Christensen, Willam
▪ 2002
William Farr Christensen 
      American ballet company director (b. Aug. 27, 1902, Brigham City, Utah—d. Oct. 14, 2001, Salt Lake City, Utah), began dancing at a time when men could not expect to have a career in ballet in the U.S. and, with his brothers Harold and Lew, was instrumental in establishing important companies in the country. He also staged the first full-length American productions of the ballet classics Coppélia (1939), Swan Lake (1940), and The Nutcracker (1944). Christensen and his brothers received a thorough education in music and classical dance, primarily from their relatives, and toured in vaudeville in the late 1920s and early '30s. In 1932 Christensen moved to Portland, Ore., where he taught ballet and started a company. He became a soloist with the San Francisco Opera Ballet in 1937, and the following year he was named director of the company. Although programs composed of several short works were customary in the U.S. at that time, Christensen introduced evening-length ballets in addition to choreographing a number of shorter works, including In Vienna (1938), Winter Carnival (1942), and Nothin' Doin' Bar (1950). In 1951 Christensen left the company, which by then had become the San Francisco Ballet, and moved to Salt Lake City to serve as professor of theatre ballet at the University of Utah. There he developed a department of ballet and choreography and in 1952 founded a company, the Utah Ballet. That company became professional in 1963 and in 1968 took the name Ballet West. Christensen remained with Ballet West until 1978, and from that time until he was in his late 90s, he ran his Christensen Ballet Academy.

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▪ American dancer
original name  William Farr Christensen  
born August 27, 1902, Brigham City, Utah, U.S.
died October 14, 2001, Salt Lake City, Utah

      American dancer, choreographer, and teacher who, along with his brothers, Harold and Lew, established the San Francisco Ballet Company.

      Christensen studied with the great ballet master and reformer Michel Fokine. He performed in vaudeville with his brothers before joining the San Francisco Opera Ballet as soloist (1937) and choreographer (1938–58). In 1937 he founded the San Francisco Ballet Company, which staged the first full-length versions of Coppélia (1939), Swan Lake (1940), and The Nutcracker (1944) in the United States.

      Becoming a professor of theatre ballet at the University of Utah (1951), Christensen organized a department of ballet and choreography, established an annual campus Ballet Gala with guest artists (1955), and founded the Utah Ballet (1952). In 1963 the company turned professional, and in 1968 it changed its name to Ballet West. Christensen retired as director a decade later and was succeeded by Bruce Marks. As a choreographer, Christensen created works to music by J.S. Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Igor Stravinsky, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Darius Milhaud.

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Universalium. 2010.

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