Arts & Culture

Ballet in Sun Valley, Idaho

When you think of Sun Valley, ballet is probably not at the top of your mind. We’re here to tell you why it should be.

Founded in 1978, the Sun Valley Ballet School is a dance institution in Sun Valley that has taught both children and adults for generations. In what seems to be a perfect match-up of interests, Sun Valley Ballet also works with Ballet Sun Valley, a non-profit organization founded in 2011 to bring the world’s most celebrated ballet companies and dancers to the Sun Valley area. 

Sun Valley Ballet

Sun Valley Ballet was founded with the intention to provide high-level dance instruction and performance opportunities with affordable tuition, small class sizes, and several scholarships and the possibility of scholarships. It’s had several iterations and changes over the years but has now established itself as The Sun Valley Ballet School, a teaching platform for children in the Wood River Valley that culminates in several yearly performances. 

Those performances include a full-length ballet performed in December with all students ages 4 and up. Even years feature the holiday classic “the Nutcracker” and odd years feature a fun, rotating performance such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White. On even years, a version of the ballet is also performed in February for free to all elementary school aged children in Blaine County. In May, the entire school performs an annual spring showcase which gives the dancers the opportunity to try types of dance outside of ballet such as jazz and modern.

Ballet Sun Valley

Ballet Sun Valley was established by a passionate supporter of dance and long-time Board Member for San Francisco Ballet to bring world-class ballet performances to the Wood River Valley. A welcomed addition the already rich culture of the area, Ballet Sun Valley has brought performances by San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet, The Royal Ballet in London, The Paris Opera Ballet, and the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia.

One of the more special performances took place in 2016 when Ketchum native and Principal Dancer from New York’s American Ballet Theatre (ABT), Isabella Boylston, proposed an alternative to a performance by one dance company. Instead she wanted to have dancers from a variety of well-known international ballet companies. The following year, Boylston’s dream came true. With her acting as Artistic Director, Ballet Sun Valley’s first independent dancer ballet festival debuted with dancers including Misty Copeland (ABT), Tiler Peck (NY City Ballet), Kimin Kim (Mariinsky Ballet), and Ida Pretorius (Royal Danish Ballet). Boylston returned the following year as Artistic Director.

Isabella Boylston

In 2012, Ballet Sun Valley organizers decided to start incorporating an education program to young ballet dancers in the Sun Valley area. With internationally-acclaimed dancers already coming to the area, they began to arrange for the dancers to spend some time teaching students. In 2017 a donation to the education program allowed Ballet Sun Valley to expand the program. Boylston, appreciating the young dancers in the area after being one herself, helped advance expansion of the program and recruited even more professional dancers to teach. In 2018, the program had over 150 students from 17 states taking part in classes of various levels of Ballet, Jazz, Choreography and programs for students with special needs in partnership from Higher Ground—all free of charge.

Ballet in Sun Valley
Jennifer Stahl and Carlo Di Lanno in Welch’s Bespoke. (© Erik Tomasson)

This year’s performance will feature the San Francisco Ballet at the Sun Valley Pavilion July 5 & 7. Each night will feature entirely different performances demonstrated by the 38 dancers coming to the Pavilion. 

In following Ballet Sun Valley’s tradition of providing dance education to young ballet dancers in Ketchum, Ballet Sun Valley will provide three whole days of their education program instead of the usual one day as has been done in the past. The classes will include the typical varying levels of ballet, contemporary dance and choreography classes. Ballet Sun Valley has also partnered with Boston Ballet School and Higher Ground for a three-day Adaptive Dance Program, hosted by Sun Valley Ballet on July 7. These free classes will explore the teaching of ballet and contemporary dance to participants including those with disabilities ranging from Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Parkinson’s. Sun Valley Ballet will also play host to a two-day teacher training program on July 5 and 6 that focuses on how to use dance as therapy.

Ballet in Sun Valley
San Francisco Ballet in McIntyre’s Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem. (© Erik Tomasson)

In a departure from just dance education, the Community Library is also hosting several education events in conjunction with Ballet Sun Valley. On July 6, there will be a discussion with San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson about his years with New York City Ballet and his contributions to innovation in the world of international ballet. Also on July 6 and the library, San Francisco Ballet Principal dancer Sasha De Sola will do a story time with younger dancers, reading On Tiptoes/De Puntitas, a bilingual children’s book about De Sola’s dance journey.

For more information on the dance scene in Sun Valley, scope our story, “Dance in the Mountains: From Classical to Cutting Edge.”

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