Ballet West II will continue its run at the Egyptian Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 22, and Sunday, Feb. 23. (Photo courtesy of Ballet West)
Ballet West II will continue its run at the Egyptian Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 22, and Sunday, Feb. 23. (Photo courtesy of Ballet West)
Ballet West, the internationally renowned dance company based in Salt Lake City, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The company has been touring the country and will embark on a tour of Canada next year. In the meanwhile, its training company, Ballet West II, is also celebrating with a weekend at the Egyptian Theatre. It will continue its run with two performances on Saturday and a final show on Sunday.

The program is comprised of both contemporary and high-classical works, said Adam Sklute, artistic director of Ballet West.

The company will perform a work choreographed by Christopher Sellars, Ballet West II's interim director and first soloist for Ballet West to the Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," Sklute told The Park Record.

"This is an intimate piece that features a number of different duets," he said. "We also have an interesting contemporary work that was choreographed by one of our principal dancers, Tom Mattingly. And that is also very unique and very modern in its approach."

The evening will also feature two landmark classical works — the "Sleeping Beauty" pas de deux and the grand pas from "Raymonda."

"The grand pas from 'Raymonda' has 10 dancers in it, and it's an exciting closure of this diverse program," Sklute said.

All the works have been staged specially for the Egyptian Theatre, he said.

"It's a small and intimate venue, and we planned the program so all of it will fit on that stage," Sklute said.

Performing smaller theaters is part of Ballet West II's duties.

"Because it's a small and intimate ensemble, we are able to bring them into all of the theaters and other venues around the country that can't house, afford or accommodate the main company, which is a much larger group," Sklute explained. "What is really exciting is that this group of dancers have become much, much more than a training company. They are an elite touring group in and of themselves."

The 11 dancers were handpicked by Sklute to be developed into professional dancers for Ballet West.

"A number of these dancers come from the Ballet West Academy, the company's training school," he said. "That is very exciting because we have developed them.

"But a number of them come from around the world," he said. "Right now, we have dancers from New Zealand and we have dancers from Haiti. It's become an international troupe and they all have been found through my trips around the world when I scout for talent."

When Sklute auditions dancers, he searches for a combination of things.

"The first is physicality," he said. "I look for the body type and their physical abilities that make up the type of dancer that I want for Ballet West.

"I also look for the artistic abilities and the intelligence that also make up the type of dancer that I want for Ballet West," he said. "But more than anything, I look for that innate something that a dancer or any artist has that makes them unique, special and important. All of these dancers are much more than students, but not quite, yet, professional dancers."

Sklute is happy to bring Ballet West II to Park City and would love to have Ballet West perform here more often.

"What's really great is that we're performing right there on Main Street," he said. "I'm thrilled that we are able to perform at the wonderful and intimate Egyptian Theatre and show what we can do.

"It has always been my dream to have a regular presence in Park City," Sklute added. "We're Ballet West, not Salt Lake City Ballet. We represent the entire Intermountain West and we represent Utah and Park City is such a major part of Utah. I hope we can grow into a regular presence there."

Ballet West II will continue is run at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets range from $40 to $60 and are available by visiting www.parkcityshows.com.