Peter LeBreton Merz joins Ballet West as Academy Director

SALT LAKE CITY – April 23, 2015 – Ballet West is excited to announce the hiring of the respected dance-industry professional, Peter LeBreton Merz, as Director of the Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy. Merz is a renowned ballet teacher who is currently the Associate Professor of Dance and Coordinator of Ballet at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a former dancer with Cincinnati Ballet, Dayton Ballet, and Louisville Ballet, and has choreographed more than 40 original ballets across the United States and around the globe. Merz brings his own acumen and international acclaim to the prestige of Ballet West Academy and will oversee the dramatic growth at all three locations of the Academy.

“We’re delighted for Peter to join the Ballet West team,” said Scott Altman, Ballet West Executive Director. “His name in the dance industry is universally respected. He is known for both his administrative talents, as well as his deep artistic integrity, and his passion for ballet and training emerging talent is infectious.”

In 2014, Merz was honored with the Outstanding Teacher Award by the international student ballet competition, the Youth America Grand Prix, and has twice been named Outstanding Choreographer by that organization. While currently at Point Park University, Merz also teaches throughout the U.S. and is known for his enthusiastic and encouraging approach to ballet. Merz holds a BFA in Theater Design and Production from the University of Cincinnati, as well as an MBA in Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management.

“I feel the Academy is primed for amazing growth. With the stunning new facilities, and a strong, gifted faculty, we are poised to become a top-tier training program,” said Merz. “Utah is known as a state of incredible dance talent. My singular focus will be to exalt that talent and ensure the Academy students are receiving the highest caliber of dance education in the country.” Merz and his wife, Cynthia Kae Ridler, a Utah native who trained under Ballet West’s founder, Willam Christensen, are looking forward to moving their family to Salt Lake City.              

“I have watched Peter’s teaching, and his students for quite some time now and he is a remarkable teacher with great credentials,” said Adam Sklute, Ballet West Artistic Director. “But more importantly, he has a complete understanding of the unique place Ballet West holds in American dance and is driven, just like I am, to build the Ballet West Academy into one of America’s major destination ballet schools.” Sklute adds, “Peter has a winning way with people, and has the ability to inspire. He will be marvelous with our local, national, and international students and fantastic with parents, faculty, and public alike.”

With this change, current Academy and Education/Outreach Director Peter Christie, will turn his focus exclusively to directing Ballet West’s community engagement efforts and expanding the company’s place-holding throughout Utah and the Intermountain Region as Director of Education and Outreach.

“Over the past eleven years, Peter Christie has taken on the Herculean task of running both the Ballet West Academy and the Education/Outreach department,” said Adam Sklute. “He has made such a difference and has taken these facets of our organization to great heights. Moving forward with his passion for community engagement and Merz’ passion for building young dancers, Ballet West can work to become one of the leading organizations for dance education.”

Both men will head these two very important aspects of Ballet West separately, and report individually to Sklute on all artistic matters and Altman on all financial matters.

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About Ballet West

Ballet West, one of America’s finest ballet companies, has earned an international reputation for artistic innovation and excellence since its founding in 1963. For more than 50 years, the Salt Lake City-based Company has entertained and excited audiences in its home state and worldwide by presenting great classical ballets, historical masterpieces and new cutting-edge creations with only the highest artistic and professional standards. The Company continues to build future ballet artists and audiences by providing classical ballet training through its three Ballet West Academy training venues – the Jesse Eccles Quinney Ballet Centre, the Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation Ballet West Academy at Thanksgiving Point, and at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. Ballet West also offers outstanding education and outreach programs each year to hundreds of thousands of children and adults around the state of Utah.

Photo by: Katie Ging Photography