Ballet West remembers dance pioneer Bené Arnold

Jan 29, 2024, 11:00 AM | Updated: 11:17 am

Bené Arnold teaches a class of dancers....

Bené Arnold teaches a class of dancers in the 1970s. (Ballet West)

(Ballet West)

SALT LAKE CITY — Bené Arnold, a dance pioneer and the woman who served as the first ballet mistress for Ballet West died on January 25, 2024. She was 88. 

Arnold spent her career dancing, teaching, and choreographing. She received recognition for her work on several occasions, according to Ballet West. 

In 1984, the Utah State Senate recognized her for her contributions to the state. She was awarded the Chamber of Commerce Award and the Governor’s Award for the Arts in 1997. 

In 2001, she was named a Distinguished Professor Emerita by the University of Utah’s College of Fine Arts. She had also received several research grants, per Ballet West. 

The career of Bené Arnold 

According to a press release from Ballet West, Arnold joined the San Francisco Ballet School in 1948. During her time with the SF Ballet School, she earned a soloist position, a coveted role. 

Arnold joined Ballet West in 1964 as the company’s first Ballet Mistress, (along with a Ballet Master, someone who is responsible for rehearsing a company’s dancers, according to the Grand Rapids Ballet’s glossary of ballet terms). 

Bené Arnold speaks with Dimitri Romanoff in 1968.

Bené Arnold speaks with Dimitri Romanoff in 1968. (Ballet West)

She worked with Ballet West founder Willam Christensen to stage works for the ballet company, as well as for the Cincinnati Ballet, according to the press release.

Additionally, she choreographed pieces for the Utah Opera and Arizona Opera. She worked on shows such as Carmen and Aida, according to Ballet West. 

In 1975, Arnold joined the University of Utah Department of Ballet’s faculty. She continued to work with Ballet West as a rehearsal director for the Ballet West Academy, the Utah company’s dance school. Additionally, Arnold worked as the rehearsal director for the young dancers performing in The Nutcracker. 

According to the Corps de Ballet International, Arnold also organized a group of young, deaf dancers. The group, known as The Deaf Shall Dance, performed on several occasions throughout the United States. 

Remembering Bené Arnold

“She was instrumental in guiding and shaping the lives of hundreds if not thousands of dancers through Ballet West’s history and the University of Utah Dance Department,” said Peter Christie, the director of education and outreach for Ballet West. 

Sharee Lane, a dance educator, said that Arnold inspired lifelong learning in her students. “Having a deep, deep, unending passion for the art of ballet, Bené made it important to me,” said Lane. 

Lane added that Arnold was “courageous,” taking risks that innovated and inspired. She remembered Arnold as a devoted teacher

“She undoubtedly sparked my journey as a professional dancer at Ballet West for 10 years and as a dance educator at the University of Utah School of Dance for 28 years,” said Lane. 

Related: Ballet West, Willam Christensen and the history of ballet in America

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Ballet West remembers dance pioneer Bené Arnold