Come for the winters, stay for the summers” is a common mantra in Sun Valley, where the lure of the ski resort draws in new visitors, but the long, lingering days of summer end up as the catalyst enticing people to stay. And it’s the summer’s cultural draw—performances of dance, music, and written word, together with visual art—that help add color and depth to the summer season.
Sun Valley’s legacy of supporting the arts, along with the exceptional beauty of the Sun Valley Pavilion, is why Robert Smelick, founder of Ballet Sun Valley, invites world-class ballet companies and dancers to the mountains of Idaho each summer.
Dance has long had the power to transport and inspire audiences. When ballet comes to the Sun Valley Pavilion, a new dimension is added—exceptional art in a setting that is as beautiful as the performance itself. Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, said, “The space has an aura all its own. The combination of light, stone, surroundings, mountain breezes and spectacular performance create a heady and unforgettable experience.”
“When you combine the best of international ballet with the Sun Valley Pavilion venue, you have, I believe, one of the most perfect intersections of music, ballet and context,” said Smelick. “Context meaning fresh mountain air, dramatic architecture, drifting clouds, and a setting sun, with orchestral music complementing the dancing talents of dancers who have reached the pinnacle of their profession.”
In Sun Valley, the interaction with the audience is part of the fascination. Unlike indoor venues, where the dancers look out onto a sea of dark from the stage, the Pavilion’s open-air architecture visually connects those watching to those performing. The thin curtain that separates art and life dissolves, creating a powerful experience for both the dancer and the audience.
“Sun Valley is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited,” said Sasha De Sola, principal dancer at San Francisco Ballet, who performed at the Ballet Sun Valley Festival in 2019. “Dancing in the Pavilion to an exceptionally receptive audience and breathing that fresh mountain air is an unparalleled experience that I will always treasure.”
It’s not just the Pavilion that sets the performance apart; it is also the Sun Valley community itself. The Sun Valley audience is welcoming, appreciative, enthusiastic
“The community pulls from so many major metropolitan areas,” shared Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), “meaning audiences know what they are looking at. You can’t pass off a sloppy sonata or a fumbled fouetté in Sun Valley.”
When you take the art form of ballet and add the beauty of the Sun Valley Pavilion and the dynamics of the audience, the combination is pure magic. “You don’t have to be a ballet lover to love ballet in the Pavilion,” Smelick said.
Although Ballet Sun Valley will not be able to stage its 2020 festival in the Pavilion as a result of the pandemic, they are planning to present Pacific Northwest Ballet by means of streaming a PNB performance from Seattle’s McCaw Hall. And, work has already begun on a 2021 festival in the Sun Valley Pavilion.