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Ballet West dancers sign 75th Anniversary of America’s First Nutcracker

Join us as dancers of Ballet West sign 75th Anniversary of America’s First Nutcracker!

Ballet West celebrates The Nutcracker by publishing a retrospective hardbound book about Utah native Willam Christensen, founder of San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West.

Authors Josh Jones and Sara M.K. Neal researched the book for months, speaking with stagehands, musicians, and former dancers who worked with Christensen. They also pored over the Special Collections archives at the University of Utah, alongside designer Alejandro Moya, finding early playbills, personal notes from Christensen, and historic photography. The results are a compendium of fascinating insights on how Christensen turned a $1,000 investment in 1944 into a production that thrives 75 years later, replicated at ballet companies across the United States.

Designer Alejandro Moya carefully pieced together the collected stories, matching them with historic artwork and sumptuous designs to create a thoughtful and detailed story — one that was 75 years in the making.

In 1944, critics were stunned when Christensen staged the first full-length Nutcracker in America. “We can’t understand why a vehicle of such fantastic beauty and originality would not be produced in its entirety in this country until now,” reported the Sacramento Union.

The Nutcracker was produced on a shoestring budget, but captivated a nation. When a reporter asked Willam Christensen for how many years The Nutcracker would be staged, he responded, “It will go on for as long as there are children.” Every holiday season at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah, he proves his point. After three quarters of a century, his production thrives. Today, The Nutcracker is the hardworking Clydesdale in the stable of nearly every ballet company’s repertoire. Mr. C would have been 117 this year, and The Nutcracker – his gift to the world – continues to delight.


Josh Jones and Sara M.K. Neal were college roommates interested in nonprofit arts administration at Southern Utah University. He received his Bachelors in Sociology and she earned a Master’s in Arts Administration from the school. After losing track of one another for 15 years, five years ago, they both started working at Ballet West, where Josh is Director of Communications and Sara is Chief Marketing Officer.

Event date: 
Tuesday, December 17, 2019 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Event address: 
607 Trolley Square
Salt Lake City, UT 84102