This week Ballet West inaugurates its National Choreographic Festival: Two weekends of triple bills, featuring Ballet West in world premieres by Val Caniparoli and Nicolo Fonte, along with four guest companies performing recent creations. Visiting companies include Sarasota Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
The National Choreographic Festival grew out of BW's Innovations program, which was an opportunity for company dancers to create on each other, and for an outside emerging choreographer to come into the studio. "When I arrived here nine years ago, there hadn't been new choreography for a long time," says BW artistic director and CEO Adam Sklute. "This is the first stage of a new platform." With the fall 2016 opening of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City, Sklute decided that the time was right for a bigger event. "My dream is to grow this festival into a program of world premieres," he says.
Sklute worked with his colleagues at various companies to arrange the logistics of festival participation, but hopes to use future years as an opportunity for thematic programming. "I wanted to get it going with companies I admire," he says. "But next year I'm focusing on women choreographers and/or companies run by women. Every year I want a slightly different angle." His hope is to create an event that's the ballet equivalent of Utah's Sundance Film festival, attracting an audience to the state just to see cutting-edge choreography.