About Ballet West

Black and white photo of Willam Christensen, Founder of Ballet West

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 as unexpected as the Rocky Mountain region it represents. From its humble beginnings in 1963 as the only professional ballet company between Chicago and the West Coast, Ballet West has grown into one of America’s leading ballet companies. For 60 years, the Salt Lake City-based Company has entertained and excited audiences in Utah and worldwide by presenting the great classical story ballets, including America’s first and longest-running version of The Nutcracker, revivals of rarely seen historical masterpieces, works by some of the world’s most renowned artists, and new cutting-edge creations by emerging choreographers. The Company also regularly tours both nationally and internationally.

Ballet West was established in Salt Lake City by co-founders Willam F. Christensen, often called the “God-father of American ballet,” and Utah’s “First Lady of the Arts,” Glenn Walker Wallace. In 1951, Christensen established the first ballet department in an American university at The University of Utah. Over time, this program grew into the Utah Civic Ballet, Ballet West’s first incarnation. Prior to that, along with his brothers, Lew and Harold, Christensen made history by establishing the oldest full-ballet company in the western United States, the San Francisco Ballet.

Black and white photo of dancers at a ballet bar. Since its inception, Ballet West has had five artistic directors, who have each helped build the Company’s unique and expansive profile – its founder, Willam Christensen, Bruce Marks, John Hart CBE, Jonas Kåge, and, for the past 16 years, Adam Sklute, who has overseen the artistic product for the longest sustained growth of the Company since its founding. Ballet West continues to grow and evolve with 38 company members, 14 second company members, a thriving Academy, and one of the world’s largest ballet-based Education and Outreach programs, reaching over 100,000 children and adults throughout Utah and the Intermountain Region every year.

The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy builds future ballet and dance artists and audiences by providing training in classical ballet, flamenco, character, contemporary, hip-hop, and theatrical dance training. The BW Academy has over 1,000 students between its four campuses - Salt Lake City, Trolley Corners, Park City, and Utah County. With newly-renovated student housing, the BW Academy is home to local, national, and international ballet students, with more than 50% of BW Academy students joining Ballet West.

With this eclectic and ever-expanding outlook, Ballet West is truly an American pioneer in the world of dance. By honoring the history and traditions of our great artform, while constantly moving forward with new and untried concepts, we continue to keep ballet in Utah and the world alive and thriving into the 21st Century and beyond.