performance tonight.”

First of all, Beth, I really appreciate your praise as always; your support is never less than amazing.  You said you count yourself lucky to have seen the performance.  Well, I wanted to tell you that I feel lucky to be able to dance this program and share it with everyone.  Jewels, especially Diamonds, fulfills my passion for dance and I feel so fortunate I am able to do what I love on that stage.  Beth, I’m not very good at expressing my joy for this art form with words on the blog, but I hope you can see my love for ballet when I’m dancing on stage; I hang it all out under those lights.

Heather Hayes of the Deseret News came to the Saturday evening performance and wrote a nice review that can be read here.

Below are some pictures of Rubies I took during my down time from a dress rehearsal and performance.

Jacqueline Straughan & Christopher Sellars

Joshua Whitehead

Jacqueline Straughan & Christopher Sellars

Elizabeth McGrath

Jacqueline Straughan & Christopher Sellars

Beckanne Sisk, Sarah Hochman, Arolyn Williams & Katie Critchlow

Jacqueline Straughan

Elizabeth McGrath with Alexander MacFarlan, Owen Gaj, Joshua Whitehead & Jordan Veit

OH!  By the way, I went to this evenings performance of the family series Aladdin.  I was really impressed and entertained.  If I had a hat on, I would tip it off to Pamela Robinson Harris and Peggy Dolkas.  Nice job!