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SALT LAKE CITY — All children can benefit from the "transformational and inspirational power" of ballet, according to a new project from Ballet West that aims to include more of Utah's youngest population.
The company wants to include 1,000 of Utah's underserved children and families through its new Children's Enchantment Fund.
"Art is about life, it's about joy, it's about family. It's why we work hard — is to be able to experience art and art is in everything. The whole purpose of living is to enjoy one's life," said Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute.
"I can't tell you the amount of children who get excited when they see a live performance and all of a sudden feel the difference between a live performance and what they see on the screen and recognize that these are real human beings acting in real time, giving them joy. There's laughter, there's love, there's music and so we feel that this is something that everybody should really be able to experience," Sklute added.
The Children's Enchantment Fund was launched at the beginning of the company's 2021 season with the goal to bring 1,000 children and their families to a live production. The initiative is meant to provide equitable access to ballet to Utahns who may not otherwise be able to attend or afford a ticket.
Programs centered on the arts and underserved children can have a significant impact. Sklute noted several students from Ballet West's school have come from underserved communities amid various socioeconomic challenges and were inspired as children through similar programs "and suddenly said, 'I want to do that.'"
But the impact of the arts on children can go beyond those who go into performing.
"Our performances have a transformational and inspirational power for children for adults. And whether kids become dancers or just start to appreciate the art form or simply just develop a confidence in themselves, we think that our performances at Ballet West can help so we really want to help kids get there," Sklute said.
Art is about life, it's about joy, it's about family. ... The whole purpose of living is to enjoy one's life.
–Adam Sklute, Ballet West's artistic director
So far, Ballet West has been able to get 300 children and their families to live productions through community partners, donors and ticket sales revenues to fund its programs. While its current goal is to reach 1,000 children, the company hopes to expand its reach.
Sklute said there are more than 90,000 of Utah's children living in poverty.
Ballet West has had an encouraging season with its return to live performances, as its production of "The Nutcracker" sold a record number of tickets. Audiences flocked to the theatre after the previous season featured few in-person productions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return of the arts has brought joy to audiences but also an opportunity, Sklute said.
"What's wonderful is that this record number of sales — which was so exciting, and we're so grateful for — is also helping us to expand this program so that we can bring more children to our art form and expose them to the beauty and the joy of it," he said.
For information on upcoming performances, the Children's Enchantment Fund, or how to donate, visit balletwest.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Adam Sklute's name as Skulte.