By: Michele Holzman
Director, Northwest Ballet Academy
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.
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