New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Megan Fairchild treasures her years at the Ballet West Academy that helped launch a professional career. Fairchild started dancing at what was then the Ballet West Conservatory at age 12, then at age 15, moved to New York City to train at the School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet. In 2000, she was hired as an apprentice with NYCB, promoted to the rank of soloist in 2004, and then to principal in 2005.

Her experience with Ballet West began even earlier, as she performed in Ballet West’s The Nutcracker from age nine until she was 15 years old. Most recently, she returned to Utah to teach at the Academy’s Summer Intensive program.

“I feel very close to Ballet West and feel like it’s my dancing home,” said Fairchild. “I love that I get to come back when the opportunity presents itself and be part of the legacy.”

She credits her training with Bené Arnold, the School Director of Ballet West Academy at the time, giving her the building blocks for a future career as a professional ballet dancer.

“Bené Arnold was a task master, but she also gave all the tools you needed, so I was prepared for all of the full-length ballets in New York,” said Fairchild. “The first time I had to portray a character was Clara in Ballet West’s The Nutcracker. Bené had me write out a sentence for every move I made and turn in a homework essay of what we were thinking in this moment or that moment to make sure we weren’t phony acting. She would stop class and ask someone, ‘What were you thinking in that moment?’ and we’d be put on the spot. She would then say, ‘If you’re not aiming for something, what are you moving your body for?’”

For students currently attending the Academy, she recommends soaking up every class possible.

“Ballet West Academy is a beautiful place to be learning and an incredible opportunity with wonderful teachers that used to dance professionally,” said Fairchild.

“Don’t leave until you’ve maximized your time and maybe you don’t need to leave because this is your home. The Academy is a really lucky place to end up and a place that is a great starting off point for ending up where you are meant to be.”