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SALT LAKE CITY — Ballet West is celebrating its diamond anniversary this season — 60 years. Though audiences will experience a familiar Nutcracker production, there is a first this year.
Katlyn Addison is one of the first black ballerinas to dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the first with Ballet West. With grace and precision, she captures the magic of the role.
"When I was really little, seeing the Nutcracker and seeing the Sugar Plum Fairy come on stage, I told my mom ... I wanted to do that when I grow up," said Addison.
Katlyn joined Ballet West in 2011 after an audition in New York. She was previously a member of the Houston Ballet. Adam Sklute, the artistic director of Ballet West, knew immediately she belonged in his company.
"I saw a beautiful young dancer in her teens who had such a mastery over technique for her age, as well as an elegant, statuesque creature," said Sklute. "And I thought, 'Oh my gosh, she would be perfect for Ballet West!'"
The fit was evident immediately from both sides, as Addison explained.
"I think it was after the second exercise, (Adam) scooped me up and pulled me aside and spoke with me about his company," said Addison. "And I knew they were a taller company and I am a taller dancer, so I was attracted to that. And I knew their repertoire was very similar to what I was doing with Houston Ballet."
Katlyn has danced many roles during her four years at Ballet West, including as an understudy for a couple of seasons as the Sugar Plum Fairy. She remembers when she learned she would, in fact, dance it.
"Adam pulled me aside and asked me what color tights I would like to wear for the role," she said. "And after he did that, I was like, 'OK, maybe I am doing it, you know.'"
Two other black ballerinas in major American companies have danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy — Lauren Anderson of the Houston Ballet, whom Addison saw perform the role before Anderson retired, and Misty Copeland of American Ballet Theatre.
Sklute says it was time.
"Ballet is an art form for everyone, and it is up to us as artistic directors to create the world on the stage that mirrors the world around us," he said.
Addison as the Sugar Plum Fairy may be a first for Ballet West, but she's just fine with taking new steps — and adding new concepts to traditions.
"I feel a little bit of pressure but, honestly, I just hope that I relax and enjoy it because I feel like it's an opportunity to dance the role I've always wanted to do," Addison said.
"The Nutcracker" performances continue at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Salt Lake through Dec. 27.
- What: "The Nutcracker" ballet
- When: Runs through Dec. 27
- Where: Capitol Theater, Salt Lake City
Correction: This story originally identified Katlyn Addison as the third black ballerina to dance in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in a major production of the Nutcracker. While certainly one of the first, there have been others after Lauren Anderson and Misty Copleland.