Ballet Careers

More Than Technique: Inside Ballet West's Open Audition

Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute holding the fateful notepad. Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

On an early morning in March, approximately 160 hopefuls crowded the halls of New York City's School of American Ballet to audition for Ballet West. The company typically holds two auditions per year: one in New York City and one in its hometown of Salt Lake City. With a recommendation, dancers can also audition by taking company class. "I think many dancers have a misconception that it's better for them to take company class," says artistic director Adam Sklute. "Actually, I have hired as many, if not more, dancers from open calls."

Sklute prioritizes strong musicality. "I look for a really unique approach to how the person is connected to the music," he says. "We work with a broad spectrum of composers, and our dancers can adapt to that well." Sklute also asks women to wear their pointe shoes from the beginning. "I need to see their comfort level in pointework, and in our company most dancers take the entire class on pointe," he says.


Due to the large turnout, the audition was split into two half-hour barres, with cuts after each, followed by center—though Sklute usually prefers not to have to make cuts in the middle. He looks for a presence and quality that goes beyond technique itself. "Someone might have the physical facility we're looking for," he says, "but that's not going to matter to me if I don't think they can bring a magic to the stage."

"I'm looking for dancers who are assertive, so that I know they are confident. But I don't like dancers who might push someone out of the way. I need team players," says Sklute.

Photos by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

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