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Ballet West -20/21 New Hires/Promotions/Retirements

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April 15, 2020                                                                       




SALT LAKE CITY, UT—Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute announced the roster for the 57th season today, which includes three prominent promotions within the company, three notable retirements, and three new hires--most being elevated from the Frederick Q. Lawson Ballet West Academy.

Soloist Jenna Rae Herrera, who joined Ballet West II in 2007 from Ontario, California, will be promoted to First Soloist, and fellow Soloist Hadriel Diniz, who started at Ballet West in 2015 from Minas Gerais, Brazil will also become a First Soloist. In addition, Demi-Soloist Emily Neale, from Acton, Massachusetts, who started as a Trainee with Ballet West Academy and was later hired by the Company in 2016, will be promoted to Soloist.

“These three dancers are elegant and dedicated artists,” said Sklute. “They have proven themselves repeatedly with their dancing, artistry, hard work, and commitment to the Company. It has been my joy to be able to nurture their careers thus far, and I am looking forward to their on-going progress as all three have so much potential for the future.”

A significant retirement, First Soloist Sayaka Ohtaki ends her performing career and will be moving back to her native Japan after being with the company for 10 years. Ohtaki has been an esteemed member of the troupe; her principal roles included Juliet in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet, Cio Cio San in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly, George Balanchine’s Emeralds, and recently the title character in Sklute’s own production of Giselle. “Sayaka is a rare and gifted artist whose unique combination of delicacy and strength made her infinitely fascinating as a performer,” said Sklute. “She will certainly be missed and I wish her the very best for the future.”

Demi-Soloist Trevor Naumann, who began his career at Ballet West in 2009, is also a notable retirement. “Trevor is a beautiful dancer and deeply committed member of the Company,” said Sklute. “Additionally, he has grown into a choreographer with a distinctive style. It is a gift I know he will continue to build upon.” Earlier this year, First Soloist Christopher Sellars retired after a distinguished 15 -year career that he started as a charter member of Ballet West II in 2005. Sellars has performed a wide and varied repertoire and has become one of the most beloved members of Ballet West both onstage and off. In January, he joined Ballet West Academy as a principal faculty member. “I am thrilled to be able to keep Christopher in our family,” said Sklute. “I am grateful that he will be able to impart his immense knowledge and love of our art form to our students.”

Three Ballet West II dancers have accepted positions in the Corps: Nicole Fannéy from Cary, North Carolina; Noel Jensen from Carlsbad, California; Vinicius Lima from Vitoria, Brazil. All three started with the organization as members of the Ballet West Academy Professional Training Division.

New faces in Ballet West II include four graduates from the Ballet West Academy: Amelia Dencker from Rockville, Maryland; Jacob Hancock from Lehi, Utah; Roland Jones from Poolesville, Maryland; and Ella Schultze from Seattle, Washington. The troupe also welcomes Youngstown, Ohio-native Austin Dabney, previously with Boston Ballet II; and Alpine, Utahn Rylee Rogers, who danced the role of Clara in Ballet West’s The Nutcracker for two years running in 2012 and 2013.

“I am particularly proud of the talent that has been nurtured through the Frederick Q Lawson Ballet West Academy,” said Sklute. “When I started with Ballet West there were no dancers in the Company who had come out of our Academy and hardly any from Ballet West II. For the 20/21 season, we will have 24 graduates from Ballet West II in the main company, including four of our principals, and a total of 17 who moved up from the Academy.” Sklute adds, “This speaks to the level of our training both at the student and pre-professional level. I maintain a strong commitment to moving our students and second company members up and seeing them grow into leading artists with Ballet West.”

Ballet West’s 20/21 season will open October 23 with Ben Stevenson’s Dracula.


Joshua Jones
801-414-4101 | jjones@balletwest.org

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