Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton bring artÉmotion to Ballet West

Students at the 2016 artÉmotion Summer Intensive. Photo by Alexis Ziemski.
Students at the 2016 artÉmotion Summer Intensive. Photo by Alexis Ziemski.

In just its third year, the artÉmotion Summer Intensive, led by Ballet West First Soloist Allison DeBona and Ballet West Principal Rex Tilton, shows continual growth and dedication to the pre-professional dance community. In 2015, artÉmotion offered its summer program in Cleveland, Ohio; in 2016, it also expanded to Detroit, Michigan; and this summer, artÉmotion will partner with the official school of Ballet West, the Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy, in a two-week choreographic workshop. In addition, artÉmotion will offer an Adult Program in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A student at the 2016 artÉmotion Summer Intensive. Photo by Alexis Ziemski.

A student at the 2016 artÉmotion Summer Intensive. Photo by Alexis Ziemski.

Each artÉmotion program is designed differently, allowing DeBona and Tilton to cater to a wide variety of dance students. The two-week artÉmotion Summer Intensive in Cleveland (held July 10-21) is geared toward students who want to go away for a summer intensive but may feel as though a full six-week program is too much. The Intermediate Summer Intensive (half-day) is available for students ages eight through 11, and the Pre-Professional Summer Intensive (full-day) is offered for dancers ages 12-25.

“We want to introduce our students to the physical and mental demands of an intensive but help them to gain the confidence it takes for a longer program,” DeBona tells Dance Informa. “We give them all a chance to perform at the end of the two weeks, which is another wonderful opportunity for them to gain experience and exposure.”

The artÉmotion Choreographic Workshop, held June 12-24, in Park City, Utah, on the other hand, is offered two weeks prior to the Ballet West Summer Intensive and intended for older and more polished dancers (ages 16-25) who may be considered to join Ballet West as a trainee or Ballet West II as a company member. Students who are accepted into the Choreographic Workshop will be required to participate in the Ballet West Summer Intensive for the remainder of the summer. They will also have the opportunity to perform alongside Ballet West company members at the Utah Arts Festival and be seen by Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute.

Rex Tilton and Allison DeBona, co-artistic directors of artÉmotion Summer Intensive. Photo by Beau Pearson.

Rex Tilton and Allison DeBona, co-artistic directors of artÉmotion Summer Intensive. Photo by Beau Pearson.

Each day at the Choreographic Workshop, students will begin with a technique class, followed by a full day of creating a world premiere work by one of the Workshop’s three choreographers: Tilton; Adrienne Canterna, director of Bad Boys of Ballet; and Jon Ole Olstad, formerly of Nederlands Dans Theater. The new works will be presented at an in-studio performance, and one piece will be selected to be presented at the Utah Arts Festival.

“We give our students a voice and the ability to make choices of their own to develop their artistry,” DeBona shares. “We encourage our students to take chances and do things in the studio they normally do not choose to do. We put them in a professional environment off the bat to show them what it takes to be professional and not be students for a few weeks.”

This year, artÉmotion students will have the opportunity to study with seasoned teachers and professional dancers, including Ballet West Principals Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell; Ballet West Demi-Soloist Joshua Whitehead, who will teach contemporary and hip hop; Jordan DeBona, a musical theater artist who will teach acting; and Inna Stabrova and Dmitriy Tuboltsev, who will lead the character classes.

Tilton adds, “2017 brings a more focused curriculum with world class teachers and a program designed to extract the most from each student. Allison and I will not increase the number of students from last year, but we will offer more classes with more teachers in more studios to ensure that every student is seen and properly guided.”

DeBona and Tilton are also excited to offer the artÉmotion Adult Program, offered June 5-10, for students ages 18 and up. Participants can choose between a half-day and full-day program, and classes will be offered in levels beginner and advanced in a variety of dance techniques, including ballet, modern, contemporary, pointe, modern and character. Men and women also have the chance to work with choreographers Adrian Fry, Ballet West first soloist, and Katlyn Addison, Ballet West soloist. Prior dance experience is not required.

“The adult program was an idea of mine a few years back when I came to the realization that thousands of people who are perfectly physically capable of dancing end up quitting because ‘life got in the way’,” Tilton says. “I have had the honor of working with ex-professional dancers all the way to brand spanking new beginners in my previous adult summer program, and the thought of growing it has made me extremely excited for 2017.”

The 2016 artÉmotion Summer Intensive. Photo by Alexis Ziemski.

The 2016 artÉmotion Summer Intensive. Photo by Alexis Ziemski.

DeBona adds, “We like to stress that the experience is not for us but for the students to have fun and be confident. What I like most about teaching adult students is the love of dance that is expressed from each of them. They do not have to be there but choose to be there. It’s so inspiring to watch and be a part of. Last year, we saw the confidence of many of our adult students flourish. It was very gratifying to see them leave with a new sense of self and body.”

In-person auditions for the artÉmotion programs will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sunday, February 5, and in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Saturday, February 11. In addition, interested students may submit a video audition.

“I will give anyone an opportunity if they are willing to put out an effort,” DeBona encourages. “We want open-minded dancers because we want to see them take chances, particularly at the Workshop. I never want to tell a student they cannot do something; that’s only for them to decide. So, if you want to work hard, we will be there for you.”

DeBona urges dancers to contact artÉmotion regarding any inquiries about the programs, and to follow artÉmotion on social media.

For more information on artÉmotion’s summer 2017 offerings, visit, or send an email to And follow artÉmotion on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @artemotionusa.  

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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