‘History, mystery, glamour and drama’: Ballet West announces its 2019-20 season

(Courtesy Ballet West | Luke Isley ) Dancers of Ballet West perform the Waltz of the Flowers from "The Nutcracker." Ballet West will mark the 75th anniversary of the Christmas production's first performance, as part of the dance company's 2019-2020 season, which was announced Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Ballet West’s version of the Christmas classic “The Nutcracker” will mark its 75th anniversary this year — and will be one of the highlights of the dance troupe’s 2019-2020 season.

The Salt Lake City-based dance company announced its new season Tuesday, touting a rarely performed work by George Balanchine, the return of a popular love story, and the staging of a Shakespeare classic.

“This will be a season of history, mystery, glamour and drama,” Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute said in a statement.

The show that will draw the biggest audiences, as it does every year, is “The Nutcracker.”

This year’s production of the holiday favorite — set to run from Dec. 6 to Christmas Eve — will mark 75 years since Ballet West’s late founder Willam Christensen staged the first full-length version, in 1944 with the San Francisco Ballet. Mr. C, as everyone called Christensen, returned to Utah in 1955 to open the first accredited ballet school at the University of Utah. He continued his “Nutcracker” tradition at the school, and then at Ballet West when the company began in 1963.

The production has been praised by critics outside Utah. In 2010, The New York Times sent its dance critic, Alastair Macaulay, across the country to watch two dozen productions of “The Nutcracker," and he rated Ballet West’s “the best discovery of my ‘Nutcracker’ marathon.” Ballet West has taken the show to the Kennedy Center in Washington eight times, most recently last year.

The show has undergone revisions through the decades, most recently a $3 million project to create new costumes and sets, completed in 2017. Through each update, though, Mr. C’s choreography has remained intact.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, Ballet West is collaborating with BYUtv to produce a broadcast version of the ballet, to air on Dec. 1. The dance company restaged its version of “The Nutcracker” at the Capitol Theatre over three days in mid-February, during a break in its recent production of “Swan Lake.” The TV special will also feature documentary elements, including interviews with the creative team.

Ballet West will start its season with “Balanchine’s Ballets Russes,” Oct. 25-Nov. 2, a trio of works choreographed by the legendary George Balanchine, and marking the 110th anniversary of the founding of Sergei Diaghilev’s revolutionary dance company.

The program begins with the U.S. premiere of “The Song of the Nightingale,” a reconstruction of Balanchine’s first collaboration with the composer Igor Stravinsky. The work, which tells of a songbird healing a Chinese emperor, in its original version featured sets and costumes by the artist Henri Matisse.

Also on the opening program: “Apollo,” Balanchine’s second work with Stravinsky, based on Greek mythology; and “Prodigal Son,” based on the Gospel of Luke, with music by Sergei Prokoviev, and Balanchine’s last work before Ballets Russes disbanded and he left for America.

The romantic ghost story “Giselle” returns for a Valentine’s Day run, Feb. 7-15. Sklute first staged his “reconceived” version of the classic work in 2014, and it was a hit with Utah audiences.

(Beau Pearson | courtesy Ballet West) Ballet West dancers Sayaka Ohtaki and Chase O’Connell enact a scene from the romantic ghost story "Giselle," Feb. 7-15, 2020, as part of the company's 2019-2020 season. The company announced the new season on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Two works will be paired in a show running April 17-25: “The Dream,” choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton’s 1964 retelling of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to music by Felix Mendelssohn; and “Bolero,” a work by Ballet West’s resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte, set to Maurice Ravel’s famously rhythmic score.

Ballet West will once again play host to the World Choreographic Festival, May 14-16. Singapore Dance Theatre and the Royal New Zealand Ballet will be the visiting troupes. Ballet West plans to premiere two works by choreographers Jennifer Archibald and Matthew Neenan.

Ballet West II will perform another world premiere, “Snow White,” set to a score by Edvard Grieg by in-house choreographers Pamela Robinson and Peggy Dolkas. The work, part of the Family Classics Series, will be performed three times, on Nov. 8 and 9. The show is a fleeting 90 minutes, and includes guided narration to help younger audience members along.

Something else that’s new at Ballet West: The company’s logo. The troupe Wednesday unveiled its new logo, created by in-house graphics designer Alex Moya.

“I looked at the differences and similarities between pointe and flat shoes, and then made abstractions of them to make shapes that suggest the B and the W,” Moya said in a statement. “I also wanted to communicate a sense of theatricality through the implied stage lights of the W.”

(Image courtesy Ballet West) The new logo for Ballet West, the Salt Lake City-based dance company, which was introduced Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.

“It was time to have a logo which represents both the history and the future of this bold and visionary company,” said Sara Neal, Ballet West’s chief marketing officer.

All of next season’s shows except one will be performed at the Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City. The exception is the World Choreographic Festival, which will take place at the Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.

Individual tickets will go on sale in September; subscription packages and season memberships are on sale now.


Ballet West’s 2019-2020 season

Here is a schedule of Ballet West’s 2019-2020 season. All shows will be performed at the Capitol Theatre, unless otherwise noted:

  • Oct. 25-Nov. 2 • “Balanchine’s Ballets Russes,” featuring three works: “The Song of the Nightingale,” “Apollo” and “Prodigal Son.”

  • Nov. 8-9 • Ballet West II’s “Snow White.” (Not part of Ballet West’s main season.)

  • Dec. 6-24 • “The Nutcracker.”

  • Feb. 7-15, 2020 • “Giselle.”

  • April 17-25, 2020 • “The Dream” and “Bolero.”

  • May 14-16, 2020 • 2020 World Choreographic Festival (at the Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts).