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Ballet West continues to expand 50 years after its founding

Published: Saturday, May 3 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT

“It’s kind of our hidden gem in a lot of ways,” Altman said.

The organization provides many different opportunities, including in-school performances by Ballet West II and invitations for students to preview a performance as part of the “First Look” program.

“It’s core to our mission, in addition to producing great art, that children get the exposure,” Altman said.

Peter Christie, director of educational programs, also created the I CAN DO program, which stands for Inspiring Children About Not Dropping Out. Fifth-graders in select schools across the state are invited to work with Ballet West teachers to choreograph and practice a dance performance over a seven-month period.

“They’ll be in their jeans and their sneakers and just start working as a team. It builds confidence, it builds focus, it builds an excitement,” Sklute said.

He explained that beyond giving students an opportunity to work physically, the program builds leadership skills that translate into other areas of schoolwork.

At the end of the practices, a public performance is held that gives students the opportunity to show what they have learned.

“We’re not necessarily trying to create new ballet dancers by exposing them in our elementary schools, but we are absolutely saying that there’s more to life than your PS3 at home,” Altman said.

What lies ahead

With the momentum provided by the last 50 years, Ballet West is moving into the future with big plans.

The company is looking forward to settling into its new home next to Capitol Theatre. A groundbreaking for the Jessie Eccles Quinney Ballet Centre was held in September, and Ballet West hopes to move in by January 2015, Sklute said. The building will include five new studios, administrative and artistic offices and space for the costume shop, all under one roof for the first time.

Ballet West is also set to continue its outreach to other communities through touring. The company has previously performed twice in New York and twice at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with a third visit to each location scheduled in the coming year.

“The upcoming tour schedule is going to speak a lot to what Ballet West has become,” Goldberg said.

In addition to touring, Sklute said, the company is exploring new programming, residency programs, further expansion of the academy and more over the next several years.

But Goldberg emphasized that, even as it looks to the horizon, Ballet West is committed to the present.

“Our future is now,” she said.

If you go …

What: Ballet West’s “Innovations 2014”

When: May 16-17 and 21-24, 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. performance May 24

Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South

Cost: $45

Phone: 801-869-6920

Website: balletwest.org

Email: wbutters@deseretnews.com, Twitter: WhitneyButters

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