Adam Sklute was all smiles Wednesday morning as he was introduced as Ballet West's new artistic director.
"I have very big shoes to fill," Sklute said in the Capitol Theatre during a news conference. "I am honored to be a part of Ballet West and its rich tradition."
Sklute will officially take the Ballet West helm next month. He has been the associate artistic director for the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet since 2005 and a member of that company for 25 years.
He will be Ballet West's fifth artistic director, following the late founder Willam F. Christensen, Bruce Marks, John Hart and Jonas Kage.
"Ballet West has a rich history that started with Willam Christensen," Sklute said. "I can't even begin to tell you about the pressures I am feeling right now. But I do know that I want the company to inspire and entertain the audience. For that is why we go to the theatre to lose ourselves in different worlds.
"I want to challenge the dancers and the audience as well, and I do know that ballet has something to offer to everyone children, women, men. It doesn't matter who you are or what walk of life you come from."
Sklute is no stranger to Christensen and his technique. Raised in Berkeley, Calif., Sklute grew up watching the San Francisco Ballet, which, in its formative years, was directed by Willam Christensen and his brother Lew. Later, Sklute began his dance training at the Oakland Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet schools, the latter founded by Harold Christensen, brother of Lew and Willam.
"I am looking forward to working with the artists and the artistic staff, and want to be a visible part of the company and meet the community," Sklute said. "And I want to share ballet with others."
Bene Arnold, one of the original members of Ballet West and part of the company's search committee, said she is happy with the choice. "Every artistic director has contributed to the company in their own way," Arnold said during an interview just before the press conference. "It was time for a change, and change can be good."
Ballet West executive director Johann Jacobs said Sklute was the one who rose to the surface from a pool of 38 international candidates after an extensive eight-month search.
"Not only does he understand the artistic aspect of a ballet company, but he also understands working with the financial challenges of a mid-sized ballet company such as ours," Jacobs said after the news conference. "His artistic contributions regarding the season programming will begin in the 2008-09 season, because the next season has already been set. But he has already sat in on rehearsals and will be teaching company classes very soon."
Jacobs said Sklute has signed a five-year contract but his salary is still being negotiated. "There are still some things that need to be settled, and his salary is one of those things. He has agreed to a partial salary at the moment but there are still moving costs and benefits that need to be agreed upon."
After the press conference, Sklute told the Deseret Morning News that he has no intention of making any big changes within the company anytime soon. "I don't believe in abrupt changes. I'm a builder and I need to see what resources we are working with. I do know, however, that I want to be able to present the company's repertoire with the best dancers we have available. I also want to be able to work with the best staff as possible."This is a beautiful company, much like the city it calls home. I'm looking forward to finding a place to live and becoming a part of this community."