I am very excited to see Ballet West perform at the Auditorium Theater this fall. I grew up in Salt Lake City and feel a special kinship with Ballet West. I am bringing 60 people from my studio to the performance in order to share the experience.  Many people in Chicago would have no way of knowing the high quality of this ballet company unless they have been watching Breaking Pointe on television. 
Salt Lake City is a very unusual city.  Amidst the Rocky Mountains,  and less than 1/10 the size of Chicagoland , Salt Lake has an extremely strong arts community. The city has 3 modern dance companies of excellent repute, a fine symphony orchestra (The Utah Symphony), Ballet West, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the University of Utah, which has one of the best university ballet programs in the country. After establishing the San Francisco Ballet with his brothers Harold & Lew, Willam Christensen came to Salt Lake and began the University Ballet program in 1951.  Other universities had modern dance programs , but not a program for ballet dancers. He then went on to create  the Utah Civic Ballet which then became Ballet West in 1963. Bill Christensen was the first to stage  the full length Coppelia, Swan Lake and Nutcracker in the United States. 
When I was growing up in Salt Lake, one of the most exciting times of the year was the Nutcracker auditions. Children from Salt Lake area and even as far as Ogden came to audition. There were many strong ballet schools so the competition was fierce to be selected.  We used to do 24 performances of Nutcracker between Christmas and New Years, traveling  to Ogden, Logan, and Provo for additional performances. 

When I reached the university ballet department,  I was able to study with Bill Christensen, or Mr. C as we called him, and many other marvelous faculty members. Bill had an energy and charisma that made class fun and a drive for perfection that made us all better dancers. He has left a wonderful legacy of dance at the University and with Ballet West.  Ballet West now draws superb dancers from all over the country.  Under the leadership of Adam Sklute, the company is becoming even stronger. Last February I saw the Ballet West production of Cinderella in Salt Lake, and it was exquisite: beautiful ballet technique, amazing costumes and sets and excellent interpretation of the roles by the dancers. I would recommend that everyone take the opportunity to see this gem of a company at the Auditorium Theatre (October 4-6).

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