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Live ‘Nutcracker’ performances by Ballet West return for the holidays

By Adam Rubin - Special to The Standard-Examiner | Nov 23, 2021
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Jordan Beit and Jenna Herrera rehearse for Ballet West's upcoming performance of "The Nutcracker" on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.
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Adam Sklute, artistic director for Ballet West, instructs dancer Kazlyn Nielsen while Jake Preece watches during a rehearsal for their roles in "The Nutcracker" on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.
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Jordan Beit and Jenna Herrera rehearse for Ballet West's upcoming performance of "The Nutcracker" on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.
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Adam Sklute, right, artistic director for Ballet West, instructs dancers Kazlyn Nielsen and Jake Preece during a rehearsal for their roles in "The Nutcracker" on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.
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Kazlyn Nielsen and Jake Preece rehearse for Ballet West's upcoming performance of "The Nutcracker" on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.
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Jane Wood, principal rehearsal director for Ballet West, and Adam Sklute, artistic director for Ballet West, give instruction and advice during a rehearsal for "The Nutcracker" on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.
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Kazlyn Nielsen, right, and Jake Preece, left, rehearse for Ballet West's upcoming performance of "The Nutcracker" as Jane Wood, principal rehearsal director for Ballet West, and Adam Sklute, artistic director for Ballet West, watch on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — Ballet West featuring the Ballet West Orchestra is back with “The Nutcracker” this holiday season, offering 23 live productions with two sets of rotating casts.

Both matinee and evening shows will be performed in Salt Lake City as well as Ogden.

Since 1953, when it was known as the Utah Civic Ballet, Ballet West’s production of “The Nutcracker” has had a 67-year live production streak, which was only broken last year by COVID-19 restrictions when the seasonal classic was aired only on television.

This holiday season will be the 68th year for the performance, and the 67th live production of “The Nutcracker.”

“It is a family show full of humor and joy, as well as all of the holiday traditions that we love with a lot of athleticism and dynamics that makes it really exciting for everybody,” said Adam Sklute, who has been the artistic director at Ballet West since 2007.

In 1944, Ballet West founder Willam Christensen, who was born and raised in Brigham City, created this version of “The Nutcracker.”

Christensen’s version of “The Nutcracker” is the first full-length version of the holiday performance and the longest-running ballet performance of “The Nutcracker” in the country.

“Last year, as all the rest of us had to do, we were not able to perform it live. But we were able to present a televised version of it, which was great,” Sklute said. “So, we were able to continue the tradition in some capacity.”

“The Nutcracker” has much to offer the Wasatch Front community, according to Sklute, including displays of athleticism, music, art and theatricality — all brought together into one holiday performance.

Ballet West’s production has been performed all over the country as well as every four years at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. However, this season, “The Nutcracker” will only be performed in Salt Lake City and Ogden.

Sklute expressed enthusiasm in returning to live productions after last year, explaining that Ballet West is thrilled to be able to present Christensen’s historic performance of “The Nutcracker.”

Jenna Herrera, principal artist with Ballet West, started dancing when she was 3 years old.

“After last year and not being able to go anywhere, we get to bring a lot of joy again this year with this beautiful holiday tradition,” she said. “What makes this year even sweeter is to not take anything for granted; everything is a blessing and a gift.”

Jordan Beit, a soloist with Ballet West, decided to become a professional dancer at the age of 13 and shared some of his passion for performing “The Nutcracker” for audience members.

“I was drawn to dance for the escapism as an audience member. … I could live out this other life in the theater that the dancers were experiencing on stage. I could experience the same thing,” he said. “So, I hope it’s a magical evening where they can just get away from whatever’s going on and be in this other world.”

Beit and Herrera both expressed the passion and dedication it takes to be professional ballet dancers, with hours of practice and rehearsals that require a lot of hard work, as well as their mutual gratitude to be working with Sklute.

“Art is a reflection of who we are, and art fills our soul. It’s our food for our soul,” Sklute said. “This is why we do what we do in this world. … Ballet West represents the best of what Utah has to offer the world.”

This year’s attendees can look forward to seeing “The Nutcracker” again on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Weber State University’s Val A. Browning Center, 3750 Harrison Blvd., in Ogden.

Performances also will be held at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South in Salt Lake City, from Dec. 4-26, including one performance on Christmas Eve at noon.

Tickets are available at BalletWest.org or by calling 801-869-6900.

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