Ballet West to present “The Firebird,” other pieces in honor of founder

Nov 1, 2023, 12:56 PM | Updated: 1:04 pm

A ballerina dressed in a vibrant orange tutu for Ballet West's production of "The Firebird."...

Ballet West's production of "The Firebird" opens on November 3. (Ballet West)

(Ballet West)

SALT LAKE CITY — Ballet West is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The next show on the schedule features pieces chosen in honor of the company’s founder, William Christensen. 

Adam Sklute, Ballet West’s artistic director, said the show will feature the famed piece “The Firebird.” 

Ballet West presents “The Firebird” 

“The Firebird” only lasts 30 minutes, according to Sklute.

Sergei Diaghilev commissioned the work for his dance company, Ballets Russes. It is based on a Russian fairytale. Igor Stravinsky, a composer, and Léon Bakst, an expressionist artist collaborated to bring the story to life. 

“It became a huge hit and was redone by a number of other great choreographers throughout the decades, who were inspired by the same Stravinsky score, including our founder William Christensen, who created his version in 1967,” said Sklute.

Ballet West dancers performed “The Firebird” for a number of years. Then it disappeared from the company’s repertoire. 

Sklute said he brought it back for the company’s 50th anniversary. A decade later, it is back again. 

“I thought it was fitting to bring it back now as a celebration of our 60th anniversary and William Christensen’s legacy,” Sklute said. 

“Fever Dream” and “Stars and Stripes”

Second on the program is a piece that was choreographed and composed by former Ballet West dancer Joshua Whitehead. It is titled “Fever Dream.” 

Sklute said that when he first saw Whitehead’s piece, he was “taken by it.” He described it as “dreamlike… a polar opposite to the Firebird.” 

Finally, “Stars and Stripes,” a work featuring choreography by George Balanchine and music by John Philip Sousa will be presented. The work features 50 dancers. 

Sklute said he chose the pieces to pay homage to Christensen.

“All of these works pay homage to our founder, William Christensen. He choreographed the Firebird. He was a great champion of new choreography, which is why I wanted that represented on this program. Finally, at the very first performance of Ballet West in 1963, George Balanchine sent two of his leading dancers to come and dance stars and stripes with [the company.]” 

Ballet West’s production of “The Firebird” will run for five shows. Curtains open for the first night on Friday.

“It’s a great introduction to ballet because they’re all short pieces … Also, they’re really, really good works. So for people who know ballet, it’s also a great program,” said Sklute. 




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Ballet West to present “The Firebird,” other pieces in honor of founder