Ballet Stars

Adam Sklute Transforms Ballet West from Reality-Show Darling to Choreography Hub

Sklute coaches corps artist Kazlyn Nielsen. Photo courtesy Ballet West.

After scouting for a ballet company to feature in the melodramatic reality show “Breaking Pointe," the producers made a U-turn back to Adam Sklute, the CEO and artistic director of Ballet West in Salt Lake City. “They said, In our screen tests, your company is the most photogenic. They have really interesting stories and we'd love to have them on camera," recalls Sklute. The show, which focused on Ballet West's backstage drama and intramural romance, premiered in 2012, ran for two seasons and brought fame to dancers like Beckanne Sisk and Allison DeBona. “Some of our dancers could be supermodels. They are as tall and as dramatic as the Rocky Mountains that we look at," says Sklute. “I want a company of tall, beautiful dancers who produce a glamorous stage picture." Still, there's far more than glitz and good looks at this midsized company.


When Sklute took the reins of Ballet West in 2007, he became the fifth director of the company founded by Willam F. Christensen in 1963. “I feel very connected to the backbone of the classics and the works of Balanchine," says Sklute, referring to the bulk of Ballet West's early repertoire. “But I also want to expand that into the future. My dancers are 21st-century dancers."

Much of Sklute's approach to seeking contemporary voices was shaped by his career with the Joffrey Ballet, where he danced from 1985 to 1995. Afterwards he became a ballet master and then associate director of the company. Like Robert Joffrey, he has also embraced historical masterpieces, like Kurt Jooss' The Green Table, to be performed in April.

Sklute teaching at Ballet West. Photo Courtesy Ballet West.

Sklute has presented 48 world and 30 company premieres, including ballets by legends such as Bronislava Nijinska and Sir Frederick Ashton; contemporary masters Jirˇí Kylián, Mark Morris and Twyla Tharp; and commissioned works by Val Caniparoli, Matthew Neenan, Helen Pickett and Nicolo Fonte, the company's resident choreographer. In February, Ballet West will reprise Sklute's adaptation of The Sleeping Beauty.

Whether it's Ashton or a choreographer whose first language isn't ballet, Sklute demands stylistic perfection. “I insist on a proper approach," he says. “How to prepare for pirouettes, the syncopation of a pas de bourrée, where the arms are—these are all stylistic details that I want our dancers to adhere to." He also takes pride in Ballet West's esprit de corps—the teamwork that values every dancer and position within the company.

Principal dancer Emily Adams, who rose through the ranks after joining the corps in 2007, describes Sklute's energy in rehearsal: “He's so passionate that he'll get up in the studio and do the role. Doing four pirouettes isn't his main focus. He likes individual expression."

This season, Adams will dance the ballerina role in Balanchine's Chaconne, and in the past she's performed the Fairy Godmother in Ashton's Cinderella. She relishes the variety. “At New York City Ballet, I would never have been immersed in [Ashton's] style," says the School of American Ballet–trained dancer. “We're a midsized company, so I get to do so many roles. I don't get typecast." Adams has also choreographed for past Innovations programs, an opportunity initiated by Sklute in 2008 that encourages company members and emerging choreographers to create new works.

At first, Sklute was surprised at how ballet-friendly Salt Lake City is. “It's committed to it in many ways that bigger cities are not," he says. “An interesting part of my job is broadening the horizon of all things that classical ballet can be." This May, Ballet West is producing its first National Choreographic Festival, with original ballets for the company and recently created works for Pacific Northwest Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Sarasota Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. “My goal is hopefully to position Salt Lake City as a hub for new creations in dance, similar to what Sundance and Park City do for film."

Sklute also wants the company to acquire a global reputation. In November, Ballet West performed at the International Ballet Festival of Havana, in the Cuban premiere of the pas de deux from Balanchine's “Rubies" and Fonte's Presto. As for “Breaking Pointe," despite some cringeworthy scenes (like when Sklute fired a dancer on camera), he says “it brought new audiences in and an overall awareness internationally." Even his extended family in Germany and Sweden watched it—dubbed in other languages.

at a glance

Ballet West

Number of dancers: 38, plus 14 in Ballet West II

Length of contract: 37 weeks

Starting salary: $974 per week for corps (AGMA union company)

Performances in 2016–17: 73

Website: balletwest.org

Audition Advice

Though Sklute prefers to hire dancers from Ballet West II into the corps, the company holds auditions annually, this year in New York (March 25) and in Salt Lake City (early April). The average height for women is 5' 8" and for men, 6' 1," but “there are always exceptions," says Sklute. “I like an artist who creates magic onstage. Also someone who listens, because it's that attention to stylistic detail that matters so much."

The Conversation
popular

Are you a total bunhead who loves to write? You might be the perfect fit for Pointe. We're seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about ballet and journalism.

Through March 1, we are accepting applications for a summer intern to assist our staff onsite in New York City from June to August. The internship includes an hourly stipend and requires a minimum two-day-a-week commitment. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Are you looking for inspiration to develop and grow as an artist, preparing you for a career as a dancer? The Raydean Acevedo Colorado Ballet Academy's (CBA) Summer Intensive and Pre-Professional Division receive rave reviews from students, teachers and directors. These programs offer aspiring dancers instruction and career guidance from internationally renowned master teachers and CBA's accomplished faculty. Training takes place in Colorado Ballet's eight state-of-the-art studios at The Armstrong Center for Dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Hugo Marchand and Sae Eun Park in John Cranko's Onegin. Julien Benhamou, Courtesy Paris Opéra Ballet.

Onegin isn't a regular ballet character: He's neither good nor bad, but gray, in between. I started by reading Alexander Pushkin's verse poem, and I found it difficult. It portrays an emotional state that is very Russian: This existential melancholy in a man, Onegin, who is very educated, intelligent, but depressed. He's also very selfish, and hurts the people around him without even really realizing it.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Tzu Chia Huang

Register to audition for the chance to experience the ultimate setting for professional dance training. Experience professionalism, be the priority, and see the progression in just 6 weeks! Ballet Arizona's Summer Intensive begins June 10 and classes are held through July 19, 2019. The program culminates with a final full-length performance in the Dorrance Theatre. The School of Ballet Arizona is known for its outstanding, internationally-renowned faculty, a state-of-the-art facility which includes a 299-seat black box performance theatre, and small classes with personal attention, all accompanied with a challenging and complex curriculum.

Photo by Tzu Chia Huang

Keep reading... Show less
NYCB's Peter Walker will be back onstage in Agon this week. Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

NYCB Winter Season Opens on Balanchine's 115th Birthday

The winter ballet season is officially underway, and we couldn't be more excited. New York City Ballet's season opens January 22 and runs through March 3. Week one features two all-Balanchine programs. The first, opening appropriately on the 115th anniversary of the great choreographer's birth, features the Stravinsky/Balanchine "Greek Trilogy": Apollo, Orpheus and Agon. The second program includes three Balanchine works to Tchaikovsky: Serenade, Mozartiana and Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, which showcases brand new costumes designed by NYCB's Marc Happel.

San Francisco Ballet Opens With Don Quixote

San Francisco Ballet's Repertory Season opens January 25 and runs through May 12. The first of the company's eight programs is Don Quixote, on through February 3. Don Quixote is an SFB audience favorite; it was last performed in 2015, and the company is referring to it as "the stylish rom-com of classical ballet." In the above video, principal Mathilde Froustey talks through Kitri's Act III solo.

Sarasota Ballet Presents a World Premiere by Ricardo Graziano

Ellen Overstreet and Weslley Carvalho in Four Scottish Dances

Frank Atura, Courtesy Sarasota Ballet

January 25-28 marks Sarasota Ballet's Transcending Movement program featuring four unique works: David Bintley's Four Scottish Dances, Frederick Ashton's Meditation from Thaïs and Varii Capricci (a company premiere), and a world premiere by principal dancer and resident choreographer Ricardo Graziano. Former American Ballet Theatre star Marcelo Gomes is also back in Sarasota as a guest performer.

via joffreyballetschool.com

Summer is a great time to make new friends, broaden your horizons and get tons of dancing in at a summer intensive. As you get closer to college-age, it can also be a great time to get valuable information and extra training that can come in handy later when you're thinking about college auditions. With 19 summer programs running throughout the U.S. (plus a ballet intensive in Genoa, Italy, and a musical theater intensive in London), Joffrey Ballet School offers a wide variety of experiences that give you both top-notch dance training and a taste of what college life will be like:

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Victoria Morgan pushes dancers' boundaries in the studio. Jennifer Denham, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet.

Victoria Morgan's normally bright smile is even brighter entering her 22nd season as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director. That's because the 55-year-old company is in the best shape it has ever been: Attendance, ticket sales and the company's annual operating budget are at all-time highs. But the road to Cincinnati Ballet's current successes required an early revamp in Morgan's thinking about programming. When she took over leadership in 1997, the former San Francisco Ballet dancer had trouble accepting that the company simply didn't have the budget for her ideas about duplicating the repertoire she was used to.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Michaela DePrince at her 2014 TEDx Amsterdam talk. Still via YouTube.

Earlier this month we learned that former comp star and current UC Berkeley student Miko Fogarty will be giving a TEDx talk in March about her path from ballet to college. This news got us thinking about some of our favorite ballet TED talks from years past. Check out our top eight now!

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Nardia Boodoo. xmbphotography by Mena Brunette.

Nardia Boodoo has the perfect remedy for the winter blues—a colorful wardrobe. The Washington Ballet company member favors a dressy athleisure style that's as comfortable as it is vibrant. "I love to play with bright sweaters because it's just fun when it gets cold and gloomy out," Boodoo says. In addition to her multicolored style staples, Boodoo counts high-waisted skinny jeans as another part of her off-duty uniform. "I love to pair my Madewell jeans with a long-sleeve crop, a jacket and my Reebok Classics," she says.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Joffrey Ballet's Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili in "Orphée et Eurydice" with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Photo courtesy "Great Performances."

You might say, "You just had to be there," about the Joffrey Ballet's 2017 world premiere of John Neumeier's reimagined Orphée et Eurydice with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. But on January 18, audiences from around the country will have a chance to witness this extraordinary collaboration up close, from the comfort of their living rooms, as PBS stations broadcast Orphée et Eurydice on "Great Performances".


Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Stella Abrera in Romeo and Juliet. John Grigaitis, Courtesy ABT.

This American Ballet Theatre principal has jump training down to a science.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Patricia Delgado will dance in new choreography by Jamar Roberts at Guggenheim Works & Process' program The Choreography of Light. Erin Baiano, Courtesy Works & Process.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet announced today that international star Carlos Acosta will be taking over as director in January of 2020. Current BRB director David Bintley will be stepping down this summer, at the end of the company's 2019 season, after a 24-year tenure. "It is a tremendous honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead Birmingham Royal Ballet," Acosta said in a statement.

Since retiring from The Royal Ballet in 2015, Acosta has focused much of his attention on his native Cuba, where he's proven his directorial abilities at the helm of Acosta Danza, the contemporary company that he founded in 2016. In 2017 Acosta also opened his first Dance Academy through his foundation, which provides free training to students. We don't yet know how Acosta will balance his time between his projects in Cuba and his new role at BRB.

Keep reading... Show less
Jaime Lynn Witts as Belle in Stephen Mills' Belle REDUX/A Tale of Beauty & The Beast. Anne Marie Bloodgood, Courtesy Ballet Austin.

Growing up, I was always the one who didn't have the right body or the right feet or even just the right look. I never had that encouragement in the studio that things were going to work out for me, but I was always determined.

I didn't train at a big ballet academy, but I do think I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, with parents who always supported me. I started in dance with creative movement classes in my hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I had some really wonderful Russian and Ukrainian ballet teachers from a young age, but it was frustrating because I didn't have the things they were looking for. You grow up seeing those pictures and videos of classical ballerinas and you know what it's supposed to look like. To not have the right body or feet when you're younger is devastating.

Keep reading... Show less
Trending
Aurelie Dupont explained she did not share Polunin's values. Photo via Instagram

Sergei Polunin, whose recent homophobic and sexist Instagram posts have sparked international outrage, will not be appearing with the Paris Opéra Ballet as previously announced.

POB artistic director Aurélie Dupont sent an internal email to company staff and dancers on Sunday, explaining that she did not share Polunin's values and that the Russian-based dancer would not be guesting with the company during the upcoming run of Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake in February.

Keep reading... Show less
Summer Intensive Survival
Francois Perron teaching class at the French Academie of Ballet. Rachel Neville, Courtesy French Academie of Ballet.

When Katie Spagnoletti was 16, she auditioned for several well-known, company-affiliated summer programs. Although she received some acceptances, the price tags and level of competition felt daunting. She decided to try the relatively smaller Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive instead, and when she walked into orientation her first day, she sensed she'd made the right choice. "Co-director Melinda Roy greeted me—and every other student—by name. It made me feel like the faculty was truly invested in me as a person and a dancer," says Spagnoletti, now a dancer at City Ballet of San Diego. "I had friends who'd gone to some of the big-name schools, so I'd heard about those experiences—and I knew mine was going to be unique."

When planning your summer, it's exciting to think about an intensive at a prestigious pre-professional school—maybe the one attached to your dream company or that all your friends are talking about. But is bigger always better? With a wealth of options for summer study, it's worth looking at the benefits of smaller schools. For many dancers, training in a close-knit atmosphere can outweigh the cachet of a big name.

Keep reading... Show less
Trending
Screenshot via YouTube

Every once in a while, the stars align, things fall precisely into place, and the perfect marketing campaign is born. Such is the case with New York City Ballet's new trailer for their upcoming run of The Sleeping Beauty.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo captured via YouTube.

The ballet Don Quixote offers its principal ballerina the unique chance to play two different characters in one role: there's Kitri herself, a vivacious village girl, and then Dulcinea, Don Quixote's idealized love, who takes on the form of Kitri in his dream. The Paris Opéra Ballet's Aurélie Dupont, a former étoile and now the company's artistic director, creates distinct personas for each incarnation of her character. In this clip from a 2002 performance, Dupont dances Dulcinea's variation with serene precision, embodying the mystical beauty of Don Quixote's imagination.

Aurelie Dupont - Dulcinea www.youtube.com

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
YoungArts 2019 finalist Kali Kleiman in rehearsal Katherine Bollens, Courtesy YoungArts.

Let the ballet live streams continue! Last week we let you know that Youth American Grand Prix is streaming its regional semi-finals each weekend. Tonight, National YoungArts is sharing its finalists' dance performance.

The National YoungArts Foundation seeks out high school aged artists from around the country and gives them monetary awards, mentorship opportunities and the chance to participate in regional workshops. Artists span across 10 disciplines ranging from music to writing to visual art to dance. The finalists from each region are invited to the annual National YoungArts Week, an all-expenses-paid experience including master classes, workshops and performances with top artists (this year the dance faculty includes former New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan). Nominations for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts will also be made from this group.

Keep reading... Show less
News
A photo from Miko Fogarty's 2015 cover shoot (Nathan Sayers)

Back in 2015, gorgeous ballerina Miko Fogarty was on top of the ballet world (and on the cover of Dance Spirit). After starring in the 2011 dance doc First Position, she'd racked up numerous competition titles, achieved social media stardom, and earned a contract with the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Then, suddenly, she disappeared.

Well—not exactly. As she revealed last summer, Fogarty decided to switch gears, trading the ballet world for the world of academia. She's currently majoring in integrative biology at UC Berkeley. And now she's been tapped to give a TEDx talk about why, and how, she made the transition.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

We sat down with James K. Payne, School Director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet, to hear his thoughts about students auditioning for summer intensives this winter. We think you'll be very interested in what he has to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Christopher Duggan for Pointe

While dancing excerpts of August Bournonville's Napoli this summer at the Massachusetts-based Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the artists of the Royal Danish Ballet were in perfect sync. The dancers exuded pure cheer, from their buoyant, clear footwork to the precise angle of their épaulement. This seemed fitting for a national company where most members train in the Danish style from age 7 and feed in from the school. Yet three of the principals onstage—Amy Watson, J'aime Crandall and Holly Jean Dorger—are in fact American.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Photo by Carlos Quezada, Courtesy ABT

American Ballet Theatre announced today that Brooklyn Mack, a former Washington Ballet star, will join the company as a guest for its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Currently an in-demand international guest artist, Mack will dance in three performances of ABT's Le Corsaire this June.

Keep reading... Show less
Forsythe's in the middle, somewhat elevated uses the battement like an attack. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

Just before retiring in 2015, Sylvie Guillem appeared on "HARDtalk with Zeinab Badawi," the BBC's hard-hitting interview program. Badawi told Guillem,

"Clement Crisp of the Financial Times, 14 years ago, described your dancing as vulgar."

Guillem responded,

"Yeah, well, he said that. But at the same time, when they asked Margot Fonteyn what she thought about lifting the leg like this she said, 'Well, if I could have done it, I would have done it.' "

They were discussing Guillem's signature stroke—her 180-degree leg extension à la seconde. Ballet legs had often flashed about in the higher zones between 135 and 160 degrees before. But it wasn't until the virtuoso French ballerina regularly
extended her leg beside her ear with immaculate poise in the 1980s that leg extensions for ballet dancers in classical roles reached their zenith. Traditionalists like Clement Crisp were not taken with it.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored