On Nov. 2, when the curtain rises on "The Three Musketeers," Ballet West and its new artistic director Adam Sklute will begin a new era.

When the company announced Sklute — a former Joffrey Ballet associate artistic director — as the new captain, the 2007-08 season productions were already scheduled.

But Sklute, who finally settled into his new Salt Lake home over the summer, says he was eager to get to know the dancers. "I sat in and observed the dancers in class," he said during an interview in his office at the Capitol Theatre. "I'm slowly getting to know the dancers more personally. During the summer, when the dancers were off, I worked with the Ballet West administration and the board to get to know each of them and worked on ideas for future planning.

"So it's been a busy and productive preseason. I feel I know the dancers a little better now, and that helps when the casting issues emerge."

This year, the dancers had an extra long summer break, a concern for Sklute. "A break is important, but a long break is unhealthy for the body. So we're working to get the dancers back into the groove right now. And I'm happy with what I'm seeing."

Another reason Sklute was concerned about the long summer break was that the season-opener, Andre Prokovsky's "The Three Musketeers," is a new ballet for the company. "It's not like 'Sleeping Beauty' or 'Giselle,' which the company knows and has done before. It's a totally new experience for them.

"And between rehearsing 'Musketeers' and other pieces — such as 'Nine Sinatra Songs,' which will be performed later in the season — there is a lot of demand on the dancers. And I want to be sure the company is healthy physically and mentally to take on challenges."

Still, challenges are a good thing, said Sklute. "My goal as an artistic director is to challenge the dancers and the audiences so we can all have a great experience at the ballet. Those experiences keep the spirit moving.

"But I do know the importance of the classics. Ballet West has a reputation for the classics. That's how it started, and it is a very integral part of the company. And they need to be performed and preserved."


E-mail: scott@desnews.com